Everything you need to know about “notaires”

notary

Without a true UK equivalent, it can be difficult to understand the role of the notaire. In our latest blog post, we take a look at what they do and demystify the costs involved.

What is a notaire and do I really need one?

When selling or buying property in France there needs to be an intermediary present who authenticates the transfer of ownership and reports it to the state. This is where the notaire steps in.

The notaire is not only a key player in the transaction process, they are a legal requirement. As a representative of the state, they are non-bias and their duty is to the transaction. Think of them as the referee. They are simply there to make sure that the transaction complies with French property law and ensure that any taxes are collected.

Notaires aren’t strictly limited to French property law, they are also necessary for a number of other transactions in France such as donations and inheritance.

The role of the notaire

Signature of the “Compromis de Vente’’ (the sales contract)

In France, the sales contract is signed at the beginning of the process once an offer has been accepted by the seller. Technically, you do not need to have a notaire at this stage, but it is a good idea to have one as they can help with legal and financial matters such as mortgage clauses.

During the sales process

Before the signature of the deed happens, the notaire will have to collect the seller’s “Titre de propriété”, a legal document proving that he owns the property. Then, he will ask for 5% to 10% of the property price as a warranty (called “depot de garantie’’ in Moliere’s language).

Between signing the sales contract and final deed, the notaire will carry out a number of searches which can take up to three months. 

This includes, but is not limited to the following:

– Identifying the buyer and seller by checking birth and marriage certificates

– Checking that the mortgage is not higher than the value of the property

– Verifying that the property is usable

In order to complete these checks, the notaire may ask you for further documents.

Completion

If there is a mortgage, the notaire will ask the bank to release the money a few days before the deed is signed.

The money from the mortgage and any personal funds never enter the notaire’s hands, they are sent to an escrow account instead. So there is no need to worry about the notaire running off with the money! The money will be transferred to the seller after the deed (called an “acte de vente’’) is signed. Once this is completed, the notaire will give the buyer a certificate of ownership.

Cost

Notary fees do not depend on the notaire you choose, but rather on the value and the condition of the property (newbuild or existing). For a new-build property, the fees are around 2-3% of the property price whilst existing properties have a higher rate of a higher fee of 7-8%.

Though they are called “notary fees’’, 85% is paid to the state and the notaire receives the remaining 15% as payment.

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