Surveys in Provence
The mortgage company does not generally require a survey as a condition of obtaining a mortgage. For this reason Surveyors are less common in France. In France, property is sold ‘as seen’. A seller does not have a legal responsibility to point out any problems with the property being sold. The principle of ‘buyer beware’ applies, and any structural defects that come to light after the contract is signed are the responsibility of the buyer. It therefore makes sense to check the condition of house utilities and to employ a professional to evaluate the soundness of a building before signing a contract.
French surveyors, experts immobiliers, tend to specialise in one type of property – commercial, housing, industrial or agricultural. The local Notaire or estate agent will usually be able to recommend someone to provide either 'une expertise' or a 'un bilan de santé'. Une expertise is a general summary of the state of the building based on a visual inspection. Un bilan de santé is a more expensive full structural survey. A surveyor’s fees will depend on the scope of the work, the value of the property and the distance they have to travel. The nearest equivalent to a surveyor and valuer as you would use in Britain are difficult to find. These are called 'expert immobilier en bâtiment'. It is possible to find British surveyors that specialise in inspecting French properties. In either case they need to be familiar with the local methods of building as these vary dramatically from region to region in France.
Surveys of buildings in rural areas are very often done by a local builder who has worked as a site manager, or Maître d’Oeuvre, and is therefore familiar with all the relevant trades. It is also possible to use a local Architect who would be familiar with the building methods and materials used in the region.
If you are buying a property that does not conform to the boundaries recorded on the land registry map, You will need to employ a géomètre. The géomètre is a land surveyor, whose speciality is in mapping property boundaries which might help settle disputes.
If you plan to buy part of an existing parcel of land which would need to be divided you will have to employ a géomètre to find and fix the new boundaries for registration at the cadastre so that they can be included in the final deed of sale. An example of this would be a house plus a little piece of an adjoining field for a septic tank The cadastre is part of the French inland revenue, responsible for defining and recording the boundaries of the commune and all the individual properties it contains. Local offices keep detailed plans of all the plots, or parcels of land in the district, each with a unique reference number.