French property deed of sale


Final step of the property buying process in France, the signature of the deed of sale must take place at the Notaire’s office. Once you receive your mortgage, and roughly within three months, the Notaire will invite you in writing to attend the signature of this deed. There is no obligation for you to accept to use the seller’s Notaire. You can choose your own professional to represent you. In this case, the meeting will take place at your Notaire’s office. The two French Notaires will attend, along with the seller and yourself. The real estate agent in charge of the transaction may also attend the meeting. These signatures will legally formalise the transfer of ownership between the seller and you.

You then become, at this point, the sole and official owner of the property. Let’s go over this meeting that, ultimately, makes you the proud owner of a property in France!

The signature of the deed of sale – what happens?

Very often, the Notaire will not personally attend this meeting. Indeed, a clerk often replaces him. This clerk acts on behalf of the Notaire. He receives both parties and collects their signatures. In principle, the signing of this deed constitutes a mere formality. The Notaire has already carried out all the necessary checks. Also, the important issues have been resolved as soon as the preliminary sales contract was established. Nevertheless, the Notaire or the clerk must read the deed of sale to the parties. Also, he must highlight and insist on the important sections.

You can obviously ask him for clarification on any point which is still unclear. Do not hesitate to ask questions to the Notaire or to the clerk representing him. You must particularly be aware of the scope and the consequences of your commitment. The parties must then initial each page of the document and sign at the end of the deed. The Notaire or the authorised clerk must then carefully check the presence of all signatures. Indeed, a single missing signature renders the deed null and void. The registration of the deed becomes impossible and the Notaire would then become liable for costs and damages.

Power of attorney for the signature of the deed of sale

A power of attorney is a legal act. It allows you to give a trusted third party the power to act on your behalf. For example, you can designate someone else to sign it on your behalf if:

– you cannot be present at the time of the signing of the deed

– you do not want to travel to France just to sign this act

This person acts as your agent. The Notaire will send you a power of attorney under a private agreement. Then, you will need to return it completed and signed. The implementation of a power of attorney under a private agreement is free. French Property Connection is legally allowed to take on this role on your behalf. 

          Lyon, Rhone-Alps

Your French property title deed

At the end of this meeting, you become the owner of the property. However, you do not immediately receive your title deeds. The Notaire must now publish the act with the Bureau des Hypothèques (registry of mortgages). The registry of mortgages also called land registry service is an administrative body of the national directorate of public finances. Its role is to collect the registration duties and taxes for signed deeds of sale.

Once these formalities have been completed, the Notaire will send you your French property title deed. The document that you will receive will not be the actual original act, but a “certified” copy. Indeed, the Notaire must retain the original at his office. It can take quite a long time for you to receive this title deed. Usually, it takes between two and three months to receive this document. In order for you to complete the necessary administrative processes, following your purchase, the Notaire will provide several certificates. These documents confirm that you are the new owner. It will enable you to set up all the necessary utilities related to the proper functioning of your property.

Formalities after the signature of the deed of sale

Once the deed of sale signed, the transfer of ownership is carried out. The seller must give you the keys. In return, you must pay the sale price. Obviously, the mortgage you have obtained has to be available at the latest on the day of the sale. Usually, the necessary funds have been previously deposited in the Notaire’s bank account. You will therefore not have to make any additional bank transfers. The Notaire’s office will organise the bank transfer to the seller’s account.

Then, he will arrange the registration of the sale within a month following the date of the sale. The Notaire will also transfer a large part of the fees he has collected to pay these following taxes:

– the registration fees

– the tax on the registration of the sale

– the tax on any profits made on the sale by the seller

If the payments you have made to the Notaire are higher than the actual costs generated by the signature of the deed, you will receive a cheque from the Notaire.

Rights and withdrawal rights of both parties

The seller might not present to sign the transfer of ownership. It may also happen that he refuses to sign off the sale without a valid reason. In these cases, as a buyer, you can summon him to sign the act. There are two possible ways to force him to sign the deed:

– writing a letter giving a deadline of fifteen days to sign. You will have to send the document to the seller by recorded letter with acknowledgement of receipt

– you can use a bailiff to force him to sign the deed

In the absence of a response, the Notaire will prepare a certificate of deficiency. With this document, we can then, with the help of a French property lawyer, seize the Tribunal de Grande Instance (District Court). This institution will condemn the seller, under obligation, to sign off the sale. The tribunal can directly declare the sale as completed. In both cases, you will also be able to claim damages and interests.

As for you, you will no longer be able to withdraw from the transaction without facing penalties. If you refuse to sign the document, few sellers would take you to Court to force the completion of the sale. Indeed, in this case, they would then not be able to sell their property until the end of a trial. On the other hand, they would take you to Court to claim for the non-returning of your deposit (usually 10% of the amount of the property).

As explained earlier, the signature of the deed of sale usually constitutes a mere formality. Indeed, all the points to be considered will have been dealt with by the Notaire during the establishment of the preliminary sales contract. Allow approximately one hour for this meeting at the Notaire’s office. As a foreigner, feel free to ask for a power or attorney if you do not want to travel for this very quick meeting to sign the act.

If you have chosen to work with us, keep in mind that we are legally allowed to be your agent and therefore sign on your behalf. Your French property title deed will be sent to you within 3 months after the signature of the document, but this does not prevent you from going through the administrative procedures with different suppliers.