As with any big purchase, there are certain pitfalls of buying property in France which buyers must learn to avoid.


While the house buying process in France is no more complicated than it is in comparable countries – the market is well regulated, and most sales go through without a hitch – there are nonetheless some basic precautions an overseas house buyer should take in order to avoid problems arising.


Certain difficulties may manifest when dealing with an unfamiliar property market, navigating French property law, and signing contracts in a foreign language. What happens, for instance, when a house buyer pulls out somewhere in the property chain? What about a seller pulling out? And can you, as a buyer, pull out of the sale process following a survey?


Here some of the most common pitfalls of buying a property in France to avoid.

Not Having a Property Survey Conducted Before Buying

The excitement of finding your perfect French property is a powerful thing. So powerful, in fact, that many overseas buyers make the mistake of signing on the dotted line without commissioning a full professional property survey.


In some ways this is understandable. Full property surveys aren’t “the done thing” in France, and there’s no law mandating that a house should be professionally surveyed before a property sale. Nonetheless, you should be sure to take off your rose-tinted glasses before entering into a legally binding contract.


A property surveyor will help you determine the true condition of the building – what renovations might be necessary, the potential costs of remediations, and whether or not it’s possible to build that extension you’re thinking about.


Read more: What Property Survey Should I Have Done in the South of France?

Navigating French Property Law and Taxes

Though there are currently no legal restrictions on foreigners buying property in France, the process may be slightly more difficult as a non-resident – and especially if you don’t speak the language. A lot of paperwork is involved, there are notaire fees to consider, as well as various taxes.


For example, non-EU citizens (which, following Brexit, now includes Brits) can only stay in France for up to 90 days per year, and have to pay more tax on rental income than residents, as well as other new taxes. In all cases, it’s crucial you seek professional legal advice before exchanging contracts. Speak to your property surveyor who will help you in the process of managing agents and getting in contact with the right people.


Read more: What Problems Will I Have Buying a House in the South of France?


Property Chain Breaks

Infuriating as it is for buyers, broken property chains are a frequent occurrence in the property market.


A buyer pulling out somewhere in the chain can have a domino effect, meaning the house sale falls through on the property you’re looking to purchase. When a house buyer pulls out of a house purchase somewhere along the chain – perhaps due to personal circumstances, nervousness over the purchase price, or any other reason –delays and problems can occur.

Withdrawing from A Sale

Due to your own individual circumstances, you may wish to withdraw from a house sale after an exchange of contracts.


This is possible, though you have a limited time in which to do it.


Under French law, a potential buyer has a 10-day cooling off period after signing a contract. Importantly, this option is only available to buyers. Sellers do not have the right to withdraw – once the seller has signed the contract, they are legally bound to the sale. This is different to the position in the UK, where both parties are legally obliged to complete the sale after the exchange of contracts.


At the end of the cooling off period, both parties are legally bound to the contract, preventing buyers pulling out after 10 days.

Avoid the Pitfalls of Buying Property in France – Charles Mackintosh

In most circumstances, many buyers encounter little trouble when buying a house in France. However, navigating French law, the French property market, finding an estate agent, knowing how to put the buyer’s solicitor and seller’s solicitor in contact, and knowing what to do when a buyer pulls out of an agreement are all highly technical matters for which you should seek professional advice.


Charles Mackintosh is a RICS chartered surveyor operating in the South of France. Charles provides English language property surveys and advice for overseas buyers through a highly personalised service, which includes personally liaising with all professionals involved with French property sales on behalf of buyers.


Get in touch today for more information.