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The Notary and the Final Signing (the Acte de Vente)

French Riviera

Once the preliminary contract has been signed on your French Riviera property purchase, there follows a period of around 8-12 weeks during which the Notary carries out their due diligence on the property. The 'Notaire' is an independent government official who represents neither the buyer nor the seller, rather he (and it often is a he!) is a neutral person there to ensure that the sale goes through abiding by all the legal procedures and taxation laws that are associated with a property sale/purchase.

Each party can appoint a Notaire (the cost remains the same - the notaires share the fee) so in some cases there may well be two Notaires working on the same sale. If you are happy to go with the same notaire as the seller then the paperwork generally goes through more quickly.

The Notaire checks that each party has full capacity or the right to either sell the property or purchase it. They are also responsible for all searches relating to the current title of the property and for checking that it does not reveal any significant easements or restrictions which could affect its value as well as verifying that no mortgage exists over the property. They also check the position with regard to planning and confirm that the searches do not reveal anything likely to reduce the value of the property.

The notary will not be able to complete the purchase before the local authority has provided them with the relevant information. The town hall gets first rights on certain property sale in France, so for example when a property is strategic to town planning, the town hall can excercise this right.  

During this period of 8 - 12 weeks while the notaire carries out their search, the purchaser is required to acquire agreement to their mortgage  and the funds should be sent over to the escrow account held at the Notaire's office.

If the notaire's findings are satisfactory you will receive a date for the final signature to take place. It must be noted that a date is always given on the preliminary contract, however, in more cases than not, this date is changed so we do advise our clients to wait until the Notaire can concretely confirm the date for the final exchange. 

If you are unable to attend the signing in person you can arrange for the signature to take place in your absense via power of attorney.  We advise that you organise this at least 4 weeks prior to the estimated date for the signature due to the fact that if you are getting a mortgage then you will have to have your signature notarized by a registered Notaire  in your country of domicile.

The final signing of the Acte de Vente (Sales Act) takes place at the Notaire's office and the property will at this time pass into your ownership. Your mortgage company (should you be using one), should have already sent the funds to the Notary's office and on the final day you must pay the balance of the purchase price to the Notaire, who then in turn pays the vendor.

The transfer of this remaining balance should be done in advance as the funds must be in the Notaire's possession before the contract is signed, and so we advise you to make the transfer at least 10 days in advance. You must ask your Notaire for the final break down of costs i.e. a completion statment that clearly outlines what has been paid, to whom and what is still outstanding.

Remember you must also take out property insurance and provide proof of this, along with your passport, to the notary's office on the day of the signature (we will be happy to advise you on insurance contracts).

In the case of new build property usually the notaire signing takes place before the property is completed, in which case you need to have your insurance arranged for the day of delivery of the property and not for the final signing.