Buying and registering property in France
There are no restrictions on foreign citizens and legal entities buying property in France for residential or commercial purposes. However, there are strict laws regulating the construction and development of coastal and mountainous regions so it’s important to check that the property has (or was issued) the correct permits before buying. They are also protective of their historical monuments (monument historique) and only deliver construction permits for land at a distance of at least 500 m. More information can be obtained from the local urban development plan (Plan Local d’Urbanisme, PLU).
How it works in France:
- Get a tax identification number and open a bank account.You need to apply for a tax identification number (numéro d’identiﬁcation ﬁscale, NIF) and open an account with a French bank before buying. It is required if you want to get a mortgage in France as well as for the payment of taxes and utility services.
- Find a property.A local real estate agency offers properties that match your preferences as a buyer. The city, district and your budget are the main things to take into account. Once you have found one or more options that interest you, the agency will arrange viewings. Don’t hesitate to ask your real estate agent any questions about the property, payment procedures or potential discounts.
- Sign the preliminary sales contract and pay the deposit.The preliminary sales contract (compromis de vente) guarantees that the property will not be sold to anyone else and the buyer won’t back out of the transaction. After the contract has been notarized, you make a deposit amounting
to 5–10%of the purchase price by wire transfer to the notary's bank account. The law gives you seven days to withdraw from the transaction and claim back the deposit. For instance, if your mortgage request is refused, your down payment will be returned to you. After this period, the contract may only be cancelled if a party fails to respect a contractual term or condition. If you change your mind and decide not to buy the property, the down payment will not be refunded and cannot be used to buy a different property.
- Check the condition of the property.You will need to have specialists verify whether the advertised and real property areas coincide as well as check for signs of termite infestation, lead and asbestos. Your agent can help you arrange this.
- Do the due diligence.It takes
30–90 daysfor a notary to make sure the correct consent has been given by the owners and review the property for any existing encumbrances and tax arrears. Meanwhile, the buyer should remit the outstanding amount of the full payment to the notary's account. An additional remittance is made to cover the notary's fee and the stamp duty.
- Get a mortgage.You can apply for a mortgage during the validity of the preliminary sales contract
- Sign the final sales contract.You and the seller must sign the final sales contract (acte authentique de vente) before the notary. By this time, the outstanding sum due must have been transferred to the notary’s account in order to be remitted to the seller.
- Register your property.The notary will record your new purchase on the land register (cadastre) within a couple of days of executing the sales contract. Once the transaction has been concluded, you will receive a copy of the sales contract and a property ownership deed (titre de propriété).
- Insure your property.The notary is tasked with making sure you have insured your new home.
Taxes and charges
Notary fees on new homes are 2.5% of the property value.
Notary fees on existing property are 8.0% of the property value. You can use this calculator to estimate your total expenses when buying existing property.
Real estate agency commission is about 5.0% and paid by the developer or seller depending on whether the property is new or existing.