Buying process in France

Buying process in France

What does a typical buying process look like in France?

Ok, so you decided you want to embark into an adventure in France, that’s one thing. You might have some experience with buying of selling a property in your home country, but that doesn’t mean that you are aware of French law, French negotiation tactics or the people involved in realty transactions. So, let us examine what it takes to turn this adventure into a success story and how a typical purchase process looks like in France.


How and where do you start your venture for the perfect home in France? The very first thing you have to clarify is your own desires and preferences. What do you look for? What are your requirements with regards to the region and climate? If you are not fixated on one particular region or department, price differences might interest you to. You can find an overview of price differences per department on the website of ‘Notaires de France’.

If you have already made up your mind about the location where you want to own a property, you can easily gather additional information from the community itself. We find that Conseil General is a good starting point for this. Not only can you find the contact details of the town hall, they also have a bunch of statistics that are worthwhile to take a look at. Going from unemployment numbers, percentage of retirees, percentage of singles to information about the land register. If you already have a specific property in mind, make sure that you (or your agent/notary) have a look at this land register. The property might have a stunning view, make sure that this view cannot be blocked by some skyscraper or industry complex in a few years from now.

Before starting your quest for the perfect (second) home, make yourself a checklist with the following items:

The budget

  • The (maximum)budget that you can spend
  • Are you going to take a loan?

The “basics”

  • Do you want to renovate? Or are you the type of person that prefers a ‘key-on-the-door’ property?
  • Distance of the city center
  • Distance of the nearest supermarket (perhaps you don’t want to spend an hour in your car just to do your groceries?)
  • Number of rooms, size of your desired garden (do you even want a garden?), pool, …

The focus

  • What is the number one reason for your move to France? What will you value the most? The stunning view on the ocean, the local community and social life, the city life or just the silence?
  • If you have more than just one focus, give them a priority. Depending on your budget, you might be forced to trade in one for the other.

After you have clear view on your own preferences, the real work starts. The real estate market in France knows a predominantly online existence. However, it is not always a guaranty for success. It is never a bad idea to actually make a visit and take in the surroundings. This method might take more of your time, but it definitely gives a more complete view of the local market. Not all properties are listed on all websites all the time. You don’t know what hidden gems might be around the corner until you actually make the turn yourself!

If you want to save some time, you might want to consider to initiate a search request based on your requirements and preferences. If you initiate such a request, our local agents will search for a property that matches your specifications best. The benefit of doing so, is that they have a more complete view of all properties available in their area. They often look across agencies and might have knowledge of brand new listings that did not find their way to all realty websites.

Other resources that might help you in your search are (surprisingly) owners of local restaurants, local newspapers, realty agents, notaries or intermediaries.


There are a number of professionals that you might come across with when dealing with realty transactions in France. In the following section we will try to summarize these different professions and give you an idea of what their specific role exactly is. If you are looking for one of these professionals, make sure to have a look at our page with trusted partners. For these ‘trusted’ partners, we incorporated a few useful checks ourselves (do they have the needed accreditation, do they speak English, etc.).


When you finally get to visit some venues, you will always be asked to sign a ‘bon de visite’. The purpose of this document is to prevent situations where you can visit a property via one agency and then buy it through another. As we explained earlier, it is possible to have the same property for sale at different agencies with a ‘mandat simple’.

When you are at the property, be sure to look for all potential defects. Later on, these observations may not only help you to get a better understanding of the costs you might face, but they are excellent ‘ammunition’ to get that listing price down during negotiations. Don’t hesitate to bring your own expert along on a (second) visit if you don’t have the expertise yourself! Also try to read the DDT report in advance so you can look for these defects on the spot.


After you identified the property you always dreamt of, it is custom to have a period of time to discuss the price. When you buy the property directly from individual sellers, it is important to keep in mind some of the culture differences. For one, you will find that price negotiations are more ‘informal’ than they are in most countries. Especially down south, you will find much more reluctance and willingness to drop the price, if the discussions are preceded by a cozy dinner with a good bottle of wine.

If you are working with an intermediary or agent, they usually will lead this negotiation for you. They often have more experience with the smaller nuances and local habits. Other options are to involve your notary or a specialized negotiation company.


Compromis de Vente (CdV)

After you have come to a final agreement on the price, your agent or seller will ask you to sign a document called the ‘compromis de vente’. By signing this document, you confirm the official character of the sale. However, you still get a period of ten days in which you can still denounce the contract. After these ten days, you will become the juridical owner of the property. From the seller’s end, there is no way back after signing this contract.

Keep in mind that all agreements on price, method of financing and current state of the building, are contractually binding after signing this document. However, you can always include clauses to determine conditions in which the contract will no longer be valid. For example, whether or not you will be able to get a certain mortgage loan. After signing you will also be asked to make a deposit between 5% and 10%, the so-called ‘depôt de garantie’. This sum should be transferred towards a temporarely blocked bank account of the notary. If you were to break the contract (after the waiting period of 10 days), you will lose this amount.

It is advisable that a notary composes the CdV document. But keep in mind that in theory real estate agents are also allowed to do this. Contrary to what some might say, the CdV document is not something that you should sign ‘quickly’ or on the spot. Make sure that you understand what is written and if needed, let someone check it for you.

Acte de Vente (AdV)

The CdV is only one of two documents that need to be composed for the sale. It can take up to 2 or 3 months before the Notary sends you the final sales deed, the ‘Acte de Vente’ (AdV). During this period, you are expected to pay the amount due in full to the notary’s account.

French law makes it practically impossible to pay in cash or with a bank cheque. So be sure to wire the entire amount. If you go along with transactions where you are asked to pay (a part) under the table, you risk being the victim of it all. These techniques allow the seller to avoid certain added value taxes. If someday you decide to sell the property yourself, you will wind up paying for the taxes for the amount that was paid in cash.

Once you signed the AdV at the office of the notary, you will receive the keys and will become the official owner. All that’s left is to sit back and enjoy!