The Compromis de Vente is the first formal and legally binding stage in the property purchase process in France. It is a written contract of sale agreement which legally binds together the seller and purchaser. The agreement can be drafted by the estate agent handling your sale or by the Notaire. A Compromis prepared by the estate agent will need to satisfy the Notaire of it’s legal validity in any event but you may ask the Notaire or other adviser if you feel uncertain about the draft. The format may vary but all Compromis de Ventes should state clearly the key points of agreement including:
* Details of purchaser and seller (you will need to provide “Civil Status” information including your full names, contact details, professions, birth and marriage certificates, passport copies, details of ex-husbands and wives
* Confirmation of the name and ownership “Title” details of the property
* A description of the property including reference and map of the plot as it is recorded in the Land Registry of your local the Commune
* The price agreed (sometimes furnishings and fittings may be negotiated as a separate amount)
* The deposit agreed (usually 10% to be held by the Notaire usually or in some cases the agent) see also What methods of payment should be used
* The circumstances under which the deposit may be forfeited
* Some declarations by the vendor about the property
* Some obligations of the purchaser in buying the property
* Arrangements for inspection of lead, asbestos and termites (see also What about inspections for lead, asbestos and termites?)
* Provisional conditions (Clauses Suspensives) – these will include certain standard conditions which will be inserted by the person drawing up the agreement (e.g. that there are no other claims to the Title or that the searches conducted by the Notaire’s office do not reveal any problems). NB: The purchaser can request and negotiate the insertion of additional Provisional conditions before the Compromis is signed e.g. vendor to service the electrical equipment or provide additional guarantees, complete building work, obtain a mortgage or planning approval etc
* Full details of the estate agents fees and provision for legal fees
* Various declarations by both purchaser and vendor about their ability to complete the contract
* Statements describing what happens if either side fails to complete his part of the bargain, e.g. penalty clauses
* The target completion date (note this is not definitive or guaranteed and can be changed by agreement between purchaser and seller or if the notaire has not completed his work for any reason)
*Inventory of items to be included in the price
Understand What You Are about to Sign
As purchasers it is essential that you understand every aspect of the Compromis de Vente as it is sets out all the key terms of your purchase. It is recommended that you see an English translation or have the services of an English speaking adviser. This might be the Notaire or another legal adviser. (See What is the role of the notaire? and the directory for details of solicitors who advise on French property transactions.
All points within the agreement are important but particular attention should be focussed on the price and costs, the details regarding the Title and Land Registry information, the Provisional conditions (if these cannot be met you may be entitled to withdraw from the purchase) and the declarations made by the vendor.
Ten day Cooling-off Period
Note that under La Loi SRU you will be given a ten-day cooling off period during which time you can withdraw from the purchase without penalty. This period runs from when you receive a copy of the signed Compromis and you will generally be given an instruction about this period and the date before which any change of mind must be communicated in writing to the Notaire.
Once the Compromis is signed the Notaire (who acts for both parties under French law) will carry on the process of checking records and documentation regarding the property and land. Two to three months is generally allowed for this process but it is possible to move more swiftly if both parties are agreed and the Notaire is able to conduct documentation searches without delays.
Note that the completion date shown in the Compromis is a target date which will allow you to plan removals, funds transfer etc however the date will need to be re-confirmed as completion draws nearer. The completion date is the date when both parties will attend the Notaire’s office to sign the Acte Authentique (or nominate a proxy, an alternative person, to sign on their behalf.
During the period between signing the Compromis de Vente and signing the Acte Authentique (or Acte de Vente) it is advisable to keep in touch with your agents and the Notaire to keep a check on progress. Don’t rely on them to tell you what is happening.
See also: Conditions in your Compromis de Vente