Buying a house can be stressful, especially in a foreign country. To help you navigate your way safely through the French property world, we've compiled a list of some essential French terms you'll come across in your search to buy the home of your dreams.
Buying property usually begins by asking your bank for a crédit immobilier (which translates literally as a 'property loan', but otherwise known as a mortgage). For this, you'll want to find the one with the lowest possible taux d'intérêt (interest rates).
Once you know how much money you can borrow, the next person you'll meet is probably the agent immobilier. This is the estate agent, who will help you find some biens immobiliers (properties) to view and organise the visites(viewings). After each viewing, you will usually be asked to sign a bon de visite document, in which you commit to go through the estate agent and not the buyer directly if you want to put an offer on the property.
Buying property cannot be done in France without a notaire - a solicitor. As a buyer, you are free to appoint one of your choice, although estate agents and buyers often have their own.
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If you are interested in buying an apartment, it is worth checking out how much the yearly charges cost before you take the plunge. These include the shared running costs of the apartment building such as cleaning, gardening, heating and water and local taxes, which all the people living in the co-propriété (residents of the apartment building) have to pay.
It is also worth finding out how much this local residence property tax will cost you. The taxe d'habitation, which all tenants and landowners living in their own property have to pay, is used to finance local services and so it can vary substantially depending on where you live.
This is a property tax which all homeowners in France have to pay.
When you browse through property ads, you'll notice that surface areas in France are measured in mètres carrés (square metres). You may also see properties described as being T1, T2, T3 or more. The number roughly refers to the amount of rooms the property has, including bedrooms and sitting-rooms, but excluding the kitchen and bathrooms.
You've just seen the property you want to call home? Then you'll want to make an offre d'achat to buy it. This offer can be made verbally or in writing and if the seller agrees to it, both forms are binding. At this stage, do not hand over any money, French law forbids it. You'll be asked to pay the caution (deposit) later.
Promesse de Vente
This is when the vendor commits to sell the property at an agreed price with a particular buyer. The buyer then gets a certain amount of time, normally three months to decide whether to go through with the deal. But it's not all in favour of the buyer. According to France's Notaire's Association the buyer will have to hand over a certain sum, 10 percent of the house price in order to reserve the house under the promesse de vente. If the purchase goes through then the buyer just pays the remaining 90 percent but if the buyer decides not to go through with the deal then they lose the money.
The Notaires say: "This preliminary agreement constitutes a real "contract", which entails important obligations for both parties. It allows them to specify the conditions of the future sale and marks their agreement."
Compromis de vente
Once your offer has been accepted, you will be asked to sign a pre-sale agreement called the compromis de vente.
The document must include the price and conditions of the sale. You will now have to put down a deposit of 10%, which will be refunded if you retract within 10 days.
Délai de rétraction
This is the period of time you have after the compromis de vente to pull out of the purchase. You can pull out for whatever reason and any deposit you have paid will be returned to you. Although if you do want to retract the offer you must do so via an official letter sent by recorded delivery (lettre recommandée avec avis de réception).
Important points to look out before signing this pre-sale agreement are the conditional clauses included (and also those which may have been left out). These conditions suspensives cover circumstances under which the transaction may be cancelled, the main one being whether or not the bank has agreed to lend you the money!
Acte de Vente
If all goes to plan, around three months after signing the compromis de vente, it will be time to sign the final contract in front of the notaire, after which the acte de vente (the deed of sale) is registered at the Land Registry.
Frais de Notaire
Don't be surprised by the extra fees and taxes added onto your final bill. They comprise the solicitor's fees and stamp duty registration taxes.
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Bon pour Achat
This means 'good for acquisition', and you will be asked to write it just before your signature on the final contract.
That's it, the property is now yours and it's time to crack open the champagne! Santé (cheers)!
What other key terms have we missed off this list. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org