First house purchase in France

Hi all. We are in the process of buying our first house in France for a holiday home.
Are we better off trying to get an english speaking Notaire in France or a french speaking solicitor in england?.
Any help massively appreciated thanks

Use a French notaire and take someone with you who speaks French if you need to. Notaires do not perform the same function as Solicitors in the UK in respect of property purchase.

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Congratulations :slight_smile:

How good is your French?

An English speaking Notaire is useful, although the paperwork will be in French (as it’s a French legal document) and the Notaire is unlikely to offer translated versions. ISTR that our Notaire notionally spke English but in practice, didn’t.

We engaged a specialist solicitor in the UK, it wasn’t cheap and although they were OK we ultimately didn’t feel they added over much to the process. They can at least explain French law and ensure that the right procedure is followed so peace of mind I suppose. Also if there is any complexity to the title (ours was totally straightforward) they might come into their own more - YMMV, as they say.

One thing I have come to think is that there is no advantage to having a 2nd Notaire in France, given that they are not there to represent your interests in the first place.

Thank you Graham. Could I ask you to expand a little if possible?. Is there stuff that a solicitor should be doing on top or will the important things be covered doing it this way?

Ok thank you that’s brilliant, our estate agent speaks good English and we have built a good relationship with them over the last two years, would it be an acceptable practice to ask them to be there to translate or would you recommend someone totally independent do you think? Obviously asking as our french isn’t brilliant yet and we certainly lack confidence at the minute.
Also could I ask roughly how much did you pay for the uk solicitors piece of mind obviously comes at a price, did the process still run at a normal pace for having them involved?.

I think Paul has the edge on this one so will leave it to him to explain what he did.

Don’t forget they aren’t your advocate either :).

My spoken French wasn’t that brilliant either (still isn’t, but improving slowly) but I managed the documents with a bit of help from Google translate and a dictionary.

In the end we did the signing of the AdV all in French, a bit of the conversation went over my head but not too much and we’d been through the documents thoroughly. Having the estate egent there will be better than nothing (I’d expect them to attend) but someone independent would be better.

£3k if I recall correctly, they didn’t slow the sale down - but that’s the point really, to stop you rushing headlong into a problem.

Ok thank you for your help much appreciated

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Thank you very much for your help

My wife spoke excellent French and mine’s pretty good but when we bought our house in 2004 the Notaire (which we have since used for other matters and found very good) insisted on having a translator present at the closing (at our expense), to avoid any misunderstandings. In the event the translator didn’t open his mouth but I suppose his presence gave everyone a certain degree of comfort. In the context of the house purchase fees he was very small change.

Agree entirely. They are acting for the State, not either party.

However, I should add that if two notaires are involved, to the best of my knowledge, the fee remains the same and they just split it. Obviously the “stamp duty” remains the same.

One interesting fact is that a notaire’s advice is free. I’ve popped in on occasion to clarify ownership and succession matters and have documents notarised, all for free.


Thank you for that

John if I can just ask?.. Just to check I haven’t overlooked a tax upon purchase when you say ‘stamp duty’ is that the purchase tax included in the Notaire fees the usual 5-6%??
Sorry for my ignorance just making sure.

Yes Robin, I think notaire’s fees, “stamp duty” and everything else came to about 7 to 8% in our case, but it was a while ago and memory fades.

Yes sorry hadn’t included the actual 1% fee after land taxes etc for the Notaire in that figure as I was looking at it, and phew panicked a bit haha :joy:. Thank you again

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Good luck with you new house.

Thank you

Congratulations, the notaire will, normally insist on an independent translator at your expense. They trust estate agents as much as the rest of us do!

I was just going to add my agreement to what others, including Mark, have said. @Robthornber When I bought my house over 20 years ago, it was a requirement that we had a proper “legal” translator present, but we found her and paid for her separately, It wasn’t a massive sum but I can’t remember accurately now. Much more recently we have bought a small parcelle of land and a little house in town, both using the same notaire as before (French) but were not required to use a translator. By then we knew the notaire so it may have been that she thought our French was good enough or it may have been tht the rules have changed. Sorry to be vague about that but it might be worth asking the estate agent whether a notaire has already been selected by the vendor as they usually act for both parties and the state, being public officials. If there is already a notaire lined up then I would suggest asking them about whether an official translator is required and if so, do they have a list. …

Thank you