One of the biggest days in your life is when you buy a new home, especially if that new home is in a completely different country and signifies the start of an unfamiliar and exciting new way of life. Buying property in France is quite different from the process in other countries like the UK or the US, though.

A key part of the property buying process in France is the compromis de vente – the first legally-binding contract you’ll sign. Its purpose is to clarify all of the terms you agree to as part of the property purchase.

Signing a Compromis de Vente Document

What is a compromis de vente?

A compromis de vente is a legally-binding, written contract that serves as the sale agreement. The notaire or agent can draft it, and it’s common for non-French-speaking buyers to have it translated and carefully reviewed by an advisor.

If a notaire doesn’t draft it themselves, have one at least look it over – missing or incorrect information can cause problems for the buyer, seller or both parties. Both you and the seller of the property will sign the compromis de vente at a notaire’s office.

Important details are included in the compromis de vente, and if you don’t speak fluent French yet, it’ll be impossible to understand. Work with a property estate agent, an advisor or translator who specialises in French property transactions, and hire them on your own instead of using one recommended by the seller.

It’s important to know for sure that the compromis de vente reflects what you want and have agreed to.

When do I sign a compromis de vente?

Here’s how the compromis de vente fits in with the rest of the property buying process in France:

  • Decide on the property you want to buy
  • Make a verbal or written offer to the seller and agree on a price
  • Discuss each of your requirements and wishes
  • Sign the compromis de vente
  • Receive a copy of the signed compromis de vente
  • Consider the purchase during your 10-day cooling-off period
  • Wait while the notaire checks documentation and records about the land and property
  • Sign the bill of sale on the completion date

Before the compromis de vente is signed, known information about the property has to be disclosed. For example, if the property has a view of the Mediterranean but there’s going to be construction that will interfere with the view, this information has to be told to the buyer.

What is the cooling-off period?

Once the compromis de vente is signed, the seller is legally bound by its conditions. The purchaser, however, is only legally bound after a 10-day cooling-off period. During this time, the buyer can pull out of the sale, no explanation needed. They won’t be in breach of contract and the deposit is returned to them within three weeks.

The 10-day period doesn’t start when the contract is signed. Instead, it begins one day after the contract is received via registered mail (or signed for at the notaire’s office, though it’s often also sent by mail even in that case – ask to clarify when the 10-day period begins).

After the 10-day period, the sale is legally binding, and if the buyer or seller wants to retract, they’ll be penalised. For example, the buyer can be required to pay the full asking price or they may have to forfeit the deposit, which is typically 10% of the sale price.

What information is included in the compromis de vente?

The compromis de vente contains a lot of information, including:

  • Address, description and map of the property for sale
  • Date of completion, which is the target date for when funds will be transferred, and other finalisations will be made
  • Deposit amount, sale price and associated fees
  • Full names, contact information and personal information of both parties
  • Inspection arrangements for issues like asbestos and lead
  • Inventory of items that will be included with the property
  • Needs, requirements and wishes of both parties (called “clauses suspensives”)
  • Payment methods and mortgage information
  • Penalty clauses

Clauses suspensives may be planning permissions to build an extension or use a residential property for a commercial business, or they may refer to the work that must be completed on the home before the buyer moves in. If the clauses suspensives aren’t met, the contract will be void.

Be as prepared as possible for your move

The compromis de vente is a way for the buyer and the seller to get on the same page about the specifics of the sale. Since it occurs somewhat early in the buying process, it gives the buyer a lot of time to plan for their move, which is much-needed when relocating to a new country.

At HomeHunts, our property agents are familiar with every step you’ll go through and can help you make informed decisions to get your perfect home.

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