French property purchases: What happens at the ‘acte de vente’ meeting?

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French legal expert, Matthew Cameron, offers some practical advice about what to expect at the ‘acte de vente’ meeting when purchasing a property in France.

Q: After years of dreaming of owning a French property, we’ve finally taken the plunge and are in the process of buying a lovely little cottage in the countryside near Toulouse. We are wondering what to expect from the ‘signing the acte de vente’ meeting at the notaire’s office. We’re very excited but also a little daunted as we’ve heard these can be rather serious formal affairs, and very different to the UK process. 

A: At the signature meeting the notaire should go through the sale deed with the parties, before this is completed.  This reading would ensure that the terms of the deed are strictly in accordance with those of the original contract, with nothing being omitted or included by mistake.

You should seek a copy of the draft deed and its annexes in advance of completion, so you can check this carefully against the first contract.

If you do not speak fluent French, the notaire might insist on the presence of an interpreter at your expense.

It is possible that all parties will be in attendance.  However that is by no means obligatory; it is possible to sign a power of attorney in advance of the meeting that would allow parties to the transaction to be represented by someone else.  It is preferable to attend if possible which is evidently your plan.

Your decision to attend the meeting should also allow you to visit the property in advance of the meeting.  That would allow you to check it has been suitably maintained, and that any items to be left are still in place.  You could also check the meters at the same time.

You should ensure your funds are sent to the notaire’s office a few working days before completion.  Transfers will not always be immediate.

The whole process should usually be amicable, but it is important that the sale deed is correct: this will be your evidence of title to your new home.

The notaire should provide you with a copy of the completed deed, as well as a shorter declaration of ownership called an “Attestation”, which you can use until the registration process is finalised, when you should receive a copy of the registered deed and maybe even a small refund of notaire’s fees.  That is likely to take many months.

For individual advice, please contact Matthew Cameron and the French Legal Services team on 0330 191 4773 on complete an online form.

This article originally appeared in French Property News, a France Media Group publication.


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