The essential purchase process is divided into two stages. First, the purchase is formalized by a preliminary contract that may be prepared by a notaire – a promesse de vente – or by an estate agent or privately between the parties – a compromis de vente.
In either case, the seller is obligated to sell immediately upon signature, whereas the buyer has a 7-day period of reflection during which he can withdraw from the purchase without any financial penalty.
The sale is finalized with a formal deed of sale, the acte de vente. Regardless of the form of the initial agreement, the signing of the acte de vente is overseen by a notaire.
Once the preliminary contract is signed, it is ordinarily between two to three months until the acte de vente is signed. During this time, the buyer obtains any needed financing, and the buyer’s notaire verifies good title to the property and takes care of other legal and administrative requirements surrounding the sale.
At the signing of the acte de vente, the buyer pays the purchase price plus all taxes, fees and commissions, the keys are handed over by the seller, and ownership of the property passes to the buyer.