How do I sell my property in France?

What is the process like? What do I have to watch out for?

In the case of divorce or inheritance, real estate regularly has to be sold. However unpleasant it may be to part with your holiday home on the Mediterranean or your weekend house in Provence, there are a few steps that you have to take into account as a seller.

1. Do I sell myself or do I contact an estate agent?

If the property is not in proximity, it is a good idea to hire a local real estate agent.
The agent will photograph the property, place advertisements, communicate with interested parties and arrange viewings. During the entire procedure, the real estate agent will be at your side, estimate the value of the property and assist you in applying for various documents.
If you want to save the costs, because you have experience in this area or if, for example, the buyer has already been found, you can save the high costs of regularly 5.5 %.
Some real estate agents alternatively offer different packages at different prices.

2. Gather the documents necessary for the sale

Some documents are necessary for the sale:

a. The copy of the original purchase contract showing you as the owner.

b. If there is a homeowners’ association (copropriété): the declaration of division (règlement de la copropriété) and the last 3 protocols of the owners’ meeting (procès-verbaux des assemblées générales).

c. The confirmation that the property is not mortgaged (certificat de non-hypothèque)

If the documents in a. to c. are not available or have been lost, they can be requested from the notary or at for a fee.

d. If the property is rented: rental agreement, handover protocol, amount of rent and rent deposit

e. The Dossier du Diagnostic Technique (DDT)

Depending on when the building permit was granted and where the property is located, the dossier must include various examinations.

  1. Diagnostic AMIANTE (expert opinion on the absence of asbestos-containing materials).
  2. diagnostic ASSAINISSEMENT NON COLLECTIF (report on the condition of the septic tank if the property is not connected to the public sewerage system)
  3. diagnostic ELECTRICITÉ (report on the internal electrical installation)
  4. diagnostic ERP (environmental assessment of air values, floods or drought, radioactivity)
  5. diagnositic “état des nuisances sonores aériennes” (expert opinion on airborne sound pollution)
  6. diagnostic GAZ (expertise on gas installation)
  7. diagnostic MERULE (expert opinion on dry rot)
  8. diagnostic METRAGE LOI CARREZ (confirmation of land area)
  9. diagnostic PERFORMANCE ENERGETIQUE (energy consumption certificate)
  10. diagnostic PLOMB (lead diagnosis of the building)
  11. diagnostic TERMITES (expertise on the presence of wood pests)

If an undeveloped property is sold, an Étude géotechnique must usually be carried out to determine its suitability for construction.

3. Accept the best offer

Prospective buyers will make an offer. If there are several, you can choose which one to accept. It is often preferable to accept the offer that is financed without a loan, for example. If the buyer does not have to worry about financing, the sale is usually quicker. The real estate agent will have spent a lot of time with the prospective buyers and will be able to support you in your decision.

4. The conclusion of the preliminary contract (promesse unilatérale de vente).

As soon as the buyer and seller agree on the purchase price, the promesse de vente is signed. The seller agrees to sell the property exclusively to the buyer at the agreed price. This offer is usually limited to a period of two to three months. During this time, the seller may neither withdraw nor offer the property to another buyer. In return, the buyer must deposit a deposit of 10% of the purchase price, which is offset against the purchase.

Caution: the money transfer is made via the notary’s escrow account! The deposit and the purchase price are transferred to the notary, who then releases the amount.

The buyer benefits from a revocation period of ten days after signing the preliminary contract, during which no down payments are made and the contract cannot be notarized. After the ten-day period, the seller receives the deposit even if the buyer withdraws. There are some exceptions to this, e.g. if the buyer is refused financing within 4 weeks.

French real estate law does not recognize a right of withdrawal for the seller of real estate. In the event of withdrawal by the seller, the buyer can claim large sums in damages.

As an alternative to the promesse unilatérale de vente, a compromis de vente can also be concluded, in which both parties immediately commit to the purchase or sale. The signature is also followed by a deposit of 10%.

5. Conclusion of the sales contract (acte authentique de vente)

The notarial deed of sale serves to confirm the preliminary contract and executes the transfer of ownership to the buyer. For this purpose, the notary examines all conditions of the preliminary contract and obtains an overview of any encumbrances that may still have to be cancelled.

The notary’s fees are generally borne by the buyer. The parties are free to agree otherwise. In the case of undeveloped land or buildings still to be completed, the notary’s fees are between 2 and 4 %. For other properties, 7 to 8 % will be charged.

The parties do not necessarily have to be present for the notarization of the purchase contract. They can also be represented (e.g. by an employee of the notary’s office). There are also some possibilities to sign the contract via the internet.

On the day of the notarization, the full purchase price and the notary fees must have been received in the notary’s escrow account. After signing the deeds of sale, the buyer receives a copy of the acte de vente signé. This identifies the buyer as the new owner. The keys must be handed over to the buyer after the notarisation at the latest.

The final titre de propriété is only delivered by the tax office after a few months.

We will be happy to advise you on the sale of your property in France in the context of a divorce or inheritance.


Katharina Kutter

As an attorney for family and inheritance law and have specialised in advising companies and high net worth individuals in the areas of asset succession, asset division, tax law and family law retirement planning – with a particular focus on cross-border matters. 

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