Paul and Rita's Place in France - The Purchase


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Its the Law

The French property buying process is closely governed by law, and commits the seller and buyer at a far earlier stage than in England.  This is a very good thing, as it means you're not so worried about being gazumped or the seller deciding not to sell to you after all on a whim.   The basic sequence is that when an offer is accepted, both parties sign the compromise de vente, (which can contain get out clauses, such as subject to getting a mortgage)  and then there is a seven day cooling off period during which either party can withdraw from the agreement without penalty.  A deposit is paid at this time, and after the seven days both parties are committed to the sale.  After all the legal stuff is done, a date is set for the signing of the Acte de Vente, pay the rest of the money, everyone involved signs it and the property is yours. Simple, really.

Go in low

Le Vivier was being offered for sale as either three separate lots or one collective lot.  Each of the three lots had a large building on it with a share of the estimated hectare (2.5 acres) of land.  The asking price for buying them together was quite a bit cheaper than the sum of the individual prices, but the estate agent suggested that they would struggle to sell them as three individual properties, so we should go in with a low offer if we were interested in buying.  So go in low is what we did, so low in fact that she nearly fell off her chair.  To cut a long story short, we negotiated for nearly two weeks before we reached an agreeable price, about 20% less than the asking price.  Bargain!

Is it ours yet?    

It turned out that when we were told our offer was acceptable, it was not the vendors that was saying that, it was the agents who had a minimum acceptable price written down in their notes, so we were a little worried for the 10 days it took to contact the vendors that they might change their mind.  But they didn't, and to help speed things up a little, we went back out to Normandy to meet the agents and vendors, and sign the compromise de vente.  This was then passed around the five, yes five vendors (they were a family who had inherited a share each when the father had died) and eventually posted to us in England.

A week of suspense

From the day after the letter arrived we had 7 days to withdraw, but so too did the vendors.  We knew we didn't want to pull out, and we had no reason to suspect they might want to, but it was still a little nervy waiting for the 7 days to pass.  It had taken a lot longer to get to this point than we had expected, we thought it would have been a matter of days, but it was a month between us making our initial offer in mid April and receiving the compromise de vente in mid May.  Oh well, we got there eventually.  

So now we wait

From then on it was a just a matter of waiting for the notaire, the French solicitor, to do his work.  It seems to be a bit of a secret as to what he does and how he goes about it.  We were told that there was nothing we could do to find out how things were progressing, all we could do was wait for the notaire to say he was ready.  In early July we went back to Le Vivier to be present when the new boundaries were marked out.  We didn't have to be there, but our agent said it would be a good idea as we could make sure the boundary would be placed where we had been told it would. We didn't have much input to the process, 

...and wait 

We waited another month with no updates, although we phoned our agent on a regular basis, so we started contacting the notaire direct to see how things were progressing.  He was a difficult person to get hold of, but eventually we got through, only to find that the paperwork was almost complete but they had not even applied for one of the most important pieces of paper we needed before we could complete.  Because we were buying agricultural land over 1 acre in area, the land had to be first offered to other farmers connected to the property at the same price as we were paying.  It was really a formality, most of the surrounding land is owned by the people we were buying from, but procedure has to be followed, and this procedure normally took two months!  It really should have been started right at the beginning, but for some reason it wasn't.  However, the vendors agreed to pay extra to have the paperwork processed in only a month.  This was a bit of a setback to us, as we had hoped to be in by the end of August at the latest, but there was nothing else we could do now but wait longer.   Finally, while phoning the notaire's assistant yet again to see if we had a date yet, they suddenly asked what date we wanted to complete on! Now, was our answer, so we were given 22nd September, 11am as the completion date.  This was confirmed by our agent the following day, so we packed up and got ready.

Time to pay

I paid the balance of the money using an online international money trading company called xetrade, which saved me about two thousand pounds on what it would have cost if I had used my bank in England.  Not only do xetrade only charge 8 pounds to do the transfer, the exchange rate they give is about 5% better than the rate any bank would give you.  Well worth looking into if you need to transfer money abroad. It was a bit nerve wracking when I had made the first payment using xetrade, sending several thousand pounds for the deposit off into the ether, wondering if it would make it, but it was fine, so sending the bulk of the money was a little less worrying at this time.

And so to France

We bought a big old trailer on ebay from some guy in Nottingham, loaded up the bare essentials and caught the overnight LDLines Portsmouth to Le Havre ferry on 20th September.  We camped at the very well appointed municipal campsite at Flers on Thursday night, and met up with our agent in Flers on Friday morning.  The signing was at our notaires office in Domfront and took about an hour to complete.  It was fairly informal, most of the vendors were there, the notaire read through the Acte de Vente and our agent translated, then we all signed on the dotted line.  I'd had a brief scare on Thursday evening when I found out the money hadn't arrived yet, but apparently the bank held on to it until the end of business and it was there first thing Friday morning.  What a relief!  The money I had sent was a little short of the total required, they don't tell you the exact amount until the day of the signing, but I was only 130 euros short so I paid in cash at the meeting.  All sorted and the property was ours.  Time to celebrate   After a quick lunch back in Flers, our agent took us to the CIC banck and helped us open an account.  The manager was easy going and spoke fairly good English, and we soon each had a French bank account.   

Continued in Moving In home