Notaires searches can take up to two months from the signing of the initial contract. This is to allow enough time for the notaire to carry out the necessary searches.
The notaire will not start the searches before the signing of an initial contract between the vendors and the purchasers. Usually, they will wait for the cooling off period to have expired as well.
Right of Pre-Emption
The notaire will notify the relevant public bodies who might be the beneficiaries of a pre-emption right. For example, the town hall (Mairie) or SAFER when the property is in a rural area.
The notaire will first issue a document called DIA (déclaration d’intention d’aliéner). This identifies the buyers and the proposed price. If the right of pre-emption is not exercised within two months it is lost.
In most cases, the beneficiaries will not want to pre-empt the sale and therefore do not bother replying.
Note de Renseignement d’Urbanisme
Next, the notaire will request a Town Planning Certificate (note de renseignement d’urbanisme) from the Mairie. This will reveal the rules applicable to the property, whether there are any public covenants or any proposed developments.
It also indicates what planning ‘zone’ the property is in (rural part, or urban part of the town for instance). The zone will influence the type of future works or construction allowed.
If the property is in a listed building area more restrictive planning rules will apply.
The local authority will not deliver any other document.
The notaires searches will not uncover matters affecting the surrounding plots. Nor possible future public projects in the town.
The état hypothécaire identifies the owner of the property and lists registered charges or easements.
The notaire has the duty to discharge the property for the new buyers at the vendors’ costs.
The notaire will contact all beneficiaries to confirm amounts owed. Normally this will only be a mortgage. Should the charges be greater than the sale price the notaire will halt the sale.
For the buyer, this is often the most significant of the notaires searches.
The notaire will contact the French Revenue to obtain the cadastral statement (Relevé Cadastral), which will confirm the references of the property as shown on the boundary plan.
The notaire should also check the previous title deeds for the last 30 years.
The notaire will check the identity and marital status of the buyers.
In France, all official or legal documents will use a married woman’s maiden name.
Furthermore, the notaire will also check the central registrar for civil status documents. This is where issues dealing with mental capacity or marital status are recorded for French nationals.
The notaire will ask the managing agent (syndic) for details of any outstanding sums due if the property is within a copropriété. This will include works voted, the insurance policy, any pending litigation and the amount due for service charges.
The notaire will set a completion date once the notaires searches are complete.
Normally both the buyer and vendor will attend the signing in person. However, the notaire will draft a power of attorney if required
The proposed completion date indicated in the initial contract is not binding because the notaire will not set a date until all the search results are available. Importantly, do not to book any removal or travel arrangements before the completion date is confirmed in writing by the notaire.
Note that the parties cannot refuse to complete on the proposed date if the file is complete, unless they jointly agree to an extension.
Finally, specific conditions can be inserted in the initial contract such as obtaining a planning consent, or an authorisation for building a swimming pool. These ‘get out clauses’ will have a further impact on the timescale involved for completion. For more information on these see conditions suspensive