The notaire in France is similar to a solicitor in that he does the conveyancing of the property, but unlike a solicitor, a notaire represents neither party exclusively. As a representative of the French State, he or she is, in theory, an impartial agent to the transaction. The notaire will oversee the legal work connected to the French house sale including, drawing up contracts, arrange for certain searches to be done: such as establishing whether the vendor has title to the property, an asbestos, lead, and termite survey, checks to make sure there are no outstanding mortgages against the property, establishment of boundaries, etc, collect the taxes due on the transaction to the Commune, the Department, and the State, and hold the money for the property in his bank account when the time comes to transfer it from the buyer to the vendor.
The Notaire's report has, since 2007, been consolidated under French law into one document entitled 'dossier de diagnostic technique' or DDT, and is in the process of being expanded to encompass an energy performance report, and reports on the condition of gas and electricity services, and septic tanks. This is in addition to those reports already included on the presence of asbestos, lead, termites, etc. It does not though include a valuation or an appraisal of the structural soundness of the building
If you want to appoint your own notaire rather than the notaire specified by the vendor you can do so and this is in fact advisable as, although in theory the notaires are totally impartial, in a small town for instance they may have known the vendor personally for years and therefore, albeit unconsciously, may be baised in their favour. If you appoint your own notaire, the two notaires should share the work and the fees. If you write to him or her in connection with your purchase you should address him or her as Maitre.
notaire's fee will be
between 6% and 8% depending on the net buying price of the property
(partly based on a graduated scale set by French law, with the
decreasing the more expensive the property becomes). The price of his
services includes local and government taxes and the equivalent
of stamp duty in France. You will need to add the Notaire's fee to the
commission of the immobilier to find the total cost of commissions on
your French house purchase.
The link below is to the English pages of the notaires of France official web site where you can find a notaire in the region you are hoping to buy in, as well as some other useful information.
You can save quite substantial sums of money by using a foreign
exchange company rather than a high street bank to transfer any large
sums of money to the notaire in connection with your purchase of your
French house. Not only should their commission be lower but they should
also offer you a more competitive exchange rate. I used CaxtonFX foreign exchange
company to transfer my final payment to the
notaire, and they gave me an excellent service, but there are plenty of
other companies you could use. Just look on your favourite search
Before you have bought your house in France it is a good idea to set up a French bank account. Then you can transfer some funds into it to pay any commissions and other expenses associated with your house purchase. Foreign exchange companies only handle large sums, so for smaller transfers you will need to use your bank. You will need to ask for a currency draft in Euros & you will need to supply them with the IBAN, (International Bank Account Number), of your French bank account. The currency draft will be sent to you by your bank & you can then post it to your French bank using international signed for at the Post Office. For more urgent transfers you can ask for a telegraphic transfer, again you will need your IBAN, and the money will be transferred directly to your French bank account. These transfers are rather expensive, typically you will be charged around £20.00 - £25.00 by your British bank, and the French bank also levies a fee for receiving the money.
UPDATE: Since writing the above, there are now many foreign exchange companies that will transfer comparatively small sums abroad at a reasonable cost, and there is now no need to pay the exhorbitant fees charged by the high street banks.
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Acknowledgements: images used on the left in the text area are mainly from morguefile.com, my thanks to biberta, missyredboots, rosevita, doctor_bob, cohdra, mconners, kairily, clarita, scott. m. liddel, and anyone else from morguefile whose image appears here. All the images in the right hand column on each page have been taken by me during my various travels in France and are copyright of buyahouseinfrance.info.