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When can I expect my money back from notaire in France?

Sarah Bright-Thomas of Bright Avocats answers a reader query on when notaires return any funds to the buyer after a house purchase in France

Reader question: We bought a house in France in summer 2020 and the estate agent said we can expect to get a cheque for a small amount from the notaire with some reimbursement of fees “frais”. Is this guaranteed, as we have not had anything six months on?

When you buy a house in France, the notaire’s fees are only an estimate of the costs, which are made up of three main categories, the property sales taxes and the notaire’s own share on top.

Under the French system, every property is different, so it is not possible to know in advance what the final fees will be (though professionals have a good idea).

Notaires are not allowed to pay these fees before they have been finalised, and they can only be finalised after the sale has gone through, so the fee you hand over to get the keys is an estimate.

Almost all notaires ask for a sum with a margin on top to avoid surprises.

The over-estimate is returned to the buyer, along with the final paperwork.

How long it takes is difficult to say, but the timescale is often linked to the notaire’s tax declaration.

So if you buy in March, the tax declaration is made in April and settled in September, the excess will probably arrive in October.

But if you buy just after the tax declaration, you might have to wait 18 months. The best advice is to phone the notaire and ask.

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