French property pitfalls to avoid

French property pitfalls to avoid

French property pitfalls to avoid


Knowing the pitfalls to avoid is essential before starting to look for and buying a property in France. Many foreign buyers before you have fallen into pitfalls that have slowed down the realisation of their project. Do not make the same mistakes!  When you start the search for your property in France, your goal will certainly be to minimise the search time. You want to quickly find the property that best fits your requirements. During this search, you should, as much as possible, look to avoid specific pitfalls. These can greatly slow you down from reaching your goal of finding a property. Let’s start with an overview of the pitfalls to avoid when searching for your French property.

Pitfalls to avoid during the search

Not studying the feasibility of your project

Probably one of the pitfalls that will hold up the progress of your project the most! Your project needs to be validated by a French property finder. He alone will be able to tell you if the features of your property, its location and your budget match. Without this validation, you will waste hours looking for a property that may ultimately not exist. You must ensure that the properties matching your project are actually available on the French real estate market.

By being aware of this pitfall and studying the feasibility of your project from the start, you will ensure that what you have in mind is realistic. That way, you will have a very good chance of success. 

Not exploring all the possible search channels

Most foreigners wishing to buy a property in France start their search on real estate online portals. Nothing against real estate portals online. On the contrary, they are a useful way for people not wishing to ask for support to find a property. They, however, have some big disadvantages.

Of course, these days, with the strength of the Internet, you have to use online real estate portals. But this search channel must be complementary to other channels that we mentioned previously. Sales directly through Notaries, salons organised by different real estate professionals, sales between individuals. Or even French real estate agencies websites, auctions and ads in trade papers. One of these channels may help you find the property in France that suits you. Although most of the real estate available in France will be present on several channels at the same time, your ideal property may perhaps only be available on one of those you had not originally planned to explore! So, do not spend all your time only looking for your property in France on real estate portals. Split your time between every search channels available.

Only searching for private sellers to avoid agency fees

Today, the concept of physical real estate agencies with a storefront is becoming increasingly obsolete in France especially because of (thanks to?) the explosion of the Internet. Nevertheless, estate agencies always have a large quantity of properties for sale. So, dealing directly with a seller is tempting in order to avoid agency fees. Indeed, these fees are the responsibility of the buyer. But this also limits your access to a single section of the properties that might match your requirements.

Dealing with a seller directly is an attractive option for foreign buyers. But this also has its problems. Sellers tend to slightly overstate the price of their property as they feel that you will be free from agency fees by dealing directly with them. We do not recommend that you limit your search to properties sold directly by private sellers. This will greatly limit the spread of properties you are looking for in France. Do not make this criterion an important factor. Indeed, when handled properly, you will be able to avoid a large portion these agency fees. Search using the various search channels available and then negotiate the agency fees.

Multiplying trips to France to visit properties

To visit properties in France takes time and many foreigners have to make many trips to France. They end up falling into this pitfall: they make repeated trips between their country and the area where they want to purchase. It is essential that you group all property visits in one or two trips maximum. Otherwise, to multiply unsuccessful visits to France not only leads to weariness. It is also a waste of time, money and energy.

Another possible solution is to prospect estate agencies during your holidays in the area. But this limits your access to the whole real estate available. In any case, you will need to be smart to succeed to limit your number of visits to France. Each case is unique. Some may find their ideal property in a single holiday while others may take several months. It is a difficult factor to control or plan for. Indeed, depending on the volume of properties on offer, this may take more or less time.


Pitfalls to avoid through the buying process

There are more pitfalls when purchasing a property through the legal process. And they can be costlier for you. Let’s focus on the pitfalls foreigners need to avoid when acquiring real estate following the French legal process.

Not preparing for the negotiation

Negotiating the property can be one of the most sensitive stages for either foreign or French buyers. To not be prepared for negotiations is a pitfall to avoid! How to prepare to negotiate? By analysing all the leverage techniques that we present in our article dedicated to the negotiation. This is the stage where you will be able to save the most money! Do not neglect it. While it is true that most sellers agree to bargain and that you are likely to obtain a lower price, take this step seriously. Prepare yourself for the chess game potentially waiting for you.

Not considering the different types of sales contract

Two types of preliminary sales contract can be implemented. They commit you and seller in different ways and unevenly protecting the parties depending on the model put in place. Please make sure you consider both types of preliminary sales contract! Do not automatically accept the preliminary sales contract offered by the seller! This stage proves to be even more important than the actual offer to buy. Indeed, as at this stage your commitment becomes binding. You will not be able to backtrack. 

Not checking the validity of the property surveys

Surveys are compulsory documents in any real estate transaction in France. The list of surveys to be produced during the sale of a property in France continues to grow. There are now nine different documents that the seller must provide to you. All the surveys must be up to date. There are different types of surveys. They may, for example, cover the insulation of the property and consequently its energy consumption. Or attest to the absence of termites and asbestos within the property.

Some sellers may be tempted to lie about these surveys for various reasons. For example to conceal a hidden defect, or they may tell you that they will provide you with these surveys at the time of signing the deed of sale. Do not proceed if you do not have these nine up to date surveys when setting up the preliminary sales contract.

Accepting to pay the full agency fees

There are no Laws in France stating that the fees charged by the estate agency should be paid by you. Unlike the Notaire fees which are indeed always paid by the buyer. Do you find it acceptable that these agency fees are at your expense? Indeed, it is the seller who has a mandate with the real estate agent to sell his property! It should then be, up to the seller to pay these fees! We are fighting against this practice which we believe is unfair. Avoiding this pitfall could save you a lot of money!

Not checking your commitments when you sign

The pitfall is to automatically sign all the documents that are presented to you. This may seem silly, but many foreign buyers fully trust the real estate agent they are dealing with. So, they sign documents in a language they do not (fully) understand. And without checking their level of commitment. You will never be protected from someone who potentially could abuse your trust. Check your commitments at all stages of the French property buying process! It will probably be too late to backtrack afterwards. Do not hesitate to use a translator to make sure you understand the meaning of the document presented to you and your actual commitments.

Send your money overseas from bank to bank

With the arrival of the Internet, we have in recent years witnessed the arrival of new international payment technologies. Long gone are the days when you had to directly ask your bank to send money abroad. New players on the market have decided to revolutionise this service. Of course, we think of our trusted international partners, TransferWise. TransferWise allows you to send money abroad much faster than by using a bank-to-bank service. And at a much lower rate. For example, you can save, depending on the bank and the timing, up to £4,000 when sending £300,000! Not a negligible amount to save. Do not fall into this pitfall. Consider the different ways to send money to France from your country of origin at reduced cost.

Paying Notaire’s fees on the total amount of the transaction

Unfortunately, we cannot save you from paying Notaire’s fees! But we have a tip to slightly reduce them. Let us explain how. You have negotiated with a seller for his property in France and you came to an agreement on a purchase price of €300,000. You have agreed with the seller to keep all the equipment currently in the property (furniture, appliances). Be aware that Notaire’s fees are only due on the value of the property. And not on the value of the property AND the equipment you purchase.

The mistake would be to send a written offer to purchase and a preliminary contract mentioning the sum of €300,000. It makes no sense. Instead, simply evaluate with the seller the total amount of equipment you will keep, for example €12,000. Then, you just have to break down the price in these two documents. Thus, you will pay Notaire fees on €288,000 and not on €300,000. 

Automatically accept the seller’s Notaire

You are not under any obligation to accept the seller’s Notaire. You are free to select the Notaire of your choice to formalise the transaction. The two Notaires would then share the fees that you are paying. Not to choose the seller’s Notaire does not imply any additional cost for you. For example, you may choose to deal with a Notaire who speaks your mother tongue. Or choose a Notaire who has been recommended to you. 

So, you now know everything about the pitfalls to avoid when buying your property in France. You want to ensure that they do not slow down the completion of your project. It is important to proceed step by step following the purchase process. Do not rush through the various steps. In any case, each step cannot be carried out without the previous one being completed. And, most importantly, make sure that you check your commitments before signing a document. Target and anticipate the pitfalls you think you may fall into! Anticipation is the key word in the completion of your project!

Hidden defects for French property

Hidden defects for French property

Hidden defects for French property

Hidden defects (“vices cachés” in French) are considered as THE dreaded problem during the acquisition of a property in France. Their discovery only happens once the deed of sale has been signed. It can therefore be difficult for you to pursue the seller. In recent years, the French Law regarding this issue has evolved in favour of buyers. Nevertheless, it still can be a long and tiresome process before reaching of a successful outcome.

According to the rules of French civil Law, the seller has responsibilities when selling his property. Indeed, he must ensure that the property is sold free of defects. This rule is named “the hidden defects legal guarantee”.

This guarantee is without any doubt, amongst all the obligations of the seller, the one best known to the public. Therefore, should you discover a hidden defect, this guarantee protects you. You can trigger this guarantee to obtain compensation for the damage suffered.

What is a hidden defect?

A hidden defect is a defect or abnormality that by its nature significantly affects the usefulness of the property concerned to the extent that if you had known of it before you bought the property, you would not have bought it. At the very least, you would not have paid such a price. The Law considers a defect hidden when it is relatively serious. Also, it must clearly be detrimental to the full and perfect enjoyment of your new property in France.

A hidden defect is not always a defect that the seller voluntarily conceals. It is a defect which is simply not apparent. The seller may indeed have knowingly hidden the defect. He may also have completely ignored its existence during all the time he lived in the property. You can consider as hidden defects the following anomalies:

– crumbling foundations

– mildew inside a wall

– the presence of fungus or termites

– the fact that the property can flood

– the unstable nature of the land

– structural damage or even poor waterproofing

French Law considers a defect as hidden if it meets the following condition:

– it must predate the sale (signature of the deed of sale). Rely on the expertise of professionals in France. You must prove that the defect was already present when you signed the deed of sale. These expert reports have legal value.

– it must be invisible. You will not have any recourse against an obvious defect, visible to the naked eye. The Justice system takes this into account and in the event of an apparent defect, the seller cannot be held responsible. So, do not forget to inspect in great detail the property in France during your visits!

– it must clearly hinder your day-to-day use of your new property. It really means that you need to be able to prove that if you had knowledge of the defect in question, you would not have bought the property.

If the defect meets these three conditions, you will be able to use the hidden defects legal guarantee. It will allow you to obtain compensation for the damage suffered.

The hidden defects legal guarantee

The French civil code for property Law provides a pre-contractual legal obligation called hidden defects guarantee. It is the seller’s responsibility. The latter must undertake to hand the property over to you free of any problems. In other words, the property that the seller markets must be defect-free. If it is not the case, you can then claim against the hidden defects guarantee breached by the seller. You can then take two separate types actions. The goal is to assert your rights and obtain redress for the damages you find yourself a victim of.

– first option. You ask for the cancellation of the sale. Before the Tribunal, you can ask for a reimbursement of the full price paid. In exchange, of course, for the restitution of the property to the seller.

– second option. You ask for a reduction of the price. The judge can request a reduction of the purchase price based on the severity of the hidden defect. The Justice system bases the calculation of this reduction on the cost of the repair of the hidden defect.

In addition to triggering one of the two actions above, you will also be able to claim damages and interests. You can decide that the full refund or the reduction in the transaction price is not enough to cover the damages you suffered. Therefore, you can claim for additional damages to make up the difference. Damages and interests are automatically due when the seller is a professional such as a real estate agent or a Notaire. Indeed, a presumption of bad faith is placed on the shoulders of the professional. The Justice considers that because of his profession, he should have been able to detect the hidden defect.

If the seller is not a professional, you will have to demonstrate that he had knowledge of the defect when he sold you the property. This can be a delicate process. Additionally, obtaining damages and interests when dealing with an individual can prove to be difficult to obtain.

To initiate an action, you have a period of 2 years from the date of the discovery of the defect. The action may be brought against a professional seller as well as a non-professional, knowing that the severity is increased for professionals.

Involvement of French Property Connection

We remain close to you in the event of the discovery of a hidden defect. This begins by calling on a French company expert in the field of the hidden defect in question. This company will prove the existence of this defect and date its origin. It will allow you to prove that it occurred prior to the signing of the deed of sale. This company will give you an expert report. This report has legal value.

We then bring the matter to the District Court (when the claim is above €10,000) or the County Court (claim below €10,000). This, in order that you get compensation for the damage suffered. The support of a French property lawyer is not mandatory but is strongly recommended. We also put you in touch with a specialist speaking your native language to avoid any misunderstanding. The chosen lawyer will control the claim. He will defend your interests so that you either get a total refund of the amount paid to the seller or a partial refund matching the cost of the work required. Your presence at the hearing in France will not be compulsory. Indeed, the lawyer in question will act on your behalf.

Depending on the cases, the delay in obtaining the final decision from the Tribunal can vary. It usually depends on the location of the Tribunal and of the complexity of the file. This delay can go up to 2 years! But in general, a decision is reached within 6 months. This decision is very often in favour of the buyer when he has an expert’s report proving that the hidden defect pre-existed the signing of the deed of sale.