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FACT FILE - Buying a property in France

See Also: New Mandatory Property Surveys

There are now more and more people buying a holiday home or settling in France. Below is a brief guide.

Purchase Procedure

The normal procedure when purchasing a property in France is to sign a preliminary contract, which is usually drawn up by the agent, and pay a deposit of 10% of the purchase price which is held either by the notary or some times by the agent in an escrow account. Completion normally takes place 2 to 3 months afterwards, at which time the purchaser pays the balance of the price + the conveyancing costs ('frais de notaire') which come to around 6.7% in the case of a resale, and around 2.5% if it is the first sale and the property is less than 5 years old.

Notaries - Notaires

In France the notary's job is to register the sale of a property, and ensure that all the legal requirements are met with. The purchaser has the right to choose his notary (most agents can recommend a reputable one), and if the vendor also wishes to appoint a notary he may do so. This in no way affects the amount of the conveyancing costs, which at the moment come to a total of about 6.7% of the purchase price + the costs of the paperwork if a loan is involved. These costs are borne by the purchaser.

Agents

Estate agents in France can only operate with a licence, or 'carte professionnelle', and should also be members of a recognised association (syndic.) such as the FNAIM, UNIT or SNIP. You are advised to check that any agent you are using DOES conform to these requirements and is therefore covered by professional insurance.

Sru Law

The new law, which came into effect in June 2001, provides the purchaser with a 7 day 'cooling off' period, during which time he can change his mind about buying the property with no questions asked. The only requirement is that he notify his change of mind by registered letter before the expiration of the 7 day period. This law used to apply only to new properties, but now applies to ALL purchases by a private buyer. If the purchaser is a real estate professional, eg a 'marchand de biens', he does not benefit from this withdrawal period.

Surveys

Surprisingly, most French people are not used to having surveys carried out. New buildings nearly always carry a 10 year warranty on construction, but if you are buying your dream stone farmhouse (if you are lucky enough to find one!) there is nothing to stop you having a survey done, preferably within the 7 days' 'cooling off' period.See Also: New Mandatory Property Surveys

Utilities

Utilities should be transferred into the purchaser's name on the day of completion. Most agents will perform this service. If you are not a French resident the easiest solution is probably to arrange for a direct debit to your bank account, with the bills sent to your home address so that you can keep track. It is therefore advisable to open a French bank account before completion so that you are already in possession of all the forms.

Capital Gains Tax

Non-residents of France and French owners of secondary homes are liable for capital gains tax when they sell; after various deductions, this amounts to 16% of the profit for EUROPEAN residents, and 33% for residents of non EU countries. French owners of secondary homes are liable for 16% + 12%(28% total).

Inheritence- Wills

It is important to know that French inheritance law is very different from that in England… the children cannot be disinherited. You should be aware that FRENCH law applies to any property you own in France, even if you are not a French resident. It is possible to leave your share of the property to the surviving spouse, but this will require a specific document to be drawn up, preferably at the time of purchase. Your notary or lawyer can best advise you how to do this. Look into making a will in France as well as your country of residence.

FNAIM -Fédération Nationale de l'Immobilier - France

FNAIM is the 1st professional organisation of estate agents.Set up in 1946, FNAIM (French national real estate federation) is recognisable by the famous Yellow Cube logo, it brings together, over 11,000 real estate agencies. In becoming FNAIM members, professionals undertake to abide by the quality charter developed by the Federation. The charter underlines the ethics, integrity and professionalism required of all FNAIM members.

As a professional trade association, FNAIM is concerned with representing and defending the interests of real estate professionals and their clients, the consumers. Its mission has encouraged it to maintain privileged ties with public authorities and to participate actively in the preparation of statutory and regulatory provisions for all topics likely to have decisive implications for exercising a real estate profession, in particular, and the housing policy, in general.

With a number of analytical tools at its disposal, FNAIM is unquestionably a leading reference in the provision of information and economic studies on the real estate market. Every quarter, it puts out business updates presenting the position of old housing on the property transaction market and once a year, that of the income-producing real estate market. It also publishes studies on the real estate industry and statistics worth knowing. FNAIM can thus focus its lobbying action on viewpoints based on fact and supported by reliable economic data.

FNAIM is also backed by a Legal Department that keeps an on-going legislative and regulatory watch on the industry and allows the Federation to be a source of analyses and proposals in its dealings at Parliament level. It also meets the needs of members by being available for consultation by telephone or post.

Buying or selling info in France - If you need to check out what property has sold for in France then you need to visit www.immoprix.com . The data is provided by Notaires. You'll find prices and indices for each type of property (house, apartment, land) based on its geographical location (region, department, municipality, district, neighbourhood).

New Mandatory Property Surveys

Diagnostic de Performance Energétique - DPE (Energy Performance Survey): From the 1st July 2007, these are mandatory for all sales. This survey is provided purely for information purposes (like in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland) and covers levels of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Properties are rated from A to G (A represents optimal performance) and the survey is valid for 10 years. It also includes recommendations for improving energy consumption Article L134.L of the Building and Housing Code. If you are letting out your property remember The DPE - Diagnostic de Performance Énergétique should accompany any new or renewed lease agreement for a lease period of longer than four months. It is the responsibility of the property owner to have a building examined and to make any obligatory improvements.

CREP -Risque d'Exposition au Plomb - Lead Survey: This has been mandatory since July 1998 for properties built before the 1st January 1949. The lead survey is valid for one year only. If the survey is not provided a vendor can be liable to criminal action if let is detected under Article L1334-5 and 1334-8 of the Public Health Code. If you are letting out your property remember As of 12 August 2008, landlords of property built before 1 January 1949 must attach a CREP (Risque d'Exposition au Plomb) report detailing the risk of exposure to lead poisoning within the building. This CREP must accompany any new or renewed lease agreement.

Carrez Law: For the sale of an apartment all relevant documents must include a reference to the exact surface area in a property, if not the buyer is entitled to have the sale annulled up to one month after signature. If the surface area proves to be smaller than the stated amount, the new owner has one year in which to obtain the a reduction in the purchase price. If the the surface area has been underestimated, the vendor (seller) has no recourse against the buyer (Law 96-1107 of 1th December 1996

Natural Gas Installations -installations de gaz : From the ist November 2007 it has been mandatory to carry out a survey on the state of any gas installations that are over 15 years old. The survey has to be carried out by an ISO 17024 certified surveyor and is valid for one year only. It covers the gas pipes and ventilation / combustion systems. Comes under Article L134-6 of the Building and Housing Code.

Asbestos Survey - amiante: An asbestos survey must be included in the sales agreement for any property built before the 1st July 1997.The survey has to be carried out by an ISO 17024 certified surveyor and samples are then analysed by an approved laboratory - COFRAC

Electrical Wiring: A report on the condition of the electricity supply in the property, where the wiring is over 15 years old. This requirement is a recent (2008) change in the law, and is scheduled to become operational on 1st January 2009. A survey is valid for three years. No survey is necessary where a certificat de conformité can be produced as evidence that the property complies with the regulations, provided the certificate is less than three years old.

Natural and man made risks report - un plan de prévention des risques naturels: A report on the existence of natural risks that include flooding, earthquakes etc or a man made risk like transportation of hazardous substances or the nuclear industry is required for an property located in a high risk area. High risk areaa are defined by the Prefecct L.125-5 of the Environment Code and the reports are valid for six months.

Termite Survey - etat des risques parasitaires: This survey must be included in the deed of sale for properties located in contaminated areas as defined by the Prefect. A surevey is valid for 3 months only.

Property Surveys that are likely to be introduced in France

Septic tanks Survey - Fosses septiques: A report on the condition of a septic tank, for those properties which do not have mains drainage.The government keeps moving back the date when this survey requirement is scheduled to come into operation. The date now being suggested is 2013.

N.B. The above information is given in good faith by jml Property Services and the website it is being displayed on. It should not be relied on for accuracy and property owners should consult tax experts / accountants in the country their property is in and also their home country. ©jml property Services ©jml property Services 07-05 and 01-09

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