Of those that do take legal advice, many do so only after having paid a deposit and signed a contract or, more commonly, after they’ve run into problems.
Tip: The most important thing to do before buying property in France (or indeed anywhere) is to obtain expert, independent legal advice from someone who’s familiar with French law.
As when buying property in any country, you should never pay any money or sign anything without first taking legal advice in a language in which you’re fluent from an experienced lawyer. You will find that the small cost (in comparison to the price of a home) of obtaining legal advice is excellent value, if only for the peace of mind it affords. Trying to cut corners to save a few Euros on legal costs is foolhardy in the extreme when a large sum of money is at stake.
You may be able to obtain a list of lawyers who speak your language and are experienced in handling French property sales, either in France or in your home country, e.g. British buyers can obtain a list from the Law Society in the UK. Specialist lawyers advertise in Francophile newspapers and magazines.
There are professionals speaking English and other languages in all areas of France, and many expatriate professionals (e.g. architects and surveyors) also practise there. However, don’t assume that because you’re dealing with a fellow countryman he will offer you a better deal or do a better job than a French person (the contrary may be true). It’s wise to check the credentials of all professionals you employ, whether French or foreign.
It’s never wise to rely solely on advice proffered by those with a financial interest in selling you a property, such as a builder or estate agent, although their advice may be excellent and totally unbiased.