How to buy a house or an appartment in France

Buying a first apartment or a house is often an important step, all the more so when you are not a resident. So what are the steps for buying a property in France? how can a real estate agent facilitate this process? and how does non-residency affect these processes? All the answers, in this article.


Budget and research

At the risk of seeming obvious, the first step when you want to buy an apartment or a house is to define a realistic budget taking into account not only the purchase price but also the taxes that will be payable at the time of signing. And, in the case of a purchase with a mortgage, check in advance with a bank the feasibility according to your monthly income. Then comes the list of requirements, such as the minimum number of bedrooms, which will be difficult to ignore, and a wishes list that will potentially add convenience or comfort or both to the property (eg. laundry , terrace, garage).

Consulting a real estate agency like Tiphaine Immobilier makes it possible to define these different elements more precisely, knowledge of the market and professional advice being key assets at this stage. Our team also has extensive experience in banking and in establishing credit files, if necessary.

On this point, it should be noted that if the buyer is non-resident, any potential credit application must be made with a bank based in France, as cross-border mortgage are not acceptable, even within the Euro zone.

Then comes the very important stage of the visits, these not only allowing you to see (or review) one or more properties but also to discuss further with your agent the different options for the purchase.


The Offer

The purchase of a house or an apartment officially begins with the submission of a written offer to the agency, which forwards it to the seller, after having checked the applicant's identity documents and having inquired about the which he plans to finance this purchase. At this stage no payment is required. After consideration, the offer is either accepted, declined or subject to a counter-offer.

Once the offer has been accepted, a period begins (between 2 weeks and a month) during which another actor in the purchase, the notary, intervenes. He or she is a public and ministerial officer responsible for the elaboration, authentication and preservation of documents having legal force, such as the purchase of a house or an apartment.

Buyer and seller can either agree on the same notary or choose one that is specific to them.

At this stage the notary works in close collaboration with the real estate agency to compile the complete file:

  • Verification of the identity of both parties
  • Verification of the validity of the seller's title deeds and any mortgages that will need to be lifted.
  • Contact the syndic of the co-ownership to verify the situation and obtain the co-ownership regulations
  • Establishment of the DPE file, as provided for by law.
  • File established by an independent office and reporting, the surface, the energy characteristics, the conformity of the electrical installations, the search for asbestos and lead for the old residences.
  • The nature of the financing of the purchase.


The promise of sale

All these documents will be transmitted to the buyer at the time of the signing of a contract, also called "promise of sale" (Promesse de vente).

The promise of sale is concluded by the deposit by the buyer of 5 to 10% of the value of the property with the notary and a date for the signing of the deed of sale, which will conclude the latter, is fixed.

The buyer has a period of 15 days to withdraw and in this case the deposit is returned to him.

After the 15-day period, the notary sends a request to the competent territorial authorities to ensure that the property is not preempted by the town hall. This document is only issued after a period of 2 months.

It is only when he is in possession of the promise of sale accompanied by all the documents mentioned above that the buyer can formalize his loan request with his bank.



A few days before the final signature, the notary sends the buyer details of the total amount to be paid:

  • Price of the property minus the security deposit already paid.
  • Notary fees, taxes (about 8% of the total value).

This amount must be available on the notary's account on the day of signing.

The keys are given to the buyer on the day of signing and the seller must have released the property on this date.

The day after the signing, the notary transfers the amount of the sale net of agency commissions to the seller.