Chapter 3: The Paperwork


See any English in there?  The contracts will arrive in stages.  First, there’s the offer – an “Offre d’achat”, which must be accepted and signed by the Vendor (seller).  Once that has been done, it is unlikely the property will be shown to anyone else. After the acceptance, a “Compromis de Vente”, (pre-sale contract) will be prepared, which will require numerous documents to be provided such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, documents of financial status, proof of address from your US location, what the source of funding will be for the purchase.  In this, you will also state any conditions or contingencies of purchase such as sale of separate property, approval of adding a pool which will prevent you from forfeiting your deposit if things do not work out.  If you cannot travel to France to sign, these documents will be mailed to you and will include a standard ‘boiler plate’ version of the contract in your language.

Once you receive these documents, it is advisable if you are not fluent in French, that you find someone who is to assist with the more finite translation because once you’ve signed, initialed and agreed to the contract you’ve essentially agreed to whatever you’ve signed, so proceed with caution.  Original documents must be returned to the agency in France.  And yes – the stack of papers to be signed (five sets) is significant.  Every sheet will require either a full signature or initials and you will be required to hand write a full paragraph statement, in French, that you also sign and date x 5 copies that attests you are fully aware of what you are doing.

The Compromis de Vente will also include full details of both the buyer and seller – where they live, DOB, marital status; a description of the property; the agreed upon price and breakdown of agency fees, etc.; circumstances by which the deposit may be forfeited, obligations of the purchaser and vendor; results of the diagnostics.  This diagnostics section is quite comprehensive and covers professional exploration of any potential dangers or issues with regard to termites, lead paint, asbestos, house systems such as electrical, whether the house is located in a flood zone, whether the house is located near any known factories or places with toxic environments, and the likelihood of weather events based on where the house is located.   For example, if you will be renovating and the property has been deemed free of termites, yet you discover significant termite damage – this finding will become the responsibility of the agent conducting the diagnostics.  An attestation of valid insurance is also included in their report to validate they have an active insurance cover in the event something is discovered they have deemed not present.

Once this contract is reviewed and signed, you will mail the originals back to the agency.  The documents will also be signed by the sellers and returned to you with bank information of the Notaire.  Once you’ve had these documents for 7 days, you  will need to transfer 10% of the purchase price to the Notaires bank account.  Over the next 3-4 months, the notaire will be working to complete all of the documentation and discovery on the property before scheduling a closing.  You WILL need to be present for this.

Notaires – this is basically your lawyer.  There will be one assigned to you unless you select one, but for us, we selected based on advise by our real estate agent.  The seller will also have separate representation.  All will be at the closing.  In the United States, a notary is quite different, so don’t let the label deceive you!

I have attached the Leggett Buyers Guide here for more detail – and yes, this is exactly how this process went for us.

Leggett – Buyers Guide 2015 (1)

Money – the breakdown of cost will be as follows:

Price – this is the agreed upon amount that includes broker fees and taxes.  In addition to this, you will pay a fee to the Notaire which will be 7-8% of the purchase price.  Depending on the exchange rate at the time you transfer your money, you will also need to consider the final cost in US dollars.  If the exchange rate is $1.20 to one euro, than a house costing say 200,000 euros will cost you $240,000.  You will need to have all monies transferred and in place prior to the closing on the property.

I will go into detail on our process for transferring money and opening bank accounts in another post –