The buying process in France I have to say was actually more straightforward than I had imagined it to be. I had envisaged a never-ending string of bank appointments, estate agents meetings, legal discussions, together with hundreds of documents including birth certificates, tax records, employment contracts, credit card bills, vaccination records, University degrees, cycling proficiency results (OK I’m exaggerating now, but as those of you who live in France know, there can be no end when it comes to bureaucracy!)
The first step for us came after we viewed the apartment and decided we wanted to make an offer. At this point we had had a couple of informal chats with the bank and knew we were ‘desirable’ candidates for a loan, but it had never gone any further than this.
So after the viewing on the Saturday morning, we had placed an offer by the afternoon, and by Monday morning we received the call to say it had been accepted. (hurrah!) At this point we then had 3 months to come up with the loan from the bank to validate the sale.
We spoke to a couple of friends who had also purchased property in France and they recommended passing through a ‘courtier’ or in other words, a broker. The courtier worked by negotiating mortgage deals directly with the bank’s head offices, so was able to come up with a better offer than we would ever have gotten by enquiring from one local branch to another. I found the courtier also worked as a bit of a ‘hand holder’ throughout the whole process, laying each offer out clearly, and highlighting the good and bad points of each one. What’s more, this service was absolutely free as the courtier receives a commission from the bank whose offer we end up taking. All in all, I would fully recommend this option and think we saved ourselves a lot of hassle by letting someone take on the negotiating for us, who in the end bagged us a really great mortgage plan.
Once we had decided upon the bank, the paper work then started to flow to create the account, set up the insurance policies as well as the mortgage contract itself, but again nothing here felt overwhelmingly complicated. Luckily we had a fantastic account manager from the bank who really walked us through the entire process.
Once the mortgage paperwork was sorted and the money ready to transfer, an appointment was then fixed between the ‘notaires’ (or solicitors), the estate agent in charge of the sale, the previous owner and the future owners. The notaires are the leaders here and prepare in advance all the necessary legal paperwork. During this meeting the procedure is explained (in very legal terms of course) and since we were responsible for paying the legal fees here, I was more than comfortable asking questions to make sure I was fully understanding the process. The final step at this meeting was the signing & initialling the hundreds of pieces of paper which make up the contract, transferring the property from one hand to another.
Once the last page was signed (in a messy scrawl that was no comparison to my beautiful signature on page one), the keys were then handed over and the property was officially ours…Facile!