As in other countries, people selling a house in France have certain obligations and duties. Here we examine the selling process in detail…
Do I have a legal obligation to appoint an estate agent when I sell my property in France?
No. A substantial proportion of property sales in France are carried out between private sellers and buyers, without the assistance of an estate agent. The main benefit is obviously a saving on the estate agent’s fees (estate agents charge, on average, up to 10% of the price of the property). The downside is that you will have to find potential purchasers for your property, arrange for viewings, appoint surveyors in order to carry out the compulsory surveys on the property and instruct a notaire who will prepare the legal work for the sale.
Different ways of advertising your property include:
- Placing adverts in local and/or national newspapers, including real estate specialised publications and free newspapers
- Placing an advert on a website
- Creating a website solely dedicated to your sale
- Advertising your property directly with a notaire
Do I have a legal obligation to instruct a notaire when I sell my property in France?
Yes, a notaire registered in France must be instructed for the sale of any French real estate. The compromis de vente or promesse de vente does not require the assistance of a notaire; however, the title deed (acte de vente)must be prepared by a notaire and signed at a notaire’s office, either in person or by power of attorney.
Does my property need to be surveyed before I sell it?
As a matter of precaution it is advisable for the purchaser to have a structural survey done, especially for older or unusual properties. However, a structural survey is not compulsory under French law. It is in fact very unusual to have one carried out.
Other surveys, reports and diagnoses are compulsory and paid for by the vendor:
- Property under co-ownership: a French law known as Loi Carrez requires that in all sales of subplots of a property under co-ownership (in most cases, this means the sale of an apartment), plots larger than 8sqm have to be measured. The surfaces to be measured are all covered areas of the premises where the ceiling is at least 1.8m above the floor. Such measurement can legally be done by anyone, however, appointing a professional (architect, surveyor…) is recommended. If a mistake is made that shows a difference of more than 5% of the total surface area, then the buyer can claim a reduction of the price – proportional to the error made. Such a claim can be made within the first year following the signature of the deed.
- Survey to check for asbestos in the property: compulsory for properties for which planning permission was granted before 1 July 1997. This type of survey must be carried out by a professional who can prove that they have the required qualifications and a professional indemnity insurance.
- Lead paint survey: compulsory if the property was built before 1949.
- Termites: a survey on the presence of termites (which also includes information about other wood parasites) is required if the property is located in an area officially declared as affected. This report must be less than six months old when the title deed is signed.
- A report on the safety of any gas installation.
- Electrical system: a report on the safety of the electrical system is now required. See French property diagnostic surveys for further information.
- A report on the energy efficiency of the property and on its greenhouse gases emissions.
- In some areas of France: a report on natural and technological risks.
It is the seller’s duty to ensure that those reports are made available to the purchaser before the signature of the title deed. Most of those reports are for the information of the purchaser but do not allow them to pull out of the transaction even if their results are unsatisfactory.
There are two exceptions to this general rule:
- if termites (or traces of termites) are mentioned in the termite survey, then the purchaser can pull out of the transaction on this basis.
- if both parties agree to have an extra condition in the compromis de vente based on the adverse result of any of the compulsory surveys. This is fairly unusual in France.
Do I have any other legal obligation towards a potential purchaser?
Yes, as a seller you have a double general duty towards the purchaser: to deliver the property as it is described in the contract and to guarantee a defect-free and peaceful ownership of the property for the purchaser. These obligations imply that a seller has the obligation to keep the property in the same condition from the signature of the compromise until the signature of the deed – without creating any extra charge or easement on the property. The obligation to guarantee a peaceful and defect free ownership imposes a duty on the seller not to do anything that would affect the property itself or any legal right or obligation attached to the property. It also imposes an obligation on the seller to reveal anything that could affect the normal use of the property.
For instance, as a seller, you have a duty to reveal:
- any past pollution that affected the ground,
- the presence of mine shafts located underground,
- any easement and rights of way that you are aware of,
- anything that can generally affect the normal use of the property. In some rare cases that can mean an obligation to reveal information about your neighbour’s plots that affect the plot you are selling.
You cannot intentionally withhold any information that you know could affect the property.
What are my tax liabilities in France as a seller?
You will continue to be liable for all taxes related to the property until the date of signature of the deed i.e. the completion.Taxe foncière is paid for a full tax year. A refund is due to the seller by the purchaser in proportion to the remaining part of the tax year.
Taxe d’habitation is paid by the occupier of the property on the 1st January of each tax year without refund or apportionment.
Stamp duty and land registry fees are paid by the purchaser.
French capital gains tax (impôt sur les plus-values) may be payable by the seller on the gain made. The gain is the difference between the purchase price (plus purchase fees) and the resale price. Some deductions can then be applied to the gain before it is taxed.
When will I receive the final payment from the notaire?
The final payment will be made by the notaire within a few days following the signature of the deed; he or she will deduct all taxes and any repayment due to the bank (for instance, when there is a mortgage on the property). The funds will be transferred to the account of your choice.
The sale of a property in France may seem less risky than a purchase but it is still a formal process that you need to be prepared for. It is advisable to be assisted by an independent lawyer.