The Promesse de Vente is the first formal and legally binding stage in the property purchase process in France. It is a written contract of sale agreement which legally binds together the seller and purchaser. The agreement can be drafted by the Estate Agency handling the sale (but this is not at all to be recommended) or more safely by the Notaire. A Promesse prepared by an Estate Agent will need to satisfy the Notaire of it's legal validity in any event and it is best to go straight to the real professional. Whatever the agency says, it's absolutely fine to wait until it is drawn up properly and it takes time to do this correctly.
The format may vary but all should state clearly the key points of agreement including:
* Details of purchaser and seller (you will need to provide "Civil Status" information including your full name, contact details, profession, birth and marriage certificates, passport copies, details of ex-husbands and wives - we can provide you with an exhaustive list of what to prepare in advance.
* Confirmation of the name and ownership "Title" details of the property
* A description of the property including reference and map of the plot as it is recorded in the Land Registry
* The price agreed (sometimes furnishings and fittings may be negotiated as a separate amount)
* The deposit agreed (usually 10% to be held by the Notaire in an escrow account)
* The circumstances under which the deposit may be forfeited
* Provisional conditions (Clauses Suspensives) - these will include certain standard conditions which will be inserted by the Notaire drawing up the agreement (e.g. that there are no other claims to the Title or that the searches conducted by the Notaire's office do not reveal any problems). A Promesse de Vente also allows for the substitution of another person or entity to purchase the property at closing if need be.
The purchaser can request and negotiate the insertion of additional Provisional conditions before the Promesse is signed e.g. vendor to service the electrical equipment or provide additional guarantees, complete building work or planning approval etc
* Full details of the real estate agent's fees
* The target completion date (note this is not definitive or guaranteed and can be changed by agreement between purchaser and seller or if the Notaire has not completed his work for any reason)
Seven Day Cooling Off period
Note that under La Loi SRU you will be given a seven day cooling off period during which time you can withdraw from the purchase without penalty.
Once the Promesse is signed the Notaire (who acts for both parties under French law) will carry on the process of checking records and documentation regarding the property and land. Two to three months is generally allowed for this process but it is possible to move more swiftly if both parties are agreed and the Notaire is able to conduct documentation searches without delays.
This also gives the buyer sufficient time to get a mortgage for the property. At the time of contract, in the contract, the mortgage criteria are listed (interest rate, mortgage amount, etc) and if the buyer cannot find a mortgage that meets the criteria, then this will annul the sale, the buyer will recuperate his 10% down payment.
Note that the completion date shown in the Promesse is a target date which will allow you to plan removals, funds transfer etc however the date will need to be re-confirmed as completion draws nearer. The completion date is the date when both parties will attend the Notaire's office to sign the Acte Authentiqe.