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The purchase procedure in France

Knight Frank’s Network of Agents in France

Throughout Knight Frank’s French network it is our intention to provide all our clients with the most comprehensive level of service and care. Working alongside our growing network of Associates in France, Knight Frank’s dedicated London team will endeavour to find you the right property in the right area.

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All local network offices are wellestablished and locally-owned businesses trading under strict French real estate laws. Local agency agreements and other contractual agreements are governed by French law. We will also help with the following:

- Put you in touch with possible legal, survey, planning and tax advisory firms that can assist you with due diligence, general advice and completing the transaction. None of our agents are qualified to give you legal, survey, planning or tax advice, although they are happy to share with you their years of experience.

- Prepare a purchase contract to pass to the legal teams outlining the terms of the deal and the professionals involved. At all times during the purchase process, we are available to assist with effective communication between the parties involved.


Having identified the right property and agreed the terms and conditions of sale, the buyer and seller will need to instruct a Notary. The Notary is nominated by the state whose role is to ensure the letter of the law is applied and that the interests of both parties, relating to the sale and purchase are protected. The Notary will undertake the relevant searches and highlight any liens, right of ways, planning discrepancies and so forth as appropriate. Due to the Notary’s mandate and impartiality it is not uncommon for one to act for both parties. This is not mandatory and either party may select their own representative independently.

Offre d’achat or Offer Letter

In certain circumstances the buyer may be asked to confirm their intention to purchase in writing. This may take the shape of an ‘offer letter’ or ‘offre d’intention d’achat’ outlining the purchase price and a lock out date by which the purchaser endeavours to move toward exchange. The offer letter is countersigned by the vendor confirming the price and the period of exclusivity the buyer is granted in which to proceed. The countersigned document binds the vendor to the terms stated therein and also precludes the vendor from entering into any other sale agreement during the aforementioned period of exclusivity. During this period the buyer will meet a Notary, discuss the proposed terms and any conditions of sale which will be summarised and included within a ‘Compromis de Vente’.

Whether you’re a buyer or seller it is recommendable to seek a Notary’s opinion or independent legal advice before entering into any form of written agreement. Whilst the buying process is relatively straightforward the assistance brought by a Notary at the early stages of a deal is invaluable in ensuring a smooth and risk free transaction.

Compromis de Vente or Purchase Contract

With everything agreed the Notary prepares the ‘Purchase Contract’ or ‘Compromis de Vente’. This will provide a completion date, typically a three-month period, to allow the Notary to complete the file and relevant searches. Moreover, the ‘Compromis’ will refer to conditions precedent that unless satisfied will allow the buyer to withdraw within a fixed period. The conditions may include finance, physical modifications, planning matters to name but a few. The resolution of the said clauses is mandatory and an integral part of the ‘Compromis’ – failure to fulfil all of these will allow the buyer to exit the purchase with no penalties and a full refund.

The ‘Compromis de Vente’ or ‘Purchase Contract’ is typically accompanied by 10% deposit entrusted to the Notary and held on Escrow. Once the document is signed by both parties and received by the buyer a 10-day cooling off period begins. This forms part of the consumer protection legislation in France and gives the buyer the right to withdraw at any stage within those 10 days without penalty or justification.

Acte de Vente or Completion

Completion of the sale takes place at the Notary’s office with payment of the purchase balance, Notary’s fees, land registration costs, agency fees and transfer taxes all due at this stage. Whilst the fees and costs may vary slightly, the estimated percentage cost of a typical purchase in France is approximately 7% of the purchase price. Once funds are transferred and the ‘Acte de Vente’ is signed the Notary will register the new owner and any mortgage against the title. The vendor may be liable for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and should be aware of these liabilities before entering into an agreement. The tax landscape in France is changing but set out below is the current structure and treatment of property gains in France.

Other considerations

A property may be acquired and held in a private name, however it is important to note that French wealth tax, succession and Capital Gains Tax may impact on the best way to own a property. It is strongly recommended that you seek the appropriate independent legal and fiscal advice in order to structure the deal in the most efficient way.

For more information on property in France, please see our Inside View France Publication.

Note: This information is meant to give a very basic indication of the purchasing process. No liability is assumed as each interested person should seek local professional advice.