Defining the Realty Landscape of France

Everything about real estate in France is meticulously well organized and simple to understand. Perhaps the most striking aspect is the centralized nature of the realty enterprise, which pivots on four main organizations, with 3 of them specializing in deals while the 4th focuses on administrative approaches.

Definitions and explanations of professional names and terms

Real estate agent – All the agents in France are required by law to be licensed and to be members of a recognized real estate organization. The agent is required to be present during any real estate transaction to provide expert assistance to the vendor and buyer.

Notaire – The notaire is a government official similar to a tax collector who is involved in real estate transactions of buying and selling. He is responsible for collecting the various tax payments that are made by the buyer and seller in any property transfer transaction. The notaire is also responsible for drawing up documents.

Legal advisor – This professional is a qualified lawyer who usually represents one of the parties to deal with the legal aspects of a real estate transaction. Very often, both parties will seek to be represented by a different legal advisor or notaire, in which case, the two professionals will share in the payment for their services.

Property search agent – The search agent (marchand de listes) specializes in the search for property mainly on behalf of a potential buyer. His search often leads him to archives and other government repositories where records are kept. The information he provides the buyer is valuable and are needed for facilitating purchase transactions.

Property manager – The property manager (gestion immobilière) usually involves himself in the early stages of negotiations with the buyer. He is able to provide detailed information about the real estate which is the subject of a contemplated sale. He negotiates on behalf of the vendor.

Property checker – This professional also known as an expert foncier who is usually an architect who is engaged to check on the state and value of real estate.

Builder – Also referred to in French as a macon, he is the builder and usually engaged by the owners of real estate, developers, companies and societies who wish to invest and build.

Land surveyor (geometre) – The land surveyor is required when an intended sale involves a lot of land for example in the country side. The surveyor will affirm any redefining of boundaries, confirming existing boundaries shown on the plan or creating new boundaries in the attendance of the vendor and buyer and neighboring landowners as witnesses.

Mortgage broker – The broker works with different French banks and other mortgage providers and acts as the middleman between the lender and buyer. They possess professional indemnity insurance and are required to be registered with bankers and mortgage providers they represent. The broker receives commissions for services rendered.

Architect – A purchaser of an old property may require the attendance of an architect to examine the building and submit his estimate of the cost prior to purchase. The architect is adept at acquiring permissions and certificates to process work.

French real estate terms

Specific terms are used to refer to aspects of real estate in France. The main terms are listed below:

French – English explanation

Abri – a small outbuilding such as garden, shed or shelter

Acajou – mahogany

Acceuil – reception or welcome

Acompte – deposit

Acte Authentique – Deed of Sale

Affaire – bargain

Agence immobilière – real estate agent

Attestation d’acquisition – a written certificate from the notaire that the real estate purchase has been completed


Batiment – building

Bon de visite – a ‘suspect’ form the tenant signs before viewing a house with a French agent agreeing not to approach the owner to make a personal offer on a house but to act through a real estate agent. This is not true and it shouldn’t be signed.

Compromis de Vente – initial document in the sale process which legally commits the two parties

Fosse septique – septic tank

Frais de notaire – total amount of money paid to a notaire on top of the sale price (made up of notaire fees, registration duty, land registration duty and other charges).

Meubles – furniture

Plomerie – plumbing

Prêt immobilier – mortgage

Salle de bain – bathroom

Sale d’eau – shower room

Salon – dining room

Séjour – living room, lounge, sitting room

Société Civile Immobilière (SCI) – a company which can be set up exclusively to purchase property. Used often when several families are making a joint purchase.

Surface habitable – space in sq. meters that offers accommodation but excluding the bathroom and garage

T – Type (T3, T4) – property classification as to type and size. The number refers to room partitioning hence a T3 room will have 2 bedrooms and a living room

Taxe d’habitation – a government tax on property payable on a pro-rata basis

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