Before committing to the home you have fallen in love with, heed some expert advice from Susie Hollands, one of FrenchEntrée’s partners for real estate in Paris, on how to buy with your head, not your heart. “Litigation concerning property transactions is rare in France,” says Hollands, “as the notaire (property lawyer) is usually very diligent. Notaires subscribe to a common insurance, which provides an immediate financial guarantee to the client in case of their error. It takes about two months for a sale to be registered by the notaire with the French Registration Authority, which includes verifying the ownership history of the property and other aspects of the condition of the property, such as the presence of termites, lead, or asbestos.”
In France, common problems are identified on the survey, carried out at the seller’s cost, which must be completed before the property goes up for sale. The agent is legally responsible for making sure the required survey is completed satisfactorily before marketing the property. The survey covers items such as borer, termites, electrical, gas, drainage and structural defects as well as correct functioning of heating and ventilation systems.
Both the buyer and seller have their own notaires who check for defects. “The red tape involved works in favour of the buyer,” says Hollands, adding that “buyers should shop around for a notaire firm with a good reputation in order to ease the sale through all the legal channels.”
According to Hollands, “In apartment buildings in Paris, a buyer can ask for access to the minutes of the annual general meetings of the block, going back for three years. This will disclose ongoing issues regarding the building and alert the buyer to problems with structure, expensive planned renovations, or co-ownership charges that may be levied. It is advisable to have an expert walk the prospective buyer through those minutes in order to spot any defects which may have been plaguing the property.”
Consumers are fairly well protected in France, so the seller needs to provide all necessary documentation to the agency before marketing the property. Declare any known defects in order to avoid a lawsuit after the sale has been concluded. If buyers have reason to believe the seller withheld information, it could prove very costly.
Stephane Adler, a Parisian notaire situated on rue de Louvre, says, “Not only is the notaire the person who ensures the transfer of ownership of the apartment or house, but they are also there to help the buyer and verify that there is no problem of ownership.” He adds, “A typical example was the sale of an apartment that was created by the union of several small apartments into a bigger one. It happened on this occasion that a piece of corridor was integrated into the apartment because nobody needed it. If nothing had been done regarding the paperwork, this corridor could still be considered part of the common property and not for the seller to dispose of. The homeowner’s association may have rescinded the initial statement of size, and the price per square meter would have changed, which could have posed a big problem.” The thoroughness of Adler’s firm ensured this was a non-issue.
Hollands concludes, “Many people have their own ideas about renovations, especially for a pied à terre, so it is a waste to spend on renovations; that money will not be recouped in the short term. Instead, spend on good photography so the property is shown at its best.”
If you need assistance in finding a property in Paris, contact our property team on 01225 463752 or have a look at our selection of Parisian properties for sale.