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What is the role of the Notaire?
The notaire is a public official with legal training (but different from a lawyer) who prepares and registers official acts such as wills and property ownership transfers. Notaires enjoy a very privileged and highly respected position in French society.
In the context of property sales, while the preliminary contract can be prepared by either the notaire or the estate agent, French law requires that this deed of sale be prepared by and signed by a notaire. The notaire plays a vital role in the closing process:
- Ensuring that the property being sold matches the title deeds and registry documents
- Establishing the identity of both parties (with the help of birth and marriage/divorce certificates)
- Ensuring that the seller is indeed the owner of the property to be sold
- Ensuring that there are no covenants other than those already mentioned in the preliminary contract that might adversely affect the property
- Searching the Land Registry with a view to establishing whether there exist any restrictions to the right of disposal of the property, such as easements or mortgages over the property
- If the property is mortgaged, ensuring that the purchase price will be sufficient to redeem the mortgage completely
- Obtaining from the local Town Hall a planning certificate showing the planning rules relevant to the property
- Informing any person or entity with preemption rights of the impending sale, so that they may decide whether they wish to purchase in the place of the buyer. In some areas of Paris, the city government has a right of preemption on any property sale.
- Calculating and collecting the stamp duties or purchase taxes, commonly known as “notaire fees”. A detailed breakdown of the notaire fees is provided below .
A notaire is different from a lawyer, since his primary role is to ensure that the transaction is legitimate and that the official requirements have been met. A good notaire, of course, is also an advocate for his client’s interests.
One notaire can represent both parties in the transaction, or each party can have their own notaire. The notaire’s total fee on the transaction is set by law, and is simply divided between the notaires if each party is represented separately. Having your own notaire is ordinarily advisable, and will not cost more than sharing one with the other party.
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