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Selling a property in France

Selling a property in France may seem a simple operation at first glance, since it is carried out in accordance with a very strict formality under the responsibility of a notary with the possible assistance of a real estate agency, once a buyer has made an offer to purchase which has been accepted by the seller.

The following is a reminder of the various stages when selling a property in France:

  • offer to purchase,
  • acceptance of the offer to purchase,
  • performance of technical diagnostics by the seller,
  • signature of the undertaking to sell or the precontract of sale agreement with sequestration by the purchaser of the immobilisation indemnity,
  • repeat the sale with payment of the balance of the price by the buyer,
  • publication in the land register.


However, situations can arise where the seller encounters some difficulties such as the buyer’s refusal to purchase, which is more likely to occur in the context of an undertaking to sell (unilateral promise to sell) than a pre-contract of sale agreement (compromise), failure to fulfil the conditions precedent leading to the failure to finalise the sale.

This raises the classic question of whether it is possible to force the sale.

Other less frequent problems can also arise,  such as a potential buyer who finds himself without the financial means announced when he had declared to the estate agency that he was not using credit and who, as a result, cannot acquire the property for sale.

The seller is not without recourse and can hope to get damages to compensate for the loss he suffers.

Example cases on selling a property in France

The High Court (Court of Cassation) ruled in this way, holding liable the estate agency through which the seller and buyer were put in contact. In this case, the sellers had given a real estate agency a mandate to sell a house at the price of 160.000 € for a fee of 10.000 €. The agency found a buyer with whom a pre-contract was signed at the end of which the buyer indicated that he did not need recourse to credit.

However, the 25-year-old buyer, who was single and worked as a forklift driver, did not show up for the appointment to sign the deed of sale, and then undertook to pay certain sums, but without ever following-through on this commitment.

The Court recalled, pursuant to Article 1147 of the French civil code, that the estate agent was contractually liable to the sellers for failing to justify not having given the seller advice to take-out guarantees or having warned them about the risk of insolvency of the buyer, which it had presented to them in view of the latter’s personal and professional situation (Cass. 1st Civ. 11 December 2019, no. 18-24.381).

The seller must therefore comply with the exercise of determining the loss(es) suffered as a result of the agency’s failings. He will then have to estimate them with tangible elements to be provided with to a court so that the agency can be ordered to compensate him.

All future sellers should therefore take care to ensure that they obtain independent legal advice and ask all the necessary questions to avoid finding themselves in such a complex but not inextricable situation.

The Selling property abroad series includes:


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