Notaires and Estate Agents in the area around Agen

Almost a year ago my wife and I a second viewing of a house near Agen. Fortunately it had rained the night before and it was very obvious that the roof leaked. We made an offer that took the roof and the "non-conforme" fosse into account that was accepted.

We instructed our own notaire (primarily because we have specific inheritence needs). We have still not completed.

Our first notaire stopped communicating with us.

The second notaire stopped communicating after writing in June to say that the SPANC had expired in March.

The vendor's notaire is not communicating with our third new notaire, and the mairie is declining to provide the necessary documentation.

The Immobilier has twice threatened to force us to complete. The first occasion was after expiry of the SPANC, and the vendor (who is currently in the Antipodes area) had only just provided his notaire with proxy. In the last fortnight he has threatened to put the house back on the market.

Once we have the house I intend to make formal complaints against my second notaire and the vendor's notaire. I would also like to make a complaint against the immobilier (he is registered and with FNAIM).

I would be very interested in other subscriber's experiences. For obvious reasons I have not identified any of the parties, only the area. I suspect that vendor's notaire and immobilier are working together, (as Sherlock Holmes would say after eliminating the obvious motives/agenda you are left with the seemingly improbable). All feed back would be useful, both as a aid to this particular case but to help others avoid the stress we have experienced over the last year and enable them to control their property purchase.

Understanding roles, duties, accountability is the crux of our experience. And the french "professionals" seem to have gone out of their way to confuse.

We expected the first notaire to prepare a compromis and became frustrated when our efforts to a) set up clause suspensives, b) resolve the inheritance. (The current notaire finally confirmed yesterday that as we have no children, there are english wills simple "en division" will ensure that the estate goes to the surviving spouse and then to identified charities. The latter two notaires offered product/s at a substantial cost that is unnecessary in our case.)

Nobody actually chased us for the deposit. It was paid to the vendors notaire. She did not acknowledge receipt, but was told it had been transferred, and did from it her fee of 350 euros. (My experience of solicitors in the UK is that they have a client account that is separate and ring walled from their business account. French notaires appear to just have their account.)

The immobilier speaks/writes some english (I write in french, he in english). Unlike the experience described by others rather than easing the sale through the "aloof" notaires by his own admission he did not do enough. The vendor's notaire has never communicated with us. Rather she has chosen to use the immobilier as a message to send threats! I believe it is the immobilier's responsibility to get valid diagnostiques. I do not know if it is his responsibility to get the power of attorney for the vendor who is in the Antipodes. Both the expired SPANC and lack of power of attorney contributed to the delays. But I would argue that my second notaire had ultimate responsibility at the time to ensure all the necessary valid documents were in place. Rather he prepared the Acte without recognising that the SPANC had expired.

I have tried to clarify role responsibity with the current notaire. She replies to the questions she wants to answer. When we meet with her I will be seeking greater clarification because as stated I believe understanding roles and accountability is the key that will enable others to have control over their purchase/sale.

We will have to pay the current notaire 1500 euros in addition to the state scale for conveyancing. We intend to recover this and other additional sums from the second notaire as we know it was his failure of duty and care, lack of professional management, refusal to bring the sale to completion that resulted in this additional cost.

I would imagine the first notaire maybe a bit miffed cos' he didn't get the Compromis de Vente to sign = loss of revenue for him.

What happened to the deposit ? (was a deposit paid ?)

What are the agents doing to help you ? They have a responsability if they signed the Compromis with the seller. (Don't they ?)

I did expect the first notaire to prepare the compromis because I did want clause suspensives

We did not sign a compromis. The immobilier preapared a Vente d,Immeuble (probably from a standard FNAIM template). And when the seven day started over Xmas 2014 we did not cancel the sale. We expected to have the keys to the house by Easter, and be wrking with the architect and builder over the summer months.

But the french are convinced that it is our fault.

Thanks for that John.

So did you then stop the process before the end of the 7 day cooling off period with a registered letter etc ? That is to say, you signed the Compromis with the first notaire and then cancelled it or carried on with the Compromis ? Didn't you include your 'special needs' in the Compromis with all the other 'Clauses Suspensives' as one would normally do ?

Perversely Jonh sometimes it's advantageous for an agent to 'delay' the signing of the Acte Authentique. The reason being it sometimes spreads the 'income' from commissions more widely giving the agent a more regular income. Agents can be sneaky, most are honest citizens but some are devious..

The jury is still out on this one.

There is advice both for and against. In our case, had we found an english speaking notaire that had followed the expected 70 days to completion and helped us understand the process I would be much happier than using the vendor's notaire who has never communicated with us.

The first notaire is in Mont de Marsan and we visited him before very early in the process and definitely before the seven day cooling off period. As previously stated we have specific inheritance needs (residuary estate to heart, cancer, arthritis charities, exclude siblings) (incidently, one value of this site is that it provided a much better understanding of french inheritance law)and four or five emails from myself asking for progress in this matter illicited no replies. So we thanked him for seeing us, recognised that his work load was very heavy and that we would find an english speaking notaire close to the property. He was paid no money.

The second notaire has a considerable social media prescence (If I had googled him before asking him to take over I would not have instructed him). I suspect, with his many interests that what work was done was carried out by his wife (who is not a notaire). Again, my emails to make progress were largely ignored. He did identify the Hague Convention, but without any explanation, nor any explanation of the distinction between the Hague and the Certificate of Succession that has been available from mid August 2015, but that it would cost an additional 750 euros. And, having read the Hague convention it appears to be a protection of assets for living partners especially where the partners have different nationality. I suspect that he was unhappy that I was seeking clarification of the draft "Acte" where I could translate the words but the sentence/paragraph I did not understand. It may have been a coincidence but my question re the SPANC in late May was followed by the email stating the SPANC had expired in March. As previously stated I expect the french notaire to control time limits, and the french notaire to ensure that all documents to be included in the "Acte" to be valid. He has not been paid any money. My current notaire states that he has asked for around 1/3rd of the fee to provide (as yet unspecified" working papers.

The second notaire was given two distinct opportunities after his last email attaching the new SPANC to either bring the sale to completion or withdraw. Without any response from him I had no choice but to proceed on the basis of his withdrawal.

I do not understand the agendas followed by the french "professionals". The immobilier knows I intended to spend at least half as much again on modernisation. Work for the local artisans. He met the local architect at the property. I had invited him to work with us and in return he would handle the updated property. I sent him my provisional architectural plans.

At this moment the vendor's notaire holds the deposit (less the fee she took on payment).

I am not benefiting by the delay. Who is/has?

For this sort of transaction I think the basic rule applies: One notaire, good. Two notaires, bad. Three notaires ... un désastre!

One often thinks that by having one's 'own' notaire working away you will somehow get a better deal. Not true, notaires dislike having to split a fee ... and often end up doing half the work, or avoiding responsability.

Thanks for the info John,

So what happened with the first notaire ? What happened to sour relations ?

Did you have to pay the first and second noatires any fees for any services rendered ?

What's happened to the initial deposit ?

Who decided to change notaire, you or the notaires themselves ?

Thanks for your reply. I completely agree with your point about the market. It has fallen by 2% in Lot et Garonne. Please see my reply to Peter Bird for some more background. We do not think that a "complete by date" was ever agreed. But if there was such a date would have expected that it would have been the notaire acting responsibility to either meet that date or negotiate a new date. I am confused on one point. Who has prime responsibility to complete the sale, the vendor's notaire or the notaire I instructed? From what I have learnt from the current notaire the vendor's notaire took a fee of 350 euros from the deposit, passed certain papers to my 2nd notaire and left them to draw up the complete Acte and has subsequently only sent messages via the immobilier. We do not understand what is going on. We do know that we have lost a year, the roof still need repairing, the fosse needs fixing, the architect we hope to use has still to measure the house.

AND yet everybody says the delay is our fault!

Je ne comprends pas.

My wife and I hope that the third notaire is close to completion.

We set a date in May but the 2nd notaire did not send the draft deed in time. Had he done so he would have identified that the SPANC expired in March earlier. We set a new date in June and a week before the 2nd notaire informed us that the SPANC had expired and a new SPANC would not be available for a fortnight. His last communication with us was to send the new SPANC a week after it had been prepared.

The vendor's notaire has never communicated with us despite several requests in July for confirmation that they could complete.

The first new alternative notaire has never replied (I did not hide the history).

The second new notaire replied, asked for advance payment of about half the fee which I paid and is, I hope, collating all necessary documents in readiness to prepare the "Acte" for completion, but as originally stated is not getting co-operation from the vendor's notaire, immobilier or marie. From our perspective the delay were caused by the 2nd notaire not replying.

I subscribe to the SurviveFrance network to learn from other's experience and make a positive contribution where I think I can. I have a small studio in a Spanish village. I speak no spanish, but the the purchase was straight forward and we have made friends with our immediate Spanish ladies.

The purchase near Agen is more than a holiday home. I hope to make friends with the local french in our hameau, improve my french, spend some 5 months of the year there. We feel very strongly that we are the loosers from the delay

I'm still intrigued to know why the sale hasn't been completed ?

Seems we only have bits of the full story...

I seldom contribute to forum items but read your post and recognised the 'case' immediately so felt moved to write in defence of the French and the un-named immobilier.

As is usual in these situations, there are always two sides to the story. The agent you dealt with is the same one that sold us our house 2 years ago and I can honestly say he was superb, honest and supportive with a good grasp of English and, obviously, a willingness to ensure a sale is completed smoothly. Ours was also a complicated process given a SIPP investment and various non-conforming technicalities with the house, but constant communication and co-operation ensured we completed only one week passed our due date.

Dealing with legalities in any country is difficult but more so when it is not your native country and, indeed, not your native language (even if your French is reasonable!). For that reason it is wise to research thoroughly before hand and, eventually, trust in the person offering you good advice or find someone you are happy to accept the facts from.

Comparing the process to the English one, or worse still objecting to it, is pointless and, in the end, you have a choice, buy or don't buy.

Our Notaire (not any of the ones you have used but suggested by the agent as it was also the sellers notaire) was difficult to communicate with but the agent managed the process and did the necessary chasing around for us. As Simon Oliver hinted at below, there are seldom 'special' relationships...notaires are just too busy! As in any professional 'network', agents will know of most in their surrounding area and suggest ones that are available and that they have some experience of working with.

My understanding is that you agreed a price and terms, signed your Compromis (with a completion date agreed) and subsequently hired your own notaire. You are now on your third notaire (which in itself raises the question, why so many!?) and I'm afraid it is your responsibility to keep those communications open and conclude everything necessary to ensure you meet the completion date.

If communications are kept open and everyone is fully aware and understanding of genuine delays then it would be ridiculous for a vendor to 'back out' in a market where buyers are so hard to come by. I am assuming that in signing a legally binding Compromis the vendor had a genuine desire to sell his house so would have no reason to create further delays.

I have no idea about the notaires you chose and what went wrong but, as in the UK, I suspect official complaints will get re-buffed and would be a waste of time.

I believe you are now well past your legal completion date and, in breaking the contract, the vendor would have had every right to put the property back on the market, so I suggest, if you still want the house you delay no longer!

I'm an estate agent and have never heard of conivance with a notaire as being part of the job. Notaires routinely ignore us and treat us as low-life.

So why didn't you complete ?

Wasn't there any time limits included in the Compromis de Vente ?

ignore all and get on with your life.