Selling property in France: A complete guide

Zorica Lončar

The French property market is a popular choice for British buyers, with around 200,000¹ owning a holiday home there. Even the twin shocks of the pandemic and Brexit didn’t stop UK citizens snapping up almost 1,700 properties in the French countryside in 2020².

If you own a French home and you’re considering moving house or selling an investment, we’re here to help. This guide covers everything you need to know about selling property in France, including fees, taxes and legal requirements. We’ll walk you through the selling process, and give you an idea how long it’ll take before you can hand over the keys. Note, that this guide does not constitute tax advice. Get professional tax advice and guidance from your lawyer or tax advisor when selling property.

We’ll even look at how Wise can help you transfer the proceeds of your French property sale back to the UK, without losing money to high fees and terrible exchange rates.

But first, let’s quickly check in with the French property market.

Is now a good time to sell in France?³

Before the global Covid-19 crisis struck, the property market in France was booming⁴. The good news for budding sellers though is that the pandemic doesn’t seem to completely derailed this progress. While the French economy has been affected, house prices have continued to grow - albeit at a slower rate.

Sales of older properties have soared, with a record number of transactions reported at the end of May 2021. Relocation is a common trend, with residents of bigger cities choosing to move to smaller and medium-sized towns. Experts believe this is happening due to the pandemic, with a desire for greenery and open spaces coinciding with a rise in remote working. So, if your property is in a rural or particularly green area, it could command a premium. ³

If you’re planning to sell up, it’s a good idea to do your homework first. Take a look at house price growth and demand for your particular area, and your type of property. This can tell you whether now’s the right time to sell, or whether you should wait until the local property market picks up.

The process of selling a property in France - a step-by-step guide

Find an estate agent - or sell privately

It’s not obligatory to use an estate agent in France, and around 40%⁴ of all residential property sales in the country are carried out privately. Estate agent fees can be quite high⁴ (more on that later) and it is possible to sell your home yourself by making use of online listing sites and real estate portals.

However, you may want to take advantage of the local knowledge and specialist expertise of an estate agent. They’ll also handle viewings, some negotiations and other key tasks that may not be possible if you don’t actually live in France while selling your property. If you do want to use a property agent (agent immobiliers), the best way to find one is a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. Otherwise, find one that is a member of a professional association such as the FNAIM, UNIS, SNPI or CNAB. In France, all agents immobiliers have to be licensed and hold a carte professionnelle⁵.

Carry out the compulsory property surveys

One of the more onerous parts of selling property in France are the statutory surveys and checks you need to carry out.

These are known as the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT). The DDT covers a full range of tests, including⁶:
  • Lead and asbestos

  • Gas installations and electrical wiring

  • Septic tanks (if applicable)

  • Energy efficiency

  • Termites

  • Natural or industrial risks

  • Swimming pool security (if applicable)⁷.

    All of the relevant DDT tests need to be carried out before the property is sold. The only exception is the energy efficiency survey, which must be carried out before the property is marketed⁶. You’ll need to check the validity of each test, too, to make sure it doesn’t expire before the sale contracts are finalised.

Market your property

Now it’s time to get your property onto the market and start attracting buyers. Your estate agent should handle most if not all of the advertising activity, but private sellers will need to make sure they list their property in as many places as possible.

Here are some of the most popular real estate websites in France⁸:


Appoint a notary

The notary (notaire) does a very important job in French property sales. They act as the conveyancing solicitor, making sure all the paperwork and procedures are done according to the letter of the law.

The notaire usually acts for both buyer and seller. You can also choose to get your own property solicitor to advise you, but the state-appointed notary will still be an integral part of the process. It’s likely that they will only speak French⁵, so you may need the services of a translator or an English-speaking solicitor to assist you. As the notary is nationally appointed, you don’t need to worry about shopping around or negotiating fees. Rates are usually fixed, so appointing a notary should be a simple task.

Draw up and sign the Compromis de Vente

Once you’ve accepted an offer from a buyer, an agreement to purchase (Compromis de Vente) will be drawn up. This is done by the estate agent or the notary, and usually happens around a week after a verbal offer has been made and accepted.

The agreement contains any pre-sale conditions and terms the buyer and seller want included, negotiated by their respective agents. Once the agreement is signed, there’s a 10 day ‘cooling-off period’ during which either party can change their mind.

The deposit is paid

After the 10 day ‘cooling-off period’, the buyer pays the deposit, to be held by the notary. This is usually around 10% of the sale price, although it’s not unheard of for the deposit to be as low as 5%⁹.

At this point, there are penalties to be paid if either party backs out of the sale⁵. If the buyer changes their mind, they’ll lose their deposit. However, if you as the seller pull out of the deal, you’ll have to return the deposit and may have to pay a further 10% of the sale price as compensation.

Statury disclosures

As the seller, you have a legal requirement to disclose all hidden defects, easements and restrictions, tenancies, licences and planning consents related to the property. If you don’t do this and the property is sold with a hidden defect, a court could declare the sale null and void. You may even have to pay compensation to the buyer.

Sign the Acte de Vente

You’re nearly there. The last step is to arrange a meeting (at the notary’s office in France) to sign the final purchase document, the Acte de Vente. All parties should be present, and once the agreement is signed - you’ll hand over the keys and the legal ownership of the property.

The notaire will arrange for the balance of funds to be paid to you. We’ll look at how you can best transfer this amount to your UK bank account in just a moment.

How long does it take to sell property in France?

The time it takes to sell a home in France can vary, although it can drag on due to the weight of bureaucracy and paperwork required. Although it might happen quicker, you can expect it to take around 3-4 months⁷ before the Acte de Vente is finally signed. You’ll also need to factor in the time it takes to find a buyer.

Can I speed up the process?

While there are some parts of the process you can do nothing about, there are measures you can take to improve your chances of a quicker sale. Here are some tips:

  1. Get your DDT and other tests carried out as soon as possible.These can delay the process, especially if they uncover any problems that need to be fixed.
  2. Have all your documentation in order. Speak to the notary or your own solicitor to find out exactly what you need.
  3. Declutter and deep clean. It’s important to make sure your property is looking its best, for both the photos and in-person viewings.
  4. Take great photos and consider a video tour. Professional quality photos can get you more viewings and a faster sale. And in the age of remote technology, uploading a virtual or video tour of the property could be a smart move to attract more buyers.
  5. Add some greenery. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a trend for relocation in France at the moment, from crowded cities to rural retreats. So the more you can ‘green’ up your property, the more desirable it may be.

Fees and taxes for selling a property in France

Now we come to the bottom line - how much will it actually cost you to sell a property in France? Let’s run through the main fees and taxes you need to know about.

What fees will I pay as the seller?

The key costs you’ll pay to sell a property in France include the following⁴:

  • Estate agency commission. If you choose to use an agent, you can expect to pay anywhere between 4% and 12% of the sale price in commission. However, there is room to negotiate.
  • Notary fee. You can expect to pay up to 10% of the sale price to the notary.
  • DDT costs. It’s your responsibility as the seller to book and pay for the statutory diagnostic tests, which can vary depending on how many surveys need to be carried out.

Property taxes for sellers¹¹

When you sell a home in France, you’ll need to pay capital gains tax. Known as impôt sur les plus values in France, this is due to the profits of selling a property or land.

It’s made up of a flat income tax rate of 19%, plus an extra 17.2% in social charges. This means you could end up paying a rather hefty 36.2% in plus values on any profits you make from the sale.

Use Wise to transfer the proceeds from your French property sale - and save money

Once the deal is done, you’ll need to work out the best way to transfer the proceeds from your French property sale.

If you don’t live in France, you’ll need to send the money back home to the UK.

If you use Wise you’ll get the mid-market exchange rate and only pay one small, transparent fee. It’s quick, reliable and fully secure, even to transfer large amounts, and means you’ll get to keep more of your money.

Join Wise today

Please seeTerms of Use for your region or visitWise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

There are lots of bureaucratic and administrative hoops to jump through in France when you sell a property. But hopefully after reading this guide, you should have a better grip on how it all works.

We’ve covered all the essentials, from fees and taxes to legal requirements. With a little preparation and paperwork, you’ll be ready to put your French property on the market. Bonne chance!

Sources used for this article:

  1. Immigration Lawyers - homeowners in France post Brexit
  2. Complete France - British buyers in France
  3. - French property market analysis
  4. World First - how to sell property in France
  5. Anglo Info - selling a property
  6. French Property - surveys
  7. French Estate Agents - a guide to selling your French property
  8. Foreign Buyers Watch - top property portals in France
  9. French Property - sale and purchase contracts
  10. French Property - sale requirements
  11. Expatica - a guide to taxes in France

Sources checked on 3-Nov-2021.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money for here, there and everywhere

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location