Buying French Property From A Private Vendor

Buying a property from a private vendor

By choosing to buy a property direct from the vendor you will be losing the services of the French agent and also not paying the fee which ranges from 4% – 11%, the higher percentage being paid on the lower priced properties. Saving on the fee is good news but you must realise that by buying direct from the vendor you will need to equip yourself with a lot of knowledge and be prepared to do more work.

The help you will need

Notaire The purchase must be processed by a Notaire, who is a public servant authorised to carry out contractual work regarding property and land sales and purchases. Both seller and buyer usually use the same Notaire although if you have any reason not to want to use the seller’s Notaire you are perfectly free to choose your own. The notary costs will be the same whether you use one or two Notaires. Unless you are fluent in French it is wise to find a Notaire who speaks English. This is generally not difficult but do contact us if you have any difficulty in finding a suitable Notaire and we will be able to supply you with a list. Alternatively, you may choose to instruct your own French Notaire based in the U.K. If you decide to do this his or her charge will be additional to the charge made by the French Notaire. It is important that you understand the French contractual system as the disposal of your property on your death will be affected by the form of contract used for buying the property. Do check this carefully and if you feel you need the services of a Notaire based in the U.K. we can supply a list.


It is your choice whether to use the services of a translator and your decision will obviously depend on your understanding of the French language and on the Notaire you work with. Many Notaires now translate all documents into English, if required, but in some rural areas this may not be offered. Technically it is the Notaires’ responsibility to ensure that each party to the contract understands what they are signing, which means that they should provide a translator if your French language is not sufficient. However, this does not always happen! We would advise that, if you need it, you check the position regarding translations carefully with the Notaire to assess whether you need to provide yourself with a translator.


If you are obtaining a mortgage to buy the property your deposit is only safeguarded against confiscation in the case of failure to obtain the mortgage, if you apply for a French mortgage. We can put you in touch with our mortgage partners, please see our mortgage section for more details.  You will also need to arrange exchange of currency, firstly for the deposit and then for the completion monies (if not obtaining a French mortgage). Healey Fox FX provides a fast and secure currency exchange and international transfer service for overseas property buyers and sellers. We can assist with the transfer of both large amounts, small amounts and ongoing regular transfers. In fact we can help all clients with any requirements including business clients.

A useful website

The U.K. government has a very useful section on their website for anyone buying a property in France and we recommend that you check this out.

The following extract is from their site and all is well worth reading………..Before you complete your property purchase, you should consider the following non-exhaustive list:

  • who is going to purchase (eg husband and wife with or without a survivorship clause; or involve your children)
  • what will happen when the owner dies (you should take proper advice on an appropriate will)
  • if you need to borrow funds or sell another property to fund the French purchase, ensure a condition to that effect is included in the contract
  • obtain an ‘information pack’ of reports and partial surveys BEFORE signing; these are however not the equivalent of a full survey as might be expected in the UK
  • if you want a full structural survey, arrange for it BEFORE you sign the contract, or have a properly worded condition included in the contract to allow you to withdraw if the survey is unsatisfactory
  • do not allow yourself to be hurried into a binding decision by agents or sellers; take your time to consider all aspects of the purchase BEFORE signing any binding contract and ensure you understand its content
  • local searches do not reveal as much information about the property as in the UK; make specific (written) enquiries to an agent or notary about the property’s surrounding area and major pending development plans which may affect it
  • if you intend to do any work on the property, check whether planning permission is necessary and if necessary, include a condition in the contract to allow withdrawal in the event that permission is not forthcoming
  • only use foreign firms to do any work once they provide evidence of their due registration with the French authorities
  • do not agree to make any cash payment for any part of the price – this is a common but illegal practice; only make transfers through established banking channels to either agent or notary
  • be aware that two or more months may elapse between contract and completion; you should ensure transfers to the notary’s client account are arranged at least 10 days in advance of completion in order to ensure the funds are cleared on time.

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