When buying property in France, pitfalls will need to be avoided if you are to have a smooth experience.


There are several small but notable differences when it comes to purchasing a property in France compared to here in the UK. Making sure you are informed on which potential pitfalls to avoid can make buying property in France a far less fraught endeavour. 

1. Septic Tanks

French property purchase rules involve a mandatory survey of local sewage systems. Some 5 million French properties have a standalone waste disposal system or l’assainissement non collectif and, despite regulations around septic tanks being overhauled back in 2009, there can be great variance in the quality of the installation of these systems.  


If the system in the property you want to purchase has issues flagged, you will only be granted a year to bring it up to standard (sometimes less if there is a possible threat to health or the environment). This has the potential to significantly increase the overall cost of your purchase – not to mention the time and stress arranging renovations will no doubt involve

2. Notaire’s Fees

To purchase a French property, it is not legally required that you use a notaire, but you’d be a fool not to. In fact, you should never hand any part of the purchase price over to the seller without it going via a qualified and experienced notaire


However, you must also make sure you budget for the fees your notaire and estate agent will charge to assist you with completing the purchase of your French property

Image of notaries fees for buying property in the south of france

(Image source: french-property.com)


These fees can soon accumulate and it’s not unusual for them to add up to 15% onto the final price of your purchase. You should also be aware of any mortgage fees, solicitor’s fees, surveys, and taxes – such as stamp duty – which you may incur and budget accordingly

3. Compromis de Vente

A Compromis de Vente is the first legally binding document you’ll sign when starting the process of purchasing property in France. Like any sales contract, it should only be signed once the contents are fully understood and verified by a legal/property expert.


Ask your Notaire to run through any details which you may be unsure about – and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. None of us like to look like we are out of our depth, but property buying is a complex legal process and nobody can do it without the help of expert third parties


When perusing the Compromis de Vente, particular attention should be paid to price and costs, title and land registry information, provisional conditions (these will lay out the circumstances under which you can pull out of the sale), and any declarations made by the vendor.

Final Thoughts

There you have three pitfalls to avoid when buying property in France. There are, of course, many more factors to consider, and a wise purchaser will seek the assistance of an experienced chartered surveyor in France like Charles Mackintosh.


Charles Mackintosh has lived and worked in France for over thirty years and is thoroughly experienced in all the nuances of purchasing property in the region.

Get in touch today.