Owning a home abroad

We have just returned from a lovely holiday in France. The property prices are so low and we love the quality of life, so we are thinking of buying a house there for holidays and maybe for our retirement.

We have just returned from a lovely holiday in France. The property prices are so low and we love the quality of life, so we are thinking of buying a house there for holidays and maybe for our retirement. Is the house-buying process similar to the system over here?

French properties are sold not just by estate agents but also by notaries. Do make sure that any estate agents you deal with are part of a registered body. You need to check whether you will have to pay the agent's fee and the notary's fee and any other fees or taxes.

Will we need a local lawyer?

The notary acts for both buyer and seller. You could, however, appoint your own notary or you could take advice from a local lawyer.

What should we do before we make an offer?

Once you have checked the fees and pricing you should speak to the notary about special clauses in the contract which may entitle you to withdraw from the contract. You should check the plans of the property. Surveys are not usually undertaken in France.

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How long will the process take?

Once you have both signed the contract, as the buyer you will have a seven day cooling-off' period. After this period, the contract is binding on you both. You pay a 10pc deposit and then you prepare for the final stage. You will need to transfer the balance of the funds to the notary's account in good time for the signing date. You will have to be present for the signing of the completion documents. The whole buying process normally takes three to four months.

Anything else we should we aware of?

You will need to take advice on French inheritance law, which is totally different to English law. You cannot leave your property to whom you wish in France so early advice on this area is essential. The house-buying process is different in France, so do as much research as possible now - and if you do not speak fluent French you will need the aid of a translator.

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