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5 things to consider before signing the sale agreement

Stone house in Luberon found with the help of a buying agent


When you've found the house of your dreams, you think you've done the hard part and inevitably relax your analysis in the hope of signing the sales agreement as quickly as possible. In reality, this is an important moment that you should use to the full to check the 'details' of your investment, especially in the case of a house where many elements are not known during viewings or from the joint owners' association.

Bearing in mind that you have an average period of 6 weeks between accepting your offer and signing the sales agreement, you should take advantage of this time to obtain all the information you can before you are legally bound. If you want to sign quickly but don't have the time, a good property hunter can help you.

Here are the 5 things you need to look at carefully before signing the sales agreement for your home :

Evaluating necessary work

If you've read my last article on this subject, you should look as closely as possible at the amount of potential work involved during the first visits. But it's a different matter to revisit when you're the only buyer (your offer having been accepted). So make the most of this opportunity to come back with your trusted tradesmen to get a more precise estimate of the work involved. Don't hesitate to check the building elements in detail, as they can quickly add up to the final price (roof, framework, walls, etc). This is the perfect time to clear up any potential doubts about your budget. This will allow you to plan ahead and sign the sales agreement with peace of mind.

Even if, in practice, you can revisit the property as many times as you like, try to group your visits together, as it's never a good idea to strain relations until the deed of sale has been signed.

Has the work been carried out to the required standard?

One of the main differences between buying a house and buying a flat is that a lot of work has often been carried out on the property, including the creation of new spaces (garage, veranda, pool house, etc.). In the case of older properties, this has often been done in small stages. So make the most of these weeks to ask the selling owners all your questions, because they're in the best position to tell you all about it and, above all, to provide you with all the relevant documents. There are 2 main situations to be aware of:

Damage or defects

It is essential to obtain the invoices for any structural work carried out in the last 10 years, as well as the ten-year guarantee from the companies concerned. This will enable you to call on people who know the site or, in the worst case, to turn against them if necessary. It will also enable you to check the seriousness and potential solidity of the work. If, unfortunately, you don't get them, glean the available documents and see if there is any significant risk.

Checks by the authorities

When it comes to outbuildings or extensions built on the land, the issue is also administrative and fiscal: any construction must be declared and entered in the land register. Property tax depends on these factors, among others. Major additions must comply with the Local Planning Scheme (local urban development plan) and be subject to specific procedures, otherwise you may be required to demolish the property. So it's worth insisting on obtaining the documents proving these steps and declarations. After that, it doesn't have to be prohibitive, but you're buying with full knowledge of the facts.

Are there any easements and what kind are they?

Here's another notable difference between buying a flat and buying a house: discovering an easement in the flat you're buying is very surprising and prohibitive. On the other hand, finding an easement on the grounds of a house is very common. This is usually a historic plot of land that has been modified following the construction of a garage to allow the passage of a vehicle.

It is essential to understand the ins and outs of the easements on your future plot of land: check that it is not constructible to avoid unpleasant surprises, or that it cannot be cancelled because it will be more complicated to drive over it with your car. When granting rights of way to neighbours, it's a good idea to check that the land is always well maintained and that the easement doesn't encroach on the rest of the property either.

Is the house connected to mains drainage?

You will normally have been told at the time of the visit whether the house has a septic tank or whether the pipes are connected to the mains sewage system. In the first case, you need to obtain the compliance documents, which will enable you to anticipate any additional maintenance costs that may not be visible. As with structural work, this can add up quite quickly. I would also encourage you to check the history of the installations, as there are many pits that have not been enlarged even though the number of bedrooms and bathrooms has increased. You could be in for a surprise in your garden during your summer holidays.

Is the house connected to mains water or a borehole?

It may seem surprising when you come from a flat, but houses are not always supplied with mains water. In Provence, for example, a good proportion of houses are supplied only by a borehole that draws water from a water table or a spring on the local hill.

As with a septic tank, it is compulsory to obtain a certificate of maintenance for your borehole. Even beyond the administrative considerations, it's important to ask about the quality of the water over the long term. Vendors will probably tell you that they've never had a problem since they were little, but with the recent dry summers and the current trend, you have every right to wonder. Find out where the nearest town water access point is, because that's where you'll have to connect to if you change your mind, at your own expense.

A buying agent could help anticipating the signing of the sales agreement

Once you've found your home, it's essential to check a few points before you commit yourself legally, and to sign your sales agreement as calmly as possible. Take advantage of the relationship you've established with the sellers to finalize your budget for the works, gather together all the documents and administrative declarations and understand any easements.

A property hunter will be invaluable in these analyses, both for his experience and ability to identify issues and for his willingness to follow up sellers.


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