Three questions will be explained:
(a) Who is the Notaire?
(b) How are the contracts secured?
(c) How much are the Notaire’s fees?
(a) Who is the Notaire?
As seven years of law are necessary to graduate, the Notaire is the most qualified professional of the French legal system. The Notaire is both a Public Official and counsel. His qualifications allow him to efficiently advise his clients in specific areas of law such as Real Estate Law, Family Law and Corporate Law.
He is able to counsel clients on matters all over France without any restrictions. A Notaire from Paris can hence equally deal with an acquisition of a house on the French Riviera as well as supervise the purchase of a supermarket in Strasbourg or control an industrial plant in Northern France.
The French State confers to the Notaire an authentic power to legalize certain agreements such as Real Estate sales which cannot be enforced by any other means. This monopoly prevents almost any subsequent litigation concerning these contracts. However, the Notaire does not only draft and authenticate deeds. As today’s legal transactions are more and more complex, counselling clients is also a major function of a modern Notaire.
(b) How are the Contracts Secured?
The Notaire is deemed a Public Official with powers delegated by the State to authenticate the deeds he drafts and provide complete security to the contracts he supervises.
The authenticity of the deeds grants them an undisputable date and content in Court. The law imposes a personal liability on the Notaire for his professional acts which is more extensive than that of any other branch of the legal profession. Not only would the professional mistake be penalized immediately by a judge, but it would also mean that all of the Notaires would be held liable as they have a common insurance, providing an immediate financial guarantee to the client. The American investor is therefore facing a specialized lawyer fully liable for his deeds.
The Real Estate Registration system in France is highly efficient. It takes two months for a sale to be registered, and only the authentic deeds settled by the Notaire can be registered. The content of the deeds are controlled by both the Notaire and the Registration Authority. On one hand this procedure might seem long compared to an immediate transaction occuring in some other countries, but on the other hand it results in a lack of litigation concerning these agreements (0.5% per year on Real Estate transactions). Thus the Notaire has the task to both completely satisfy his clients and to impose some limits to their queries according to his Public Official status.
(c) How much are the Notaire’s fees ?
The fees concerning the contracts performed by a Notaire are fixed by Law. Neither the Notaire nor the clients may modify these specific fees. For instance the fees for a purchase of an apartment in Paris totals 0.825% of the price plus V.A.T. (19.6%). American and British clients undertaking a Real Estate transaction in France should be aware that if there are two Notaires, the fees are shared, therefore, retaining their own Notaire will not increase the professional fees, which are then shared by the two Notaires supervising the contract.
Concerning all the other deeds and the counsel fees, both are freely fixed with the client, as they are by American lawyers.