Local authority & title searches
Once the compromis is signed, the notaire begins the legal process which includes the searches on the property: land registry rights to ownership, boundaries and rights of way.
To ensure that you have undisputed ownership of the property, the notaire will obtain a 30-year origin of title in your final conveyance deed. As a precaution, a clause should be included in your contract stating that if any inconvenient easements are discovered in these documents, you will have the right to withdraw.
It is important to know that in France the searches do not include looking at any private planning permissions that may exist near your house. To ensure your neighbor is not about to build a new house next to your boundary visit the local townhall (mairie) and ask to see the “plan local d’urbanisme (PLU)” (planning and zoning regulations) and about any recent planning application – or ask the agent to obtain this information for you.
Local authorities have the right by law to preempt the sale of a property which it would want to purchase - but has no legal means of doing so before the occurence of a private sale. For all properties, la mairie is notified of an upcoming sale, and tells the notaire about its lack of intent to purchase. For farming land, a specially purpose (very French) entity exists, called SAFER, which can preempt the sale of farming land, so as to resell it to farmers. But, whereas mairies usually react quite quickly, SAFER always takes it time. So you can speed the process up, down to a few days, by paying a "service charge" of about 200€.
At some point your agent, or the notaire, will advise you of the proposed date to sign the full contract – called the “acte authentique” or “acte de vente”. Try to attend the signing of the completion document, or arrange a power of attorney. Make sure to view the property on the day of the signing. The final contract has a clause saying, “Sold as seen on signing date”, so you need to know that the property is exactly as you expect it to be, and not with floors, walls or windows missing!