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The property sale agreement: can you change your mind?

Posted by Sextant Properties on December 15, 2020

You have just bought or sold a property and you have just left the notary’s office after signing the famous compromise. Suddenly a bolt of lightning passes through you! You’ve made a mistake, it’s not what you want. In the midst of your cold sweats, you have a thousand questions. Don’t panic, here are the conditions under which you can withdraw.

Who can retract?

The answer is simple: buyers have the right to exercise a right of withdrawal, unlike sellers. While it is indeed possible to buy a property on the spur of the moment, putting it up for sale takes time. It necessarily takes days, weeks or even months to think about it. Adding a cooling-off period therefore seems superfluous. So if you have just signed a purchase agreement, don’t panic and assert your rights.

What is the procedure for withdrawing and when?

Legislation provides, through the Macron Law of 6 August 2015, for a period of ten days (as opposed to seven previously) to notify the notary that you wish to cancel the sale. The period runs from the day after the signature if you signed face to face, or from the day after the first presentation of the registered letter at home if the formalities were carried out remotely.

The buyer does not need to give any reasons for his wish: all he has to do is send the notification of his withdrawal to the seller or intermediary by registered letter. The date of dispatch of the registered letter is the date used to justify the withdrawal period, not the date of receipt by the seller. If the deadline falls on a weekend or public holiday, it is extended to the next working day.

What are the financial consequences of withdrawal?

It is common practice to pay a sum of money when signing the preliminary sales agreement, in order to “reserve” the property with certainty. Cancellation of the compromise leads to the reimbursement of this sum, and the seller cannot claim any compensation for the damage suffered as long as the ten-day period is respected. You can assert this right by mentioning it in your registered letter, specifying that article L271-2 of the Construction Code authorises you to do so.

Normally, no advance payment can be made before the end of the cooling-off period if you sign a compromise directly with the seller. However, it is common practice to do this when you call on the services of a notaire or estate agency. You should be aware that the professional has 21 days to return the funds to you from the notification of cancellation.

Finally, if you wish to cancel the sale after the legal deadline, the sums paid may be retained by the seller. The seller may then claim damages and interest from you.

A property purchase is an important act in view of the sums involved, so it is logical that the law allows a certain amount of flexibility in this decision. As a seller, we advise you to discuss with the potential buyer his or her motivations and financial situation. Anyone can change their mind, but this will limit the risk that you have uncorked the champagne for nothing!

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