Nightmare buying French house


(Carrie Goss) #21

Omg that sounds like our experience . When we sent the deposit I had to check it had been received. We got 1 sentence Yes it has!!! When we sent the balance that we were told had to be in on the day we signed (or didn’t) the Acte got nothing!! I had to ring and didn’t answer so emailed and no reply until the next day but at the Notaires offices we asked straight away as had 3 sleepless nights and they just said yes we received . We have traces on money sent but you would think you would get a receipt or worded with exactly the amounts sent. It is all so worrying especially with scams on the rise.
We have fallen in love with this house so want to pursue it but so frustrating. Sellers seem to not push the Notaire on, you would think they would want their money. In England the conveyancer gets hassled by both parties if there are delays.
The sellers invited us to their house as an apology but I had to fly back for my sons graduation. I flew back to Stansted from Bergerac and then back again to France and all along the whole meeting could have been cancelled if we had known about the death. We are not annoyed about the death but the whole saga of not being told anything until the last minute and the fact they have got our life savings and won’t give it back until this is resolved :tired_face:


(Vanessa Caton) #22

Sounds like Notaires are the same as U.K. solicitors in terms of dragging their heels. We had our offer accepted in December ‘17 but we didn’t sign the final papers until end of April ‘18 even though our purchase was very straightforward. We were cash buyers with no mortgage (we rented our house in U.K. ) & the dear old lady seller had moved out some time before back to Belgium. I think I got only one acknowledgement from our Notaire - for the deposit. Our agent (all English or fluent English speakers though based in France) saved the day really and chased things up and answered all my queries . Although we had to pay their fees (which were about 8% of the purchase price ) they were really helpful from start to finish & even came and read the meters for us and told us how to get the water & other services sorted . They organised the signing, met us at the house beforehand and were present to help translate although I could follow most of it and the Notaire spoke good English. Incidentally we are also from Essex - Ford End near Stansted . We’re in the Aude . Been here a month and now about to embark on the tortuous official processes and form filling for health services , tax , driving licences etc etc . Hope things get sorted soon for you . Hang on in there😊


(Teresa Shipley) #23

Our English solicitor 3 years ago was amazing and our purchase went through quite quickly. He was young and enthusiastic though. I had a call from his senior when he was on holiday saying we had paid too much for our final balance. I knew we hadn’t and had to be honest and say so, it turned out the young guy had reversed two numbers.
The senior thanked me and then said she did all the accounts and would have found the error eventually. :joy:
Always pays to tell the truth.


(Fay Gotting) #24

My experience of a delay came when I bought my current house in France. I was promised a final date and it passed. My furniture was in storage. I only got to know reason for delay by chance and it had been because a neighbour with a well had complained that a new fosse would spoil his water. I had been recommended an ‘architect’ who had decided to get more land from the vendor to put the fosse in a safe place!


(Carrie Goss) #25

Sounds awful and I bet if you knew what was going on then it would help. Our Notaire doesn’t contact us for anything, even when we had the final date and heading to France he requested further info on my divorce and this was day before. Divorced 15 yrs previously and therefore had to dig out my decree absolute. Luckily someone had said iy maybe needed but thought that would have been looked into much earlier. At the same time he could have told us about the death. We are shocked that something so important wasn’t communicated to us sooner as had no idea it would prevent the sale or delay it so long. I hate the fact that we had to go down to the Notaire face to face to find out what was happening before we returned to UK to get a definite time scale and then they told us 2 weeks max , fob off.Maybe if we weren’t getting married and basically homeless and
having to rent then maybe we wouldn’t mind. What’s sickening is we got a poor Euro rate and now with euro gone up we could have held off exchanging our pounds. We are hoping that next spring this will be all behind us and will be sipping our Bordeaux on the balcony :dog::sunflower::sunny::wine_glass:


(Michael Patterson) #26

I’ve been reading your story, Carrie - and we all have every sympathy with you, and shared understanding. But you have your first lesson to learn. France is not the UK. They do things differently. It is ‘a foreign country’. We all have to learn. On holiday we happily drink to ‘Vive la différance!’ - but when you choose to come to live here it becomes real.
Notaires are not like UK solicitors. They are not commercially driven in any way, despite the French government’s attempts to get them to be financially independent.
They do not have a team of staff, generally. The notaire works alone - and therefore slowly - he/she has to do all the face-to-face ‘advice’ meetings with clients (for which they make no charge) - and their secretary has no authority to answer your emails. Don’t expect it.
The problem is that they expect their clients to understand how things work in France. They don’t understand that you are an exception, because you are an étrangère. The only way you can ensure that things happen the way you expect - or not, as the notaire may decide - is to physically go into their office and talk to the receptionist. This is your current problem. You are not on the spot to be able to do this.
Somebody will always answer the phone, and talk with you. But, if your French is not up to that, it’s difficult - but you can’t blame them!
Personal contact is probably the only way you will get the answers you need. Forget email.


(Carrie Goss) #27

Thanks Michael. I agree with you totally. Just frustrated I suppose as a lot of money involved.We have been on a real learning curve and didn’t understand the role of the notaire until recently. Everything they seem to tell us face to face turns out differently and therefore we have lost trust with them. Yes to get an answer we have found we need to be in the office. It’s a large office in Pujuls with lots of staff and and some speak good English. Our French is improving but we settled for our sellers notaire as told he had perfect English and would be beneficial with translating bits we didn’t understand. We are just waiting patiently now and life is in limbo, trying to earn some extra money now.Coming out to Bergerac end of Oct as couldn’t resist £10 fare from stansted!


(Carrie Goss) #28

Sorry meant Pujols near Castillion


(Mary McKinley) #29

All things considered, I have to say I admire how well you are handling the situation and it helps a bit to hear someone else’s story. I signed a compromis (or did I?) in mid-July and saw that it said the deal would be concluded no later than 31 Oct. with a promise that the notaire would scan and send all documents electronically. Nothing, rien, nada and no response to e-mails. Both the seller and I are fluent in French, communicate with the notaire only in French and this is just a private deal between us, no mortgage, no agents, no one else involved, so we were told this would be very simple and fast. How hard could it be?
I don’t even plan to move there for at least a year so am not under your pressure, so you also have all my sympathy. I actually lived in the area, Loire Valley near Chinon, for 10 years and know - intellectually - not to expect anything to be done until the 11th hour but emotionally, many sleepless nights.
Bon courage! You will enjoy that Bordeaux even more once this is done.


(Carrie Goss) #30

Yes indeed I posted really to see if anyone else had encountered this situation. It’s managing our expectations that I am finding hard to deal with .The death is only one disaster with this move, before that happened we were getting increasingly frustrated with a lot of things.
A little background. The house we are buying is beautiful but is a renovation project and had already been sold when we first saw it. We passed in on our way back from our hotel. It was rare for both of us to like it as we had been looking before and could never agree on what we wanted before.
The sellers were tidying up outside and we asked them about the house and they informed us the house had been sold. They took our details.6 months later out of the blue they contacted us saying the sale couldn’t complete as the buyers couldn’t raise the necessary money and it had fallen through. We visited again, agreed a price and put our house on the market. Visited notaire in May and signed compromis and set 10 Sept as the completion date. We even contacted notaire mid august to say we had completed our house sale and could we complete sooner so we would have some summer in the house as my fiancé is a teacher and had time off. No reply to our email or telephone. They obviously only had 10 sept down in their diary .Eventually we settled for 7 sept but by then the death had occurred on 30 Aug. This should be a quick process. The sale had already gone through previously but abandoned so all checks had been completed, we are cash buyers and the house is vacant, all sellers have their own houses. If we had signed a few weeks earlier as we wished it wouldn’t have happened like this. We don’t blame the death as that can’t be helped but we tried our hardest to quicken it up and sold our house and exchanged into euros at a loss just so we could meet all their deadlines and all for nothing. They are sitting on all our money without a concern whilst we are having sleepless nights .It has been so stressful and we have now decided to postpone our wedding. My fiancé has given up work in preparation to spend time renovating the house and now worries about income as everything is tied up over in france so I’m the main breadwinner at the moment . We have asked for our money to be returned pre Acte so they just have our deposit but they keep saying all paperwork is all nearly done and fobbing us off.
My last email had a reply and said it will be another week despite saying it would all go through!!


(Anna Watson) #31

A general comment. The wheels of French bureaucracy are mighty and they turn slowly, but once set in motion they are as unstoppable as they are unhurriable, they keep grinding away right to the end of the process, and it’s difficult to interfere. Which is good in a way and bad in a way. Bad because it means as you say that your money may be stuck in no man’s land for a certain period. Good because it discourages knee-jerk reactions and hasty decisions, and also because there is actually no danger of your money being lost forever. Once the process has concluded and all the loose ends have been tied up, the money will be sent to its final destination, either back to you if the sale is cancelled, or to the seller if the purchase goes ahead. Unfortunately this is something one has to accept about France. Your situation is very unfortunate but I think every Brit who moves here locks horns with bureaucracy sooner or later, and you do need to develop faith and patience, if not you will keep getting stressed out and banging your head against the wall to no purpose. The only solution, unfortunately, is to make sure you don’t get into this situation - always allow for delays and make sure you have enough flexibillity and a plan B to protect yourself from possible consquences. We all have PhDs in Hindsight as a colleague of mine used to say, most of learn our lesson the hard way but after that it becomes second nature to never do anything on a wing and a prayer where bureacracy is involved. I know that’s not much consolation to you, but the message is, try not to stress. Stay in touch with all parties and make a big effort not to sound angry or aggressive or you’ll lose their sympathy. Try and see things objectively and don’t try and force a hasty decision out of sheer panic. You say you have asked for your money back, but how would that actually help anything? Your partner will still have given up work. Your house in the UK will still be sold. You couldn’t spend any of the money until or unless the sale is cancelled.
Fingers crossed for you, and hopefully it won’t be long before you’re looking back at these few months as a little knotty patch in life’s great tapestry.


(Carrie Goss) #32

Your situation sounds dire as well and yes we are on a steep learning curve.
We wished we hadn’t been so worried about the deadline but didn’t want to incur any penalties.
Thanks for your support everyone as always I will try not to stress too much.
I think that was our worry that money is stuck in no mans land with brexit looming altho hopefully will make no difference, fingers crossed x


(Carrie Goss) #33

That’s a very insightful way of looking at it. Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts. Will try not to panic or stress and wait for news. I have only contacted them once in 2 weeks for any news so have left them to contact us.


(Anna Watson) #34

Contacting them once a fortnight or so sounds about right, or maybe even every week just a polite tactful note saying something like “Having heard nothing from you since xxx date, and since as you are no doubt aware the unexpected lengthy delay has left us in a difficult position, I’m contacting you to see if there has been any progress”.


(Carrie Goss) #35

Thanks, that sounds good, it’s difficult to gauge it when what you really want is daily updates :weary: what’s making it difficult is the timeline. Before we left for Uk we were told no issues with the inheritance details, very straightforward and would take 2 weeks. Maybe they thought we would pull out if told it was actually going to take months but I would rather know upfront how long these things take.


(Anna Watson) #36

Trouble is, things like this are unknowable, it all depends on so many factors that are different in every set of circumstances and beyond the notaire’s control. French successio law is a very specific process, he has to take it step by step and take the top off each tin in turn, and until he does he has no way of knowing what he’ll find inside, whether it’s going to be nice and clean and easy to process or full of worms.
The only answer is to hope for the best and plan for the worst.


(Carrie Goss) #37

Yes I see what you mean, when we visited the office after 2 weeks after original Acte de vente was going to be signed they said they had looked at file and was simple / straightforward and would be v quick, 2 weeks at most. Yes they may have found it to be more complicated but then please give us an update. I will deffo be giving them a gentle nudge every now and again so we are not forgotten. This Friday it will be 6 weeks waiting and we have approached them every time. I will try to be patient.


(James Higginson) #38

Dropping this link in here due to relevance :slight_smile:


(Ann Coe) #39

It’s not just problems for British buying here and delays. I will briefly tell of a problem that some friends are having. They are Belgians and have a second home here, they have divorced but decided to keep their home here and split their holidays. He was an avocate before he retired just recently and knows French law very well. They have since each found another partner so have decided amicably that one of them sells to the other. No need to go down any complicated route, except that it’s been 3 months since they agreed on a price and they are still waiting for the French notaire to prepare the papers! It amounts to signing over the property but it’s still not been done. They have both been ‘pressing’ the notaire, today should be the signing of the compromis ( astounding that it’s taken this long just to arrive at that point) so if it all goes well today they still have to wait another 3 months before it all goes through!


(Carrie Goss) #40

Doesn’t surprise me to hear something simple would take ages. We have now learnt to our cost that this is the french way. We made the mistake when we signed the compromis in May of arranging a date in sept rather than going at our own pace. I was going to give 6 months at that stage so we had time to raise the funds but they pressed us to go with 3 months and then we’ve hit this hurdle. We could cope better if they made progress and updated us. We are starting to think unless you nudge them they will just sit on it. Our sellers seem to be in no hurry for their money which is frustrating.