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compromis de vente legal standing


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we are in the process of selling our house here in france. we received a private (without immobilier) offer which, by email, we reluctantly accepted as it was lower than we were hoping for. we subsequently received a much better offer, prior to us signing the compromis with the original buyer, although by this time he had already signed. he is now threatening legal action on the basis that the email we sent to him agreeing to the price is legally binding. we are under the impression that the compromis de vente is the only legally binding document in this scenario and that both parties would have to have signed before the transaction is legally binding. could someone confirm this definitively?

thanks everso

a scared squidge x
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Where is Will when you need him.  I am not an expert on French law but I think too that a compromis is only binding when both parties have signed and that the buyer has had the statutory seven days cooling off period.  Perhaps I am wrong but if this happened the other side of the pond you would be home and dry although these things do happen perhaps the original buyer is now seeing a great bargain going away and that is why he is threatening.

I do not think as unhappy as he is that this will wash but Will will tell us!

This extra money must make a difference so just go to your Notaire explain to him and take his or her advice.  I would say not to worry but obviously we do!

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I lost a flat I wanted to buy 10 years ago when I had signed the compromis but the vendor hadn't, although he had agreed the price.

Another person faxed a better offer behind my agent's back (the property was on with several agents) and he refused to sign mine and signed a second one which the other agent sent him.

Your case would seem similar, but  the other way round.

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[quote user="dragonrouge"]

Where is Will when you need him  [/quote]

Away for work (and a very welcome break from the internet).

Dragonrouge is correct, a contract is not legally enforceable unless all parties have signed.

Although a disappointed buyer might take the matter to a tribunal, I don't think that there would be much chance of success. In the past, a deal became firm when sealed with a handshake or similar means, but European law has rather watered down old-fashioned contract laws. When a buyer can legally withdraw after signing, within the so-called 'cooling off period', it only seems fair that a seller can have a period of grace - in this case between the initial agreement and putting the signature on the contract.  

You may be regarded as something other than a gentleman for going back on the agreement, but that's life. In market conditions like these a buyer ought to be aware that any very low offer stands a chance of going through, but it is still only a chance as more realistic offers can still be received up to the time when all the signatures are on the contract.

The exception, in the case of a house sale, is when a sale is agreed at the price on the agent's mandat - i.e. at the asking price - and then it becomes a firm sale. The buyer can withdraw up to the end of the cooling off period, but the seller is bound by the agreement.

I am not a lawyer, so do take profesional advice if you are worried about this.

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Also not a lawyer but I am pretty sure that without your signature it cannot be enforced. When I was buying I read up on the process in several books and websites and the advice was clear cut, the deal is not done until all the signatures are in place ( and 7 days beyond that from the buyers perspecitive). Indeed that would be a core part of the argument - the 7 days 'cooling' off doesn't start until the last signature is in place so that is when the contract is formed.

If yo uare still concerned, I would have a chat to the notaire or even the agent who will know the exact law after all that is part of the notaires job.

I think that the threat of legal action is largely an empty one given that suing in france is difficult, expensive, unlikely to suceed and even if it did no money has changed hands so any amount of damages is likely to be limited.

If I was your dissapointed buyer I would probably try to bluster you into honouring the contract but would be aware that I was basically on a hiding to nothing.

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The 7-day extension applies only to the buyer - the seller's liability begins when he and the buyer have both signed the contract.

But that is academic in this case, as the seller implies he has not signed. It is also a private sale with no agent involved. So the seller has nothing to worry about.

It would be good to hear back from the original questioner to know whether or not things have progressed further.


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