Technology and the Notarial Profession
Volume XIX, Issue 14
I’ve been working with a Notaire since my first personal real estate acquisition in the year 2000. He was recommended to me by an American because he spoke English. We’ve been working with him and his ever-growing firm ever since. Of course, their firm is now not the only firm we work with, as we employ a local notarial office in Nice for properties in the south of France and have employed others in Paris according to their skills.
The role of the French Notaire is something I have written about often in the past and is also described on the official notarial website. His role does not resemble that of a U.S. notary, but does, in effect, replace the role of a title company, if you want to compare it to the U.S. system.
The notarial taxes and fees a buyer pays when purchasing a property amounts to about seven percent to eight percent and one might think that the Notaire pockets a lot of money. But in truth, the taxes amount to 8/10th of the total, leaving the Notaire with only 1/5th of the total to all costs and their own remuneration. If two Notaires are involved, representing the buyer and seller independently, then they share in that amount, leaving them each with very little considering the amount of work they do to manage the transaction and collect the taxes on behalf of the State. I have never begrudged them these fees as a result.
Read all about the fees on the official website.
Things have changed a lot since that first signing of mine in the year 2000. The documents were typed out with multiple pages. Every page had to be initialed and others needed to be signed. My writing hand would get worn out during one session and I wondered if that’s why the French had adopted very simple signatures that looked more like a quick squiggle than a name. As technology improved, so did the sophistication of the system. Within a few years, big flat screens would project the document so that copies of multi-page documents didn’t need distribution around the table. Then an electronic signature was possible, with the wave of a wand on a pad, requiring once, not dozens of times. That was already a big improvement!
In today’s world, it’s quite a bit different, especially with the advent of Covid-19 when buyers couldn’t be present in their offices to sign in person. The decree n° 2020-1422 dated November 20, 2020 established a remote notarized power of attorney. The Notaire can now establish a power of attorney via an electronic system that guarantees security and confidentiality when one or all of the parties cannot be present. These notarized proxies now facilitate remote, absentee signings in a completely secure way.
It requires some special equipment, but the Notaires are rising to the occasion…as they should. They must have an up-to-date computer equipped with a webcam, microphone, and speakers, an up-to-date Internet browser, a good speed Internet connection and the videoconferencing session must be of good quality for the Notaire to receive your consent. A personal email address to receive signature notifications sent by the Notaire, access to an electronic mail application that manages your personal email, a mobile phone to receive text messages and a scanned front/back color copy or the original of a valid identity document (such as a passport) are also necessary. The Notaire can not use the videoconferencing system of his choice—only a secure system approved by the profession in keeping with the decree. (This means no Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime, or others we might love for our personal use!)
I suspect that this is here to stay, and we can thank the pandemic for the advance in technological implementation in a realm that had been old school for a very long time! To learn more about it in great detail, visit the French Notaires site.
The Chambre de Notaires de France just published its Annual Report of 2020, listing its activities that are part of its “raison d’être.” Monsieur David Ambriosiano, president of the Conseil Supérieur du Notariat (CSN) said, “This year of 2020 was not only one of great upheavals linked to the epidemic, it was the boost for a new impetus to modernize the profession. With the Convention of 2021-2024 objectives signed with the State on October 8th, this 2020 vintage devotes four years of efforts and developments under the direction of my predecessors.” (Translation from “Cette année 2020 n’a pas seulement été celle de grands ébranlements liés à l’épidémie. Elle a été le coup de fouet pour un nouvel élan de modernisation de la profession. Avec la Convention d’objectifs 2021- 2024 signée avec l’Etat le 8 octobre, ce millésime 2020 consacre quatre années d’efforts et d’évolutions sous la direction de mes prédécesseurs.”)
Download the PDF of the complete annual report.
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. For those of you at home and dreaming of a move to France, or even a property purchase, I’m at home, too, again, and happy to connect with you on Skype or by phone. We can talk about a strategy to change and enrich your life by living or investing here. To schedule your time, contact us today!