This used to be the normal procedure until Covid restrictions were enforced. It is now quite common for a Notary to prepare a proxy / power of attorney to buy or to sell (depending on the concerned party). By signing it, you would give him or his clerk the authority to sign on your behalf, as well as to undertake all the required formalities leading to the sale. The power of attorney is generally a summarised version of the title deed.
However, it is highly recommended to obtain a draft copy of the Title Deed so as to be aware of all the terms and conditions. This document is given to the Translator or the Interpreter prior to the signing of the Deed. As this is an important document, I would not recommend using an online translation tool due to the specific legal terms applicable under French law.
It is also true that most Notaries prefer to have a Translator or Interpreter present during the signing of the Title Deed as they need to be certain that all parties have clearly understood the various terms and conditions. It is not unusual for a bilingual estate agent to undertake this task. However, caution is needed here because they are acting on behalf of the seller. Notaries therefore ask their non-French speaking clients (or those not fluent in French) to hire a Translator (in other words, a neutral party) to assist them. Do refer to my article on the subject.
Documents required by the Notary:
Apart from a copy of your passport and a copy of your birth and marriage certificates (they may need to be translated), the Notary also asks the Seller for his latest land tax or « taxe foncière » bill. Property agencies also ask for this document as potential buyers are keen to know how much tax they would be paying for the property. On the day of signing the Title Deed, the Notary asks the buyer to reimburse a portion of this tax to the seller. The Notary calculates the amount based on a pro rata temporis basis, that is, from the date of ownership until the end of December of the current year. It is only the year after that the tax authorities shall send the bill to the new owner.
If the property was renovated less than 10 years ago, the Notary asks the seller to supply him with the planning permission documents, as well as professional builders’ invoices. Professionals in the building trade are obliged to subscribe to a 10 year building policy guaranteeing their workmanship. A recent certificate of conformity for the sewerage system (if not mains drainage) is required. If the system is not in conformity, the buyer is obliged to upgrade the system within a year of purchase. If the property has a fireplace, the seller is obliged to submit a recent chimney sweeping invoice.
The Notary shall send you your Title Deed approximately 6 months later – when all the registration formalities have been completed and the Title Deed signed by the Land Registry.
However, it is to be noted that after signing the Title Deed, the Notary will give the Buyer and the Seller two certificates each confirming the purchase or the sale with details of the property. One certificate comprises of the the selling price, whereas the other does not. This certificate is particularly useful as it would be required by utility and insurance companies for your subscriptions.
Please note that you are required to insure the property on the day or purchase and to open accounts with the utility companies. For the latter, you would need to obtain the meter readings which are normally carried out between the buyer and the seller on the day of signing the Title Deed.
If at any time you lose a copy of your Title Deed, it is good to keep in mind that the Notary is obliged to keep copies of all Deeds for up to 75 years.
Watch out for my forthcoming article on the selling process!