We’re trying to buy at the moment. Offer accepted and we contacted an English speaking notaire. After an initial video call, we let the sellers’ agent know and they have sent the papers to the notaire. We also sent our ids to the notaire, but nothing else. Next we heard was from the agent who said the notaire had been in touch with them to ask if a date for signing the Compromis was convenient. They have not contacted us and have not responded when I asked them what was happening and for an estimate of their fees.
Although I’ve tried to read extensively about the purchase process and the notaire’s role, I don’t understand how we can get this to work in practice.
Any tips? Have we engaged the notaire? What is reasonable to push for at this stage?
We are flying back to see the house in more detail on Monday/Tuesday. We could turn up at the notaire’s office (they ignored my suggestion that we pop in just to say hello). At this point I’m already thinking of trying to ditch them, but don’t know if we’ll do any better elsewhere.
Tips appreciated. Thank-you.
Its quite usual for both parties to use the same notaire in France. You need patience, it takes time and if they are very busy even longer as there is a lot of paperwork to be sorted behind the scenes. When I sold last year, it was through my notaire as they sold the property for me and the buyers went with it automatically. To draw up the compromis will take time, the diagnostic has to be done by the sellers and studied by the Notaire, the new insulation survey maybe demanded too (can’t remember when it comes into force) and may not have happened yet. Usual time is around 3 months from starting the ball rolling to finish signing the Acte de Vente. I suggest you visit the Notaire when you arrive next week and ask for yourselves, they will know how far the project has got and to be honest, I would stick with it because changing now may cause even further delays if two Notaires are involved in the paperwork. You will or should be given a type of estimate of th charges you will have to pay including the house price, various taxes etc and its usual to transfer 10% of the purchase price for the compromis stage and then the balance 48hrs before the final act is signed. The paperwork now is huge compared to when we first bought in 89, I now have a huge tome of papers, not just legal stuff but all the studies and reports on the area regarding risks, liabilities etc. Don’t forget you will also need to have your insurance in place ready for the final act too. Patience is the key, keep pestering won’t get you there any faster.
The notaire fees and charges to buy a house are fixed, which is why they haven’t responded to that question. They are what they are. And with two notaires they have to split the fee - which is pretty small to stat with as most of what you pay is tax not fees.
A notaire will most likely not respond to emails. Phone and ask to speak to his/her assistant. The process is pretty standard and quite often they just get on with it.
I would add, in terms of seeing your notaire when you come over, that you make an appointment to see them. Everything in business or government here is a lot more formal than the UK . “Popping in” probably isn’t viable (as indeed it wouldn’t be for a lot of solicitors in the UK, come to think of it!)
Sorry not to have said before but - welcome to Survive France @Stuartb
Thanks everyone. Will try to make an appointment, but may be challenging with I think public holiday on Monday.
I just don’t know where we stand in terms of what we’re entitled to expect. I may be being old fashioned, but we’re paying their fee (even if it’s set by the state) so it doesn’t seem to much to expect that they would actually communicate with us rather than an only with the agent representing the seller.
Part of the problem is that when we spoke to the notaire she suggested it would take two weeks to get to Compromis (we’re not too fussed, but were interested for the French sellers sake as they are in a chain). When she then called the agent, she suggested a date four weeks away. Ok, fine, but it would be nice if she would let us know at least.
That also means we’ll be outside the date of validity of the offer contract (which I also stated in my email to the notaire). That means the sellers could if they wished accept another offer. “Our” agent has removed from their site, but it’s still listed with two other agents.
I’m bemused that the notaire would be happy to proceed without us signing a contract of some sort with them.
Notaires run at their own pace Stuart, they’re pillars of the community. Shiba and Jane have outlined the process and the financial aspects so if I was you I’d just leave it in the Notaire’s hands and go with flow. Though It would be nice if you could squeeze in a face to face with her if she’s available. Even if you can’t get an appointment I would drop in on the off chance when you’re in town.
Just as another benchmark to UK practices, when my wife passed away ten years ago my Notaire took two years to complete the simple succession (equivalent of probate), I just let him get on with it. He was the same Notaire we used to buy our house and I consider him to have been pretty efficient in both cases. Their métier, their pace.
Given that @Stuartb is only in France Monday/Tuesday I think he could go into reception on Tuesday, introduce himself to the receptionist and apologise profusely for the lack of notice - very often a good idea to have a good relationship with receptionists / secretaries as they can ease (or block) access.
By the way - thank them deeply for offering the service in English but make sure you try to speak French.
Also, bear in mind that Easter / May bank holidays (not just May 1st) is a TERRIBLE time to try to do business in France. I used to manage international projects all round the world and could never understand why France just fell apart in May - it took living here to work that one out.
Ok, thanks again all. Consensus seems to be to give it a gallic shrug I’ll not bore you with repeating myself. Although I’m not too bothered on timescales, I am struggling with not knowing what’s going on and being ignored. We do have things like currency exchanges to sort out and I’m not sure how the notaire can agree a date for signing the Compromis without even knowing if we’ll be available. Really tempted to tell them where to go (pillars or not) and find another. But no point if they are all just as bad.
Good tips, thanks. On our first call, I did speak French to their assistant (and surprisingly just about managed). We’re also communicating written French with the immobiliere (with extensive careful online translation assistance). Will try popping in on Tuesday. We chose a notaire close to the property so this is quite easy. I’ll start rehearsing my lines for the notaire’s assistant now
Normally THEY give you the date of the signing of the compromis and you adjust your life to that time. I did mine for this house on my own as the builder could not come and the same for the final act which is done on a screen now and signatures are electronic as is the access to the paperwork via a code you are given with the hard copies sent after the final act and monies paid over. You can appoint someone to sign for you once you have agreed the compromis is correct and you are willing to go to the next stage, we did that withthe first house as we could not get over during the winter due to lack of ferries back then and they appointed someone to act for us. Don’t forget the cooling off period too in case you change your mind or the finances won’t be forthcoming, it does happen. As for losing the house to another buyer, once its off the market and in the hands of a notaire, it cannot be resold unless there are problems on either side. Just relax and prepare other things for once you are owners like the dreaded lists of things to do.
Can I add that this is a very British way of looking at it? Once you adjust to the fact that systems in France are VERY different from those in the UK (not bad - different), you can start to see the advantages of the French systems in the society in which they operate. I have to say though that it can take years to adjust
A welcome from me too @Stuartb , and I can’t help much with your questions as it is over 30 years since we bought and things have changed a great deal in the meantime.
But what I would say though is that, as a general rule, the French are not good at emails and if you want to make sure you have been ‘heard’, even if not replied to, send a registered letter. Not sure how you do that from abroad though, but someone will know.
It’s true that most of the costs will be taxes but French notaires get vastly higher fees than UK solicitors.
The typical legal fee for a £300k purchase in the UK will be in the vicinity of £600 (see here), a French notaire will get 2847,42€ for a 300k€ sale.
You do, at least, know exactly what you will pay in France since it is laid out in statute.
Still getting more each than in the UK - for a lower level of service IMO since a UK residential property solicitor will also be providing legal advice, drawing up the contracts and acting as your advocate as well as meeting any statutory obligations as tax collector.
But you are right, French notaires are not that keen on splitting the fee and as they are acting principally for the state, not the vendor/buyer there is really very little advantage to each side having their own notaire.
I don’t remember ever signing a contract with the notaire and we have bought and sold a few times now.
On our last sale we used a notaire that our the agent used, which meant that we could also ask the agent if needed. It was a sale, and horribly complicated by Brexit changes affecting British nationals and payment of social charges. -but I think we only spoke to the notaire directly once right at the end. And never met him from start to finish! We just expected him to do his job, and he did.
To an extent higher per transaction fees are a reflection of a traditionally slower market but the Notaire’s involvement is largely checking title, making sure it is conveyed correctly and making sure that the state gets its cut.
Should UK residential property layers get more - almost certainly but it doesn’t change my view that Notaires’ fees are high for the service offered.
Maybe in more complex cases they earn their fee, or even wind up getting less than someone in the UK would but I’ll bet most transactions are straightforward. Chances are that in rural areas with few notaires the one you pick will have handled the property the last time it changed hands - which is also not good for spotting problems.
And what makes you think that a UK solicitor doesn’t have to pay staff from the fees received?
PS: Yes I have a general “downer” on the fact that Notaires are a closed shop and there are too few artisans in France with too little competition - it doesn’t stop me thinking that overall I’d rather live in France if I could - one takes the package overall into account