Buying Property in France

Buying property in France is very different from buying in the UK. There are many differences between French and UK property law and a range of issues to think about, starting with how the purchase process works, from the making of an offer down to the final conveyance. Other issues include how the property will be owned, securing a mortgage, and questions of tax and inheritance.

To avoid the potential difficulties of buying property in France for foreigners, we strongly recommend working with a legal team who have extensive experience navigating French property law.

At Judicare, our team knows every issue you need to think about and all of the legal details that need to be dealt with.

As UK-regulated lawyers we can offer the peace of mind of knowing you are in safe hands, while also providing a comprehensive understanding of French property law. We offer legal guidance in plain English, so you are never left confused about what is going on or what you need to do.

Whatever your reasons for buying a property in France, this may be the first time that you have done so and it could be the first time you have bought property abroad at all. As specialist Overseas property lawyers, our team know all the tricks and problems that you may come across.

We understand how French law interacts with UK law, so we can help to ensure you meet the strict requirements of both countries’ laws. Based on our considerable experience, we can offer tried-and-tested practical solutions to any problems you might run into.

As well as guiding you through the process of buying a French property, we can also advise on related issues such as tax and inheritance, as well as any questions arising if you are buying property for use as a business or investment.

For your convenience, we have put together a list of useful French legal and property terms and their English translations, to help make navigating legal issues in France a little easier. You may also want to take a look at our Buying Property in France Checklist.

For specific advice on buying French property tailored to your needs, please get in touch with our friendly French property team.

Call: 01438 840 258                    Email: admin@judicaregroup.com

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How Judicare can help you with buying a property in France

Clear guidance on French property law

The French legal system is very different to that of the UK and our French property team can explain everything you need to consider before making a purchase, so you can move forward with confidence.

We advise you on the ways in which French law and UK law interact when buying in France, so you can be confident that you are complying with the requirements of both countries’ legal systems.

Conveyancing for French property

Our French property legal team can handle the entire process of buying in France for you, including:

  • Advising you at the stage of making an offer and helping you to negotiate, with the seller's agent or directly with the seller
  • Raising any queries with the seller, estate agents and lawyers
  • Reviewing the contract of sale
  • Negotiating amendments to the contract of sale where required
  • Advising on conditions to be inserted in the contract of sale, particularly in relation to planning and the obtaining of mortgage finance
  • Supervising transfer of the deposit
  • Ensuring that you receive and understand all the technical survey information which it is mandatory for the seller to provide under French law
  • Advising on rights of preemption, which frequently affect purchases of French property
  • Advising on issues raised by land searches conducted during the conveyancing process
  • Supervising the preparation by the Notary of the final conveyance

If you wish to make the purchase without leaving the UK, we can supervise the drafting of  a  Power of Attorney by the Notary, and ensure that this document is properly executed in the UK so that it is effective for use in France. As powers of attorney are usually given to a clerk in the office of the Notary, we ensure that in practice powers of attorney are used for signature only in the way which is intended by you.

We can also advise you on whether it is necessary to carry out any property survey in addition to  those which are mandatory under French law, particularly in relation to structural issues.

Getting a mortgage to buy a property in France

Should you need to borrow money to cover the cost of buying in France, you have two main options:

  1. Release equity from your UK assets to buy the property in France.
  2. Obtain a mortgage on the property in France from a French lender.

Our team can advise you on each of these options and the potential long-term consequences of both.

Our recommended international mortgage broker is Simon Conn – overseas mortgage broker- who will be able to assist you with this aspect of your purchase in France.

We do not receive a commission for doing so: we simply recommend Simon because he has given our clients good service in the past.

Finding a currency dealer for you

When you are converting from one currency to another the difference between one exchange rate and another can make a difference of thousands of pounds on your purchase.  

Do not underestimate the difference a good exchange rate can make, especially when converting from pounds to euros. We have even seen examples where our clients have sold properties and made more money on the exchange rate difference than they have on the sale of their property.

We are not a bank or currency dealer, but would recommend that you investigate the cheapest way of sending your money abroad. We get approached all the time by currency brokers and have gone through a screening process to make sure our clients get the best service available. Foreign Currency Direct is our company of choice as they regularly beat their competitors and deliver a high quality service.

Foreign Currency Direct have increasingly sophisticated products. You can agree rates for the future. You can get them advising you when to buy or agreeing to buy for you when the rate hits a certain level. You can even agree a fixed rate for longer periods of time if you make regular payments abroad (for example for a mortgage or moving your pension money). 

We will normally receive a commission for introducing them to you. This does not cost you anything more as they pay us part of what they make. This commission is costed into our overall charges for providing our services. 

Creating a Power of Attorney for buying a property in France

When you purchase property in France, you will need to sign an initial contract of sale, followed by the final conveyance for your property, which normally takes place two or three months later.

Travelling to France just to sign these documents can be inconvenient as well as involving needless expense.

In these situations, we can supervise the drafting of a Power of Attorney for you, granting someone you trust the legal authority to sign the title deeds on your behalf. For the final conveyance, and for the initial contract of sale if this is signed at the Notary's office, a Power of Attorney is normally given to a clerk in the Notary's office.

Using a Power of Attorney means:

  • You won’t need to take time out to travel to France just to sign documents
  • It is normally cheaper to create a Power of Attorney than the cost of travelling to France

In France, Powers of Attorney tend to offer much broader powers to the Attorney than those afforded to UK Powers of Attorney. It is common for French Powers of Attorney to have very general clauses in them “just in case”. This is why we organise the Powers of Attorney in order to ensure that however wide the powers may be, the person exercising the powers will only exercise them in a way which you need and expect. Usually, it will be agreed that the Notary will receive the "green light" from us before documents are signed using the Power of Attorney.

Deciding how your French property will be owned

When buying a property in France, you need to give careful thought to how the property will be owned. This can have a number of important implications, including for tax and inheritance purposes. As stamp duty is high in France, having to transfer property to a more suitable entity at a later date can cost you thousands of pounds in tax and other costs that could have been avoided with some smart planning.

There are many options – ranging from personal ownership to company ownership. In particular, there is a form of French company specifically used for holding real estate, the société civile immobilière (or SCI). We are able to advise you on how this form of company can be used, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.

There is no single solution that works for everybody. Your circumstances and priorities are different from the next person. We are able to look at your circumstances and your priorities and advise you who should own the property based on that information. The solution may not necessarily be immediately obvious.

When deciding on the best form of ownership we take into consideration both French and UK tax and also a range of other circumstances such as your plans for how you intend to use the property in the future. 

We can also advise you on ‘fractional ownership’, where several people are buying a property together. This might be members of your family, friends, work colleagues or even complete strangers. Fractional ownership allows you to buy a share in the property, allowing you to get a holiday home in France for less while also sharing the running costs. However, thought needs to be given at the outset as to how co-owners are to share the property in practice and also as to what to do if one of the owners wishes to sell up.

Inheritance planning for French property

France has very different inheritance laws to the UK. These laws include rules protecting husbands and wives, as well as rules which force you to leave at least some property to your heirs, in particular you children.

International inheritance law does allow some flexibility and Judicare can help you understand how UK and French inheritance law interact.

it is often a good idea to make a French will in addition to your UK will. We can advise you on the requirements for making a French will. We help you create a clear, legally robust will that makes your wishes clear, works effectively in conjunction with your UK will and avoids the potential for inheritance disputes and substantial cost for your loved ones in the future.

Our French property legal team can also provide clear guidance on what to do if you have inherited a French property.

What is included in our services for buying property in France

If your purchase raises substantial unexpected  problems which need to be resolved and require additional work, there may be additional charges. We would inform you before incurring this cost. However, our experience of French property enables us to anticipate most issues so that we can deal with many unexpected problems without additional charge.

Our services include:

  • Advising you at the stage of making an offer and helping you to negotiate, with the seller's agent or directly with the seller
  • Raising any queries with the seller, estate agents and lawyers
  • Reviewing the contracts of sale
  • Negotiating amendments to the contract of sale where required
  • Advising on conditions to be inserted in the contract of sale, particularly in relation to planning and the obtaining of mortgage finance
  • Supervising transfer of the deposit
  • Ensuring that you receive and understand all the technical survey information which it is mandatory for the seller to provide under French law
  • Advising on rights of preemption, which frequently affect purchases of French property
  • Advising on issues raised by land searches conducted during the conveyancing process
  • Supervising the preparation by the Notary of the final conveyance
  • Generally supporting you during the purchase process

Why use Judicare for buying property in France?

French Law in Plain English.

We have an experienced French legal team. Being fluent in both French and English, our team can make sure no detail is missed in any contracts or other important documents or conversations, and ensure you get the guidance you need in clear English with no unnecessary legal jargon.

UK-regulated solicitors. Real peace of mind.

We are a UK based firm of Solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). You can therefore have confidence that we meet the highest legal and professional standards. Being SRA regulated also means that we are required to carry professional indemnity insurance to cover claims up to £3million.

Complete understanding of both French and UK law

Because we understand both sets of laws, we understand the difficulties that come when two sets of laws meet. This is particularly important when it comes to issues involving ownership, taxation and inheritance.

AIPP membership

The Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) was set up to improve standards of professionalism in a largely unregulated overseas property market. AIPP membership offers assurance that we can provide the high standard of specialist expertise you need when buying property in another country.

Highly experienced expertise

Our French team has many years of experience dealing with a whole range of legal issues encountered in with France. This means we know all of the common problems you can run into (and the not so common ones) and what we can do to minimise any negative impact on your purchase.

Independence

We are truly independent legal experts. We are not allowed to act for the buyer and the seller at the same time. You can therefore have total confidence that we only ever have your best interests at heart and anything advice we offer is trustworthy.

Need help buying a property in France?

Our team of property lawyers can bring all their experience to bear in helping you to buy and sell property in France, as well as handling the full range of related issues. With a thorough understanding of both UK and French law, we can provide clear, reliable legal guidance in plain English, giving you the confidence to deal effectively with property in France.

Call: 01438 840 258                    Email: admin@judicaregroup.com

 

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT BUYING A PROPERTY IN FRANCE

Do I need a lawyer to help me with buying in France?

This is the most common question we get asked when advising on buying abroad and there are three reasons in particular for this in France.

Firstly, as is widely known by potential UK buyers, there is a legal professional in France - the Notary -  who has the monopoly over conveyancing and will therefore be involved in any purchase of real property.

The same Notary is allowed to act for both the buyer and the seller in a transaction and if the parties decide to use the same Notary, the Notary has a duty to advise the parties impartially.

The parties may choose each to have their own Notary, which does not add to the costs, as in this case the fees are shared between the two Notaries.

The fees of the Notary for a purchase of property are to a large extent set out in a statutory tariff. Buyers therefore see the intervention of the Notary as providing all necessary advice at no extra cost, as their costs are already included in the costs of purchase.

Secondly, buyers will often feel that they can obtain advice and assistance from estate agents, many of whom either speak good English - or are English - and who will usually volunteer much information to potential buyers.

Thirdly, a huge amount of advice and information is available on the internet concerning all aspects of French property, so that UK buyers of French property already feel that they are familiar with the French system.

Despite all of this, we strongly advise using your own independent lawyer to assist you when buying or selling a French property.

Although the Notaries will give advice to the parties, in practice their role tends to be somewhat limited to explaining the basics of the intended transaction. Also, they are usually not involved at the crucial stage of the negotiation and the offer.  Even the initial contract of sale - which fixes most of the key conditions of sale and will bind you - may be signed by the parties before a Notary is instructed, as the initial contract of sale does not need to be a notarised document and may be agreed directly between the parties, or be drafted and supervised by an estate agent.

Also, whilst estate agents can be very valuable sources of information and assistance, you should remember that the estate agent is the agent of the seller and not the buyer.

Finally, even though it may be helpful for you to gain an overview of the French legal system from the numerous sources on the internet, you may miss or misinterpret very important points of detail. Above all, you are unlikely to have a detailed knowledge of the practice of property purchases in France or to be able to spot the sorts of practical and legal difficulties which can have an drastic effect on your project.

Having a Solicitor to help you ensures the process is carried out effectively from the very beginning, including at stages in the purchase  where proper legal advice and support will otherwise not be available. By using Judicare, you will be sure that you have your own, independent advisor looking after your interests, spotting potential issues and resolving them, and generally looking after you at every stage of the purchase.ith Judicare you have the security of using a UK Regulated and insured firm of Solicitors and you are covered by their professional indemnity insurance if something does go wrong.

Does it cost more to buy property in France than in the UK?

The total cost involved in buying a property in France is typically higher than in the UK. You will therefore need to factor these additional costs into your budget.

Estate agents' fees varied considerably and are typically 5% to 6%. On less expensive properties they may be as high as 10% and on high-value properties they are often 2% to 3%.

In property advertising, prices are usually quoted inclusive of agents' fees.

In addition to agency fees, there are costs which are commonly referred to as "Notary's fees" ("frais de notaire"). However, this is misleading: this item includes not only the remuneration of the Notary but also stamp duty.

The calculation of stamp duty varies from area  but as a general rule you should factor in 7% to 8% for conveyancing fees and stamp duty. For new builds, the figure is 2% to 3%.

We recommend speaking to our team at the stage where you are budgeting the total cost of your purchase in order to be clear about which costs will apply and also to see whether in the particular circumstances the tax regime is different from the general case.

Will I need to pay a deposit when buying a property in France?

After you have agreed to buy a property in France, you (or your lawyer) will then need to negotiate the initial contract of sale.  When you sign this contract, you will typically pay a deposit of between 5% and around 10% and then be committed to buying the property, subject to any conditions which are been agreed (such as obtaining mortgage finance, or planning permission).

On a new build property you will have to make stage payments throughout the course of construction.

The balance of the purchase price will need to be paid upon signature of the final conveyance, usually two or three months after signature of the initial contract of sale.

You may even wish to pay the balance in sterling in the event that both buyer and seller are British and if so, we can advise you as to how to achieve this while fully complying with French law.

Do I need a property survey when buying a French property?

It is not general practice in France to undertake a survey of property, even where a mortgage is being obtained but when buying a property abroad it often makes sense to do so.

French law does provide for some basic surveys on property sales. The law makes it mandatory  for the seller to provide a technical inspection file (dossier de diagnostic technique), which is annexed to the contract of sale or, if there is no contract of sale, to the final conveyance.

The file, produced by independent professionals, includes information on the presence of lead, asbestos, termites, and in some cases dry rot, as well as information on energy consumption, the state of internal gas and electrical installations, and drainage.

The exact obligations as to information vary depending on the property sold. Our team will ensure that you receive and understand all the technical survey information which it is mandatory for the seller to provide under French law and that any issues arising are dealt with.

Even if the technical inspection file provides basic information, it is often very useful to obtain a proper property survey of the kind familiar to UK buyers.

A proper property survey will rate the condition of all permanent structures and will highlight any important problems that could affect the property value. Depending on the survey, this may also give advice as to future maintenance.

Having a property survey should reduce the chance of discovering any nasty surprises with the condition of the property once a purchaser has bought the property. If there are any defects the survey will help the buyer negotiate the price or require certain works to be carried out before the property is purchased.

The survey may also reveal that certain works have been carried out or highlight rights that are necessary for the property which we can investigate before the property is purchased.

Why use Judicare for buying property in France?

French Law in Plain English.

We have an experienced French legal team comprising French lawyers and English lawyers who have studied French law. Being fluent in both French and English, we can make sure no detail is missed in any contracts or other important documents or conversations, while ensure you get the guidance you need in clear English with no unnecessary legal jargon.

UK-regulated solicitors. Real peace of mind.

We are a UK based firm of Solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). You can therefore have confidence that we meet the highest legal and professional standards. Being SRA regulated also means that we are required to carry professional indemnity insurance to cover claims up to £3million.

Complete understanding of both French and UK law

Because we understand both sets of laws, we understand the difficulties that come when two sets of laws meet. This is particularly important when it comes to issues involving ownership, taxation and inheritance.

AIPP membership

The Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) was set up to improve standards of professionalism in a largely unregulated overseas property market. AIPP membership offers assurance that we can provide the high standard of specialist expertise you need when buying property in another country.

Highly experienced expertise

Our French team has many years of experience dealing with a whole range of legal issues within France. This means we know all of the common problems you can run into (and the not so common ones) and what we can do to minimise any negative impact on your purchase.

Independence

We are truly independent legal experts. We are not allowed to act for the Buyer and the Seller at the same time. You can therefore have total confidence that we only ever have your best interests at heart and anything advice we offer is trustworthy.

Need help buying a property in France?

Our French team of property lawyers are highly experienced in helping clients to buy and sell property in France, as well as handling a whole range of related issues, such as advice on Wills and inheritance.

With a thorough understanding of both UK and French law, we can provide clear, reliable legal guidance in plain English, giving you the confidence to deal effectively with property in France.