Pitfalls to avoid when buying a property in France

Buying property in France pitfalls can turn any conveyancing into a nightmare, find help and how-to's in this article from local experts.
Article Last Updated: 17 May, 2024 under Property Purchase

The process of purchasing a property in France can be either fast or slow. Pre-contracts (option agreements) can be concluded at a very early stage. It is therefore advisable to be cautious before signing a “Promesse de vente” (undertaking to sell) and before making a security deposit requested by the seller. Otherwise, this security deposit could remain with the seller if the sale is not finally concluded. It is strongly recommended to:

  • Pay attention to all the costs involved in an acquisition: the price of the property is not the only expense you will have to deal with. You will potentially have to add, for example, estate agent's fees (if the sale is concluded through an agent), Notary fees, land registration fees, possibly exchange rate surcharges, loan fees, and lawyer's fees.
  • Be careful not to pay cash to the seller in order that the seller pays lower taxes. You might be considered an accomplice to tax evasion.
  • Pay attention to inheritance and succession law, which may be relevant, in particular in order to determine the form in which you want to buy: as a company or as an individual. There may be a major estate and tax issue at stake. This reflection should be carried out before the signing of the deed of sale in order to avoid possible subsequent transfer costs.
  • Be careful with properties purchased off-plan: prefer a developer with a street-side location. If the developer does not have the money to finance the project, you may not be able to enjoy your purchase. You should also be careful with the penalties for delay that might be contractually stipulated in the deed of sale in the event that your property is not delivered on the date stipulated in the contract.
  • Have the correct property surveys: the seller is obliged to provide you with a complete technical analysis of the property before the sale (asbestos, electric and gas installations, energy efficiency, industrial and natural risks, lead paint, septic tanks and termites). You can also ask an expert to come and examine the structure of the property you want to buy. This expertise is not mandatory in a sale in France but can be very useful. The costs of this expert would be at your expense.
  • Pay attention to any anomalies detected in the technical diagnosis as their recovery could be at your expense depending on the negotiations to be carried out with the seller. You could ask for an estimate to be produced in order to comply with the recommendations before the signature of the undertaking to sell or the sale itself.
  • Be careful if you wish to buy a property to renovate or simply a property in which you wish to carry out work: the costs of the work can be significant and it is wise to plan for them before you start buying the property.
  • Consult the City Hall or the relevant authorities to find out whether there are any plans to carry out any work that might affect the property you want to buy.

Buying property in France pitfalls can turn any conveyancing into a number of problems, it is advised to get from local experts in order to succeed in a shorter time with the less money and effort expense.

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Caroline, Lawyer in Paris ...
Caroline began her career in well known French & English law firms, where she practised in insurance, construction and litigation fields, specifically insurance and reinsurance law relating to industrial risks, civil liability (contracts, tort, professional matters or defective products) and transport law. She took the oath in 2009 and works in both French and English in civil and commercial matters relating to construction issues, general insurance, industrial risk issues, product liability cases, property and equine law.
Caroline was brilliant, nothing was too much trouble and she helped me resolve an issue that others advised me was not possible. I am truly grateful for all of her hard work and help.
Georgina Noble-Owen
Georgina Noble-Owen
05 Sep 2023
34 completed cases
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