How to Buy France Property
The French conveyancing system is on the whole a safe system and the purchase of a property is secured by registration at the equivalent of a Land Registry. The process generally takes up to three months from when an offer is made and accepted.
Signature of the contract (le compromise de vente) occurs at a much earlier stage than most British buyers will be used to in the UK. A contract is signed and is conditional on the notary (the French lawyer who is required to deal with the transaction) obtaining a clear Land Registry search result and a clear local search result. The buyer receives a ten day cooling off period which runs from the day after a copy of the contract signed by both parties is served on him by registered post.
Once the notary has completed all the required searches and other formalities he will invite the parties to attend his office to complete. There is no fixed completion date however. The contract will simply indicate a target date by which completion should take place.
Property Ownership in France
In terms of how best to structure the purchase of the property, this is something that needs to be considered at the beginning of the transaction and it is important to take specialist independent legal advice on the ownership options available and the legal and tax consequences of the death of a joint buyer.
Some contracts but not all will allow for a substitution of the buyer by another or the addition of another buyer or a different legal entity between signature of the contract and completion. In addition, for some joint buyers it might be desirable to include what is called a tontine clause in the final purchase deed. This clause would ensure that on the death of one joint owner, the survivor is considered owner of the whole property. Use of the tontine is not however without its drawbacks and for married couples the adoption of the French marriage regime known as universal community is generally considered preferable to buying with a tontine clause.