Friday, November 27, 2009

Unable to complete on a purchase

An interesting case has occurred recently involving a British buyer of a French off-plan property. When completing the purchase document (initial 'compromis de vente') he stated that he would not be seeking a bank loan or mortgage to pay for the property. As the purchase relied on payments over time, in this case two years, he felt, in good faith, that he would be able to fund the stage payments from income, without the need for a loan. Normally payments are invoiced at intervals, as the work progresses - from foundations to fitting-out and hand-over, typically over a period of 24 months construction.

Unfortunately the recession arrived and the buyer found himself short of cash and unable to complete the stage payments, while on the French side the building work was gradually completed. The developers are now seeking payment in full of the sale price and the buyer is unable to pay - a sum approaching 300,000 euros.

The would-be purchaser has reached an agreement with the developers to try and sell the property (of which he is technically now the owner) at a heavily discounted price, in order to cover the deposit already paid and recoup any losses. Failing which it is likely that the developer will insist on payment in full and will pursue the buyer through the French and British court systems (a relatively simple process following recent EU harmonisation of the applicable laws).

There are several lessons to be learnt from this story, the most important being to have funds in place or formally agreed before committing to a property purchase; and second, should problems arise, to notify the vendor (in this case the French developer) of your changed circumstances and try to arrange re-financing of the purchase.