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France - Buying a House

This document is split into several sections for easy navigation

General information
Down payment
Buyer expenses

Other links

General Information

The choice of buying a house is fine if you are planning on staying for some years. Finding 'your house' will not be easy and you must take time in order to make a good purchase. The location of your home is very important for an easier integration of your family. It should not be far from schools, shops, bus stations, work etc.
  • Professionals who can help you find your house/flat are :
    - Real Estate agents
    - Notaries
    Try to find an agent or a notary who speaks your language.
    Be careful with real estate agents, not all have a good reputation in France. There are some bad stories with them, so read and try to follow the advice below.
    The legal representative who does the property transfer is the notary; you can ask them if they know of properties for sale. Not all the notaries offer this kind of service.
  • Things you should look for in order to make a wise acquisition: check the flood plains in the area, foundations, drainage, fireplace, floors, attic, ask about termite and wood rot; check heating, electrical wiring, plumbing, hot water system and appliances; check exterior walls, garage, roof (ask how old the roof is), landscaping, doors and windows. Ask an architect to go to see the condition of the flat/house.
  • You must see the town planning projects at your local town hall in order to find out, if a new road is scheduled to be constructed around your house or not. In the south of France, it is easier to find a house/flat, because more and more people (foreigners, retirees…) choose to live there.

Down Payment

As soon as you pick a house, you have to sign a pre-contract at the Real estate agency or at the notary. It's advisable to sign this preliminary document with the help of the notary. You will have to make a down payment of 10% of the total purchase price, which is then held in a blocked account by the notary. At this stage, both seller and buyer are committed to the sale. If the buyer pulls out, he/she loses the 10% deposit unless they can prove to be unable to secure a loan. If the seller pulls out, he must pay 10% to the buyer, who also gets his 10% back.


The pre-sale contract must indicate if the buyer wants a loan to cover the price. In this case the buyer has a maximum period of three months to obtain the loan.

Buyer expenses

Real estate agents or notaries usually get a 5% comission of the sale, to be paid by the buyer. You must negotiate the price of the sale, as there is a built-in negotiating margin. Do not hesitate to make a lower priced offer!
You will also have to pay a notary fee. This fee is not negotiable as there are essential taxes included. It's the buyer who pays the notary fees which amount to approximately 7 to 9% of the purchase price if the property is over five years old. For a new house/flat, the notary fees are from 3 to 4%.

Check list for New Property Owners

  1. Verify that everything in the house/flat is fine.
  2. Sign your pre-sale contract at the notary office with the seller.
  3. If you need a loan, make a proper market survey. Don't forget that you have three months maximum to find a loan. Otherwise the pre-sale document will be cancelled.
  4. For signing the sales contract, you will be contacted by the notary as well as the seller. Before this day, the notary will check for you the following:
    - if the seller is really the owner of the house
    - if the house is not mortgaged
    - if the seller has paid all the taxes (tax on accommodation, property tax). The annual property tax has to be paid in proportion to the number of months which you will live in the house, until the end of the year.
  5. You will have to pay the notary fees the same day. They want a bank check, which means a check edited and signed by your bank agreeing to give you the loan/money.
  6. The seller must give you the keys the same day and the house must be empty of furniture etc.

Other Links

In the case of any dispute or for further information.

  • Direction Régionale et Départementale Concurrence Consommation Répression des Fraudes
    8 r Froissart
    Tel: + 33 (0)1 4027 1600
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