Susannah Hickling provides a step-by-step guide to a successful, stress-free sale...
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Research the property market in your area of France. Look at the asking prices of similar properties and ask several property agents to give you an estimation. They'll help you price your property realistically.
DECIDING WHO'LL SELL YOUR HOUSE
Only agents who hold a Carte Professionnelle are allowed to deal with the sale of a property. If your home has international appeal, then consider engaging a property agent who operates in this market, in addition to a local agency.
You can do this - and even market the house yourself - as long as you sign a non-exclusive contract (mandat sans exclusivité or mandat simple) rather than a sole-agency agreement (mandat exclusif). Please note that the buyer pays the agent's commission.
GETTING YOUR PAPERWORK TOGETHER
The agent will need a copy of your title deed, the land registry (cadastre) plan, proof of ID and your last Taxe Foncière (property tax) bill. In addition, before you can even put your home up for sale you must
possess a Diagnostic de Performance Energetique (DPE) energy performance certificate.
That forms part of a 'seller's pack', the Dossier Diagnostic Technique (DDT), which you'll need to commission from a professional - ask your property agent. The pack may include surveys regarding lead and asbestos, gas and electricity, natural risks, parazites, smoke alarms and swimming pool safety. Septic tank reports come via the local Mairie and can be slow.
ACCEPTING AN OFFER Your agent or notaire will draw up the preliminary sales contract - the Compromis de Vente or Promesse de Vente. Signing this commits you and the purchaser to going ahead, though the buyer has a ten-day cooling-off period.
THE NOTAIRE'S ROLE
All property transactions go through a notaire, a government-licensed official who acts for both parties. The buyer pays the notaire's fee. Sometimes both vendor and buyer appoint their own notaires, and then the two notaires share the fee.
The notaire holds the deposit, draws up the
transfer deed (Acte de Vente or Acte Authentique) and collects any Capital Gains Tax due.
COMPLETING THE SALE
The notaire convenes both parties for the reading and signing of the deed of sale (Acte de Vente). If you can't be there, you can grant power of attorney (procuration) to sign on your behalf, often to the notaire's clerk.
PAYING YOUR TAXES
If the property isn't your main residence, you usually have to pay French Capital Gains Tax (Impôts de Plus Value) on any profit. The current rate is 19% and 15.5% in 'social charges', but the longer you've owned the property the less you'll pay. If you have owned the property for 22 full years, there's no tax to pay. Note that stamp duty and renovation costs are deductible - as long as you have builders' receipts. Otherwise a flat rate of 15% is allowable. You also have to declare your gain in the UK and may end up paying more tax there.
The seller pays the Taxe d'Habitation (Residence Tax) for the calendar year of the sale, while the Taxe Foncière (Land Tax) bill is usually shared, pro rata, between buyer and vendor.
Impressing potential buyers
1, Choose an agent who'll use high-quality photos and plenty of detail in the property description.
2, Declutter your French home and make it look as impersonal as possible.
3, Make sure the property is painted in neutral colours.
4, Keep the property spotlessly clean.
5, Ensure that the garden is tidy - get someone to sort it out if you aren't in the country.