The Buying Process

There are 3 stages to the buying process:

  • Offer
  • Compromis de vente
  • Acte de Vente

On average it takes 3 months to complete, but it may take longer.

There are a number of factors that can affect this including:

  • Time of year (August is a notorious month for holidays… even the Notaire needs one!)
  • The number of people involved. Some sales can often include extended family who may be living all over France
  • Mortgages/bank loan
  • Sale of a property
  • SAFER - Sociétés d'Aménagement Foncier et d'Etablissement Rural (Societies of Land Development and Rural Establishment) They have the first right of pre-emption on all rural properties.

Compromis de Vente

The Compromis de Vente is a legal contract, and sets out the key points of your purchase.

It forms the basis of the final Acte which are the deeds to the property.

If you need it translated, please contact a registered translator so that you fully understand its contents.

This document will include:

  • Details and identities of the vendor and buyer
  • Full description and address of the property
  • Surface area of the property and land, along with the parcel number from the Land Registry
  • Purchase price
  • Details of the Notaire/Solicitor and their fee - the fee includes the property tax/stamp duty (paid for by the buyer)
  • Details of any fixtures and fittings included in the sale
  • Diagnostic tests, provided by the seller
  • Details of financing if necessary
  • Target completion date (Acte de Vente)
  • Deposit amount, usually 10% which is held by the notaire
  • Any let out clauses (conditions/clauses suspensives) and the penalties that will be incurred by the buyer or seller if completion doesn’t take place. The let out clauses for the buyer provide a way out of the contract while protecting the deposit. However be aware that the vendor must agree to the clause suspensives

Examples of let out clauses are:

  • Subject to the buyer obtaining mortgage finance
  • Subject to permission for a specific use of the building being granted/planning permission

Legal Documents

Copies of the following documents will be required:

  • Passport
  • Marriage/Divorce papers
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of funds

Cooling-off period

Once the compromis has been signed, only the buyer can change their mind and withdraw from the sale without penalty within the 10 day cooling off period. Each buyer will receive their own cooling off letter (SRU letter) with a copy of the signed Compromis de Vente. This is usually sent by registered post (signed for), and the 10 day cooling off period starts the day after receipt. Please note that the 10 days include weekends.

If a mortgage is required and there is a let out clause in the compromis with a stated date for the mortgage to be processed, it is essential that the buyer meets the target date. Otherwise the buyer could be in a position where the sale could be cancelled, they could lose the deposit and incur notaire fees (and if you are buying a property through an estate agent/immobilier, you could also be liable to pay their fees too).

Deposit payment and Notaire fees

During the cooling off period the buyer needs to make arrangements for the deposit to be transferred to the notaire. This is normally about 10% of the value of the property, it is paid direct to the Notaire to hold and should be transferred by the end of the cooling off period.

Notaires ask for a portion of their fees (from €100 to a few hundred euros - non refundable) to open the dossier.

Acte de Vente

Once the work has been completed by the Notaire, a date will be agreed for the final signing that suits both parties Funds must be transferred to the Notaire’s bank account before the signing can take place If there is a mortgage, it is the buyer’s responsibility to instruct the Notaire to request the mortgage funds from the lender The buyer needs to produce an insure certificate (attestation) to the notaire to prove that they have insured the property The Acte de Vente is signed by the buyer, the vendor and one Notaire. In the event that the buyer and vendor have different Notaires, only one needs to witness the Acte de Vente Once the Acte de Vente has been signed and witnessed, the Notaire pays all the taxes, settles all the accounts of the purchase/sale and registers the deeds and mortgage The buyer will receive a certificate/attestation informing them that the title has been registered a few months after The original title deed is kept by the Notary, although they may make and issue authorised copies

It is recommended that the buyer sets up a french bank account and the notaire may request a RIB (the bank details). This will also be needed to open/activate the utilities (electricity/water).

Procuration/Power of attorney

If a buyer is unable to attend either the Compromis de Vente or the Acte de Vente, they may give a trusted person their power of attorney (procuration) which authorises them to act on the buyer’s behalf, this is normally a clerk of the Notaire.

If the Notaire has not met the buyer, they may insist that the power of attorney is signed in front of a witness (solicitor). The solicitor is only witnessing the signature, they are not validating the document.

Other legal services

If you are buying a property from outside France you may wish to seek advice on inheritance requirements,as these vary from country to country. Depending on your circumstances, you may wish to review the different property ownership options in France (for example SCI, en tontine clause, pacs).

Please note this information is a guide, and you will need to make sure you seek the relevant guidance for your particular situation.


Please note that according to French law if you visit a property directly with the vendor, you are not allowed to then visit or purchase the same property through an estate agent.

If you have seen the property with an estate agent, you would probably have signed a Bon de Visite, this protects their fees and therefore prevents you from approaching the vendor directly or even with another estate agent! This could result in either you or the vendor being asked to pay the introductory fees if you haven’t followed the correct process.