A Buyer's Guide to France

France is one of the safest countries in Europe in which to buy property, with a rigorous purchase process that protects the buyer.

Buyers Guide France


Once a deal has been agreed through your estate agent, the vendor will commission an ‘Etude Diagnostique’ – a survey on the property looking for things such as asbestos, lead in paintwork, the safety of the electrics and an indication of the energetic performance of its heating systems and insulation.

This report will form part of the contract. A notary, a neutral, government-employed figure, is at heart of the purchase process and will handle the conveyancing. The notary acts for both the buyer and seller, and his fees should be agreed in advance. Many buyers choose to appoint their own lawyer in addition, who will work solely for them, to ensure that the contract best meets their requirements particularly on issues such as succession and tax. The deal is formalised between the two parties with the signing of a 'compromis de vente'. This is a legally binding contract and confirms the sale price, as well as the completion date.

It is subject to certain standard conditions, such as obtaining a mortgage, as well as others agreed between the two parties. There is a seven day cooling off period, during which the buyer pays a 10 per cent deposit and the property is taken off the market. The notary will conduct searches, check the title deeds, ensure there are no outstanding debts on the property and verify the buyer’s ability to pay. Once all the fees and taxes have been paid, the final contract, the 'acte de vente', is signed in front of the notary.

The 'acte de vente' is filed in the notary’s office – the buyer is given a copy – and the property officially changes hands. Typically, the time between signing the 'compromis de vente' and acte de vente is between two and four months.


France’s seductive lifestyle of historic cities, delectable cuisine, inspiring culture and architecture has drawn visitors to the country for centuries. In more recent times, this attraction is helped by excellent air connections from around the world and a modern infrastructure that includes ever-improving high-speed rail.


Key contacts - Residential International

Jelena Cvjetkovic

Jelena Cvjetkovic

International Residential

Head Office London

+44 (0) 20 7016 3754