Essential Advice When Buying Land In France

By : Nick Marr

France offers great value for money when it comes to buying a property in France. Finding a plot of land especially cheap land in France can be the ideal win win scenario. Building your own designed home in an idyllic part of France could mean savings and achieving that dream home abroad.

Top ten tips and advice when purchasing land in France

1. A building plot in France is called a terrain a bâtir.

2. Many misunderstandings arise between international purchasers of French property and French builders simply as the result of a failure to properly communicate and failure to appreciate the difference in the law and practices. All property is registered at the land registry (“Conservation des hypothèques”). Ownership of property is determined by registration, not by title deeds. Even when ownership is clear, boundaries of a property may not be. If an exact plan of the property is not available or if you are purchasing a sub-division of an existing registered property, the notaire will hirre a surveyor to map the boundaries.

3..When buying agricultural land, it is important to check any rights which may operate in favour of the SAFER (_Societe d’Amenagement Foncier Et Rural_, the Society for Land Development and Rural Settlement) and also to check that farmers’ rights have not accrued upon the property in question.

Do not be fooled into thinking that the notary will look after your legal interests, because he won’t!

French Land Buying Process Advice and Information

4. Buyers beware The “compromis de vente” is an important step for a buyer. Once the contract has been signed, it will be too late to renegotiate the price or the conditions of the sale as the contract is legally binding. Do not sign too quickly! A sale is a negotiation; make sure you are ready for that..

5. Buying to development the land then you should know that most land is sold with a certificat d’urbanism. You will need a permis de construire for all new building work. To apply for this, you will need plans, drawings and maps of what you propose to do with the land. The mairie can assist with this. The permis de construire gives you permission to build your chosen property.

6. You must ensure that the plot is suitable for your project before signing – if not, you need to ensure to ask for either the Notaire or the real estate agent to include any relevant “conditions suspensives” in the purchase contract of the “terrain a bâtir” (building land). It is possible to find out in advance whether the land has the planning potential you need, a document called “certificate d’urbanisme” specifies the town planning regulations applicable to your land. This document will also be useful in order to prepare the planning application. The official French Notaries website can be found here

7. The “certificat d’urbanisme” (planning permission) The “certificat d’urbanisme” is a document issued by the Mayor of the locality and shows the planning requirements for the particular plot of land. This document is usually provided by the seller of any building land, as it is the only guarantee that the land can be built on.

8. The majority of land for sale does come with planning permissions, and even if it does not have it is often sold with the view that you will be applying for acertificat d’urbanism.

9. If the land does not have planning permission, you should visit the mairie to find out whether or not it would be worthwhile to apply for a certificat d’urbanism. If so, the mairie will be able to help you obtain and fill in the paperwork. They will also be able to check that your chosen plot can be easily connected to utility services, such as the power grid, water board, local sewage works and the telephone line.

10. Some builders do offer to obtain your permis de construire, but this is a service in order to secure work and so ties you to one person and affects intellectual property rights. Legally, the builders own the rights to what they have made/created so they can charge you if you get planning permission and then do not use them for the building job.

Land laws, French buying process and language all create dangers!

It an obvious thing to say but needs to be empahsied that France’s legal system is very different,  It is essential to use the services of an independent, English-speaking solicitor. The notary (notaire) is a mandatory part of the purchase process. Do not be fooled into thinking that the notary will look after your legal interests, because he won’t. The notary is a government official and works for the state, not the buyer or the vendor, although, confusingly, notaries often act as estate agents as well.  Good advice about buying property in France-property here

Video advice about buying a property in France


Nick Marr