Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Selling your French home - description!

In a recent case involving the private sale of a French apartment, the English owners offered the property 'as is' but included in the asking price certain items (refrigerator, microwave, beds etc) plus certain others that were offered separately, at a price to be negotiated. The property details included two lists - items that were included in the asking price, and the items offered separately.

An offer was received from a French couple, who intended marketng the apartment as a summer rental, and accepted by the owners. As they approached the preparation of the compromis de vente (pre-contract) the French buyers insisted that the apartment was offered 'fully furnished' and that their offer was based on that. No amount of discussion could convince them that the printed details, of which they had a copy, clearly noted which items were included and which were not. It took considerable negotiation to finally reach an agreement, the owners reluctantly conceding all but a few items they wished to retain, in the interests of concluding the deal and moving on.

Could the property details have been clearer? Perhaps with hindsight one could use the French word vide, to emphasise that the apartment was offered empty. This term however does need clarification and agreement between the parties, as it does not normally imply that the vendor can strip out fittings such as kitchen units, bathroom cabinets etc which are expected to be left behind.

However, in all situations, it seems advisable to list and agree the items that will be left behind, and those that the vendors wish to retain. Some of the latter could of course be offered for sale at a price to be agreed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Home DIY when you come to sell

When the times comes to sell your French property, DIY renovations carried out by owners are generally not popular with French buyers, who prefer to see work undertaken and guaranteed by qualified artisans.

A recent French court decision may now alter the legal responsibility of owner/vendors for work they have undertaken themselves. The appeal court has used the argument that an owner who does building work on his own property automatically becomes a "builder" - and as a result is subject to the same laws requring a 10 year guarantee on the work done, that is applicable to registered artisans (who are obliged to carry the requisite insurance cover).

The court case cited a vendor who had re-covered the outside of the property in question, but the work had proved defective. The new owners sued for damages and won, despite the arguments of the previous owner that he was merely the seller and not a builder. The court ruled otherwise.

How far this ruling will affect current legislation or lead to the introduction of new rules covering DIY renovations is unclear. French jurisprudence does not carry the wame weight as in British law, where previous judgements can be cited in subsequent cases. However, a vendor doing renovation, repair or rebuilding work on his own property should be aware of the potential risks following the French court ruling.

(Source: Europe 1)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Opening a French bank account

Opening a French bank account is relatively simple, but can be the subject of frustrating delays which appear inexplicable to the client. In the interests of preventing money laundering (the reason usually given), increasing amounts of doculmentation are asked for, to prove that you are who you say you are. If you are not living and working fulltime in France, or receiving pension payments, the French bank may require proof of your non-French resources, such as salary slips, and/or UK bank statements.

All this can take several weeks, as new accounts are eventually approved by the Banque de France, meanwhile the client has no way of paying French bills - for utilities, suppliers, artisans etc - other than in cash (only allowed for small amounts) or bank to bank transfers from his home bank. It is not uncommon for utilities to be cut off without warning as a result of non-payment of the initial bill when moving into a French property.

Regular bills, such as those for electricity, gas, telephone etc can be paid by standing orders ('prélèvements') and the first bills received usually include a form to complete and return to the supplier, which will be passed in turn to your French bank, once the account has been opened.

In view of the delays associated with opening a French bank account and its sometimes annoying consequences, we advise clients to set up a French bank account well ahead of the intended completion/occupation date of any property purchase, allowing at least two months - which is normally the time allowed for completing a French property purchase from initial offer to final contract.