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When visiting a property for sale, make sure that you clearly identify the important aspects of the property (i.e. is there a septic tank, is the property connected to water and electricity?) If necessary, visit the local Mayor and ask for additional information. You may also consult the cadastral plan at the local Mayor’s office.

The seller of a property is required by law to provide documentation of certain checks which must be performed by accredited organizations: checks for asbestos, lead, gas, termites etc. Not all checks are compulsory in all areas of France, but you can ask your Notaire to outline what is required, or visit the local Prefecture for more information.

The sale of a house has two distinct stages: the signature of the compromis de vente/promesse de vente (reservation agreement); followed several months later by the acte de vente (final deed of sale). Only the Notaire has the legal power to draw up this deed of sale.

Never pay any money directly to the seller - even if it is accompanied by a receipt counter-signed by witnesses. All money in house sale transactions passes through the Notaire. Not only do you risk never becoming the owner if the vendor decides not to sign the acte de vente, but you also risk not being refunded your money.

For the seven days following the signing of the compromis de vente, the buyer may pull out of the agreement with no loss of deposit. If you are going to withdraw from a sale during this seven-day ‘cooling off’ period, it is wise to do so by letter by recorded delivery. No money may change hands during this period.

Buying a property is a serious business: you must know exactly what you are buying and fully understand all the obligations that come as your part of the deal. If you are in any doubt, employ the services of a translator as all dealings with the Notaire are required to be in French and your Notaire is not required to translate for you. ■