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French Property News Q&A - Selling Our Property

Question

We have decided to sell our property in France and we think we've found a buyer. I believe the money has to be paid to the notaire, and I wondered how long it would be before we receive it from him? Should we also involve an English solicitor, and if so at what point in the process? Also, what fees and taxes will we have to pay, and how are they taken out of the sale price?

Answer

Once a sale has been agreed, if an estate agent is involved, the agent will normally prepare the first contract and very often will be authorised to receive and hold the buyer's deposit. If there is no estate agent involved then the notary will prepare the first contract and once the contract has been signed by both parties, the buyer will be required to transfer 10% of the purchase price to the notary's account.

No monies should pass directly between the buyer and you. All "under the table" payments are illegal and must not be entertained. Do not believe anyone who tells you "It's ok, everyone does it!"

A typical sale and purchase takes 3 months from start to finish and so you should expect to receive the net sale proceeds from the notary within 1 week of completion of the sale.

As seller, you will be required to arrange and pay for a series of survey reports which must be provided to the buyer and annexed to the contract. These reports cover the presence or absence of lead, asbestos & termites and examine the condition of the gas & electricity systems and energy efficiency. The cost of the surveys varies but is likely to be in the region of 500 — 1,000 Euros. Most companies will want payment up front before preparing their reports however sometimes the company will wait to receive payment via the notary on completion of the sale.

If the French house is not your main residence then unless you have owned it for more than 22 years, you may be liable to pay capital gains tax if you sell the property for more than you paid for it. The rate of tax is currently 34.5% of the net gain which you make when you sell. Any tax payable will be deducted from the sale proceeds by the notary.

As far as the notary's fees are concerned, the buyer pays these and no contribution from you is required.

In terms of the involvement of a UK based solicitor to assist you with your sale, it is best to appoint a specialist solicitor as early as possible in the process as he or she will be able to do his or her best work for you if involved from the start. The French conveyancing system is safe but unless you understand the process and the documentation there can be pitfalls! A specialist solicitor should give you peace of mind and reassurance as he or she will explain the documentation and guide you through the process from start to finish.

This Q&A first appeared in French Property news - March 2014.

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