Buying a property in Provence in detail
The buyer has far greater protection than in the UK. The legal side of the purchase is handled by a Notaire who represents both buyer and seller. It is possible to hire your own Notaire. Once a sale has been agreed the parties cannot back out as long as the legal checks go through OK and the buyer is able to get a mortgage. The seller cannot sell for a greater amount than the advertised price. The information given here relates to stand alone properties older than five years old. Different regulations apply to new properties and buildings under construction.
This is usually referred to as the compromise de vente and sometimes as the sous-seeing privé. Signing this binds you to the purchase of the property providing that certain conditions are met. These are called condition suspensives. If either buyer or seller change their mind after this they loose there deposit to the other party. The deposit is usually 10%, but this can vary. The grant of the mortgage should be a condition of the first contract If the mortgage is not granted, you can withdraw from the purchase with your deposit returned.
It is usual to have a condition that proof of the mortgage application has been made is to be provided within 15 days of the contract and you should ensure that you comply with this. The proof can be provided by the lender. If you insert the condition into the contract and then do not make an application, the vendor could oppose the return of the deposit if you do not complete.
There is usually a deadline for the grant of the mortgage in the first contract. This must be a minimum 30 days from the date of the contract. A realistic deadline is normally two to three months for a non-French resident. The deadline can be extended with the agreement of the other party.
Mortgage companies do not require a survey and it unusual for a survey to be carried out. It is possible to hire a Surveyor. Some will be able to offer a warranty, but they will charge a great deal more than ones that do not offer a warranty.
The Mortgage offer
You will receive a written mortgage offer once all the formalities have been completed and the bank agrees to lend. Following receipt of the offer, you legally cannot sign for ten clear days, period of reflection. This means that you will need to wait eleven days to accept the offer. The acceptance is to be sent back to the bank by registered post. This should be remembered when organising the completion date. If sufficient time is not allowed, the sale simply cannot complete.
The deed that completes the sale is called the acte de vente. This will be signed in the Notaire's office. It is normal that a registered legal interpreter will be present so that it is certain that you understand what is being said if you are not fluent in the French language. This will be assigned to you by the notary. There will be a deed for the mortgage called acte authentique, which is often within the body of the acte de vente. This specifies the terms and conditions of the lending and provides the bank with its security so that it can recover the debt in the event of failure to pay.
If you require someone else to sign the acte de vente and mortgage deed on your behalf because you cannot be present, a power of attorney can be organised. For those resident in the UK, this means signature in front of a notary public or solicitor and then the a stamp called an apostille is inserted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or alternatively signature in front of a French consular representative with Notaire's powers. The power cannot be drafted until details of the mortgage are known from the mortgage offer, meaning that it often arrives at the last minute.
The bank will usually require all those who are borrowing to be a party to the mortgage either as full borrowers or guarantors. For this reason it is important to that every one who is on the mortgage be included in the actual purchase. Get this wrong and it could lead to increased costs, delays and even a refusal to lend.