The Purchase Process in France and Chamonix

Making an offer

As with any property purchase, the first stage is to make an offer.  In France, the vendor sets a quoting price that he is happy to accept - if the offer is at the quoting price then it is deemed acceptable.  Common practice is therefore to bid below the quoting price and enter into negotiation with the vendor.  In certain circumstances though, such as forced and inheritance sales, the vendor will set a fixed price.

Once the offer is accepted, the parties will enter into a bilateral agreement, the 'Compromis de Vente', which is binding subject to certain conditions such as obtaining finance (Conditions Suspensive).  In this way, the process differs from the UK and many other countries in that the buyer and seller are contractually bound from the outset, preventing 'gazumping' and counter bidding.  The purchaser is, however, protected by a 10 day 'cooling off period' in which he can withdraw from the purchase.


A 5% to 10% deposit is payable with the signing of the Compromis.  This is refundable if the purchaser pulls out within 10 days or if the Conditions Suspensive are not met.  The notaire will often ask for an additional sum (typically €350) towards out of pocket expenses.

The Notaire

The rest of the legal process is handled by the Notaire, or Notary.  He is an impartial government official and often acts on behalf of both the purchaser and vendor.  It is the vendor who usually chooses the Notaire, but the purchaser can select a second Notaire to act on his behalf without affecting the fees.  We have good knowledge of all the notaires who operate in the local area and can advise if this is appropriate.

The Notaire's role is firstly to draft the Compromis de Vente with the details often completed by the selling agent, although this can be undertaken by the agent as well.  He will then complete the formalities of the transaction and will be present at the final signature and completion.  This process takes between 2 and 3 months on average.

The Notaire's fees are fixed at the outset and are payable by the purchaser.  Although they vary  slightly, the fees are 7-8% of the price for older property and 3% if the property is new or less than 5 years old and it is the first resale (Frais Reduit).


A deadline for completion will be outlined in the Compromis de Vente and comes about with the signature of Acte Authentique de Vente (Sale Deed).  The Acte will specify all the relevant details of the transaction, such as the identity of all parties, the price, the fees and any taxes to be paid.

Once the Acte is signed, the Notaire will provide an 'Attestation d'Achat' which will act as proof of purchase until the formal registration is completed.  This can take up to 6 months when a certificate of ownership will be sent to the purchaser along with any outstanding monies from the Notaire.