Friday, April 15, 2011

Buying agricultural land

Agricultural land - classified as non-constructible - in France is frequently offered for sale, and purchased by buyers in the hope that one day it may be re-zoned for building, or more commonly for use as leisure land (terrain de loisirs). In virtually all cases, the French organisation SAFER - which exists to protect agriculture and agricultural land - will automatically have a droit de pré-emption (right to buy) if they judge that the land is needed for farming.

SAFER's interest will trigger a delay in completion of the purchase of two months and in the absence of a reply within that time, the purchase can go ahead. This right is similar to that of the local commune to purchase land and buildings, if they are considered essential to the public interest - such as demolition for road widening. The existence of this option is written as a condition into every pre-contract (compromis de vente). The notaire handling the transaction will satisfy himself that this option is not exervcised before completing the sale.

If the local commune wishes to exercise their right of pre-emption they must normally agree a fair market price with the vendor, who is turn could decide to withdraw his property from sale.

The use of leisure land is restricted to occasional occupation and subject to strict local rules and guidelines that will be applied by the mairie or the departmental préfecture.