Pitfalls buying a property in France

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

List of the pitfalls

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.

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 throughout 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.

List of the pitfalls

Not preparing for the negotiation

Negotiating the property price 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!


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