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Buy a Property in France: everything you need to know

The vast majority of those looking to buy a property in France will have spent some time in France and become enchanted with the scenery, culture and food & wine. Many initially buy a property in France to spend the holidays away from their native countries and enjoy some great weather, ski or relax.

property in France

Holiday homes in France can be very well priced, subject to the area. With prices usually increasing the closer the property is to a significant town, city or indeed the sea.

Popular areas to buy a property in France

Native French property buyers have a list of requirements that may differ from foreign property buyers and, therefore, for the most part, typically buy in the city or town locations. Most properties are purchased in the following areas-

  • Paris
  • Lyon
  • Bordeaux
  • Nice
  • Aix-en-Provence
  • Rennes
  • Strasbourg
  • Nantes

International property buyers typically buy properties in more rural locations where significant towns and cities are 45 mins to 2 hours drive away.

The property market in France

 

Regardless of the challenging operating conditions (seen globally), plus the assistance of French-State ensured loans, banks have continued to play their “solvency role”. This bank support is confirmed by the steady development in new residence borrowing at a rate of +5.5% in October 2020, amidst a mild decrease in renegotiations of property loans.

This market trend is anticipated to be supported further in 2021, driven initially by rates of interest continuing to be low and falling progressively since July 2020 thanks to the action taken by the European Central Bank (ECB).

Should you buy or rent in France?

The choice of whether to buy or rent in France will be down to your circumstance. If, for example, you only plan to stay in the area for six months, it might be pointless to buy. Likewise, suppose you are unsure of the country or region. In that case, it could be sensible to rent, primarily as accommodation can be sourced from as little as €400 per month.

However, if you have planned your retirement and set your heart on an area in France, you have visited countless times. Buying will appear less of a risk, especially if you already have relatives or a friendship circle close.

Where expats buy property in France

UK Expats tend to purchase old stone properties or new build villas rather than smaller homes in cities or large towns. Popular areas include Normandy and Brittany due to their close location to the UK. Charente and the Dordogne provide excellent weather, value for money and a picturesque backdrop. The Occitanie region of France is also very desirable due to good airport service, proximity to southern Europe and access to mountains and sea.

Property prices in France

Property prices in France can vary dramatically, with the average property costing under €100,000 in areas such as

  • Orne
  • Allier
  • Nièvre
  • Indre
  • Haute-Marne

At the other end of the scale, properties that command the most significant premium are found in the following areas

  • Paris
  • Alpes-Maritimes
  • Haute-de-Seine
  • Haute-Savoie

In 2019 property sales in France hit record numbers due to better economic confidence and historic low-interest rates. Newbie property investors have also flooded the market and capitalised from the low-interest rate levels.

Top tips when buying a property in France?

There are numerous things to be conscious of when purchasing in France, especially if this is your first international purchase.

French property’s choice: Once you’ve committed to buying a home in France, if the property doesn’t fit the bill, you will lose money if you wish to resell. This sale process may take some time as typically; the French market isn’t as buoyant as many others. It’s worth asking the following. Is the location suitable for our needs? Can we manage the land? Can we manage the land when we get older? Can we drive to everything we need? Will the property be suitable when we are elderly? Is the property easy to access? Can we afford to run the property as pensioners?

The worst possible situation is finding yourselves owning a French property that you have issues travelling to, can’t sell and drains you of money. The location and town must also suit your needs. Will there be enough to amuse you for multiple years? Do you feel you have enough knowledge of the area? Are flights to the local airport regular? Are family likely to visit you?

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Seek legal guidance: Whilst many will go along with the advice of their estate agents, a large purchase is always worth seeking legal counsel. An English-speaking French legal advisor can relieve you of much uncertainty and clarify any points you might be uncertain about.

Renovation dream or demolition nightmare? If embarking as many do, renovating your French property, be sure to get a quotation or ‘devis’ for the work before committing to purchase. Building costs can be prohibitive in France, and certain projects often spiral out of control. We always suggest getting an independent quotation and always ensure the builder has the required certificates.

Manage your foreign exchange transfer correctly: Once your offer has been accepted. You should enlist the services of a foreign exchange broker to oversee the money transfer to France, or at least provide an idea of the savings. Buying a French property will typically take 90-100 days to complete, and the timing of your money transfer is vital. A broker will guide you towards the best moment to exchange your currency, potentially saving you thousands.

Can foreigners buy in France?

Foreign buyers are very welcome in France, and there are no current restrictions on individuals buying a property in France. If you are a non-EU resident, you may encounter a few more hurdles if relocating to France, but buying a second home should not be an issue.

The buying process is the same, and those buying a second home in France should still expect to complete it within 90-100 days. Mortgage criteria will be different compared to EU nationals, and banks willing to lend will be slightly more limited.

Is now a good time to buy a property in France 

It’s late October 2020. We are currently in the pandemic, seeing many French city residents look further afield for more space and fewer neighbours. The French property markets have been very buoyant over the last few years, with 2019 seeing record numbers of property transactions. Areas which have appreciated the most include Paris, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Poitiers and Nantes. COVID could see buying trends change, but as things stand, towns and cities currently outstrip more rural locations.

Cost of  buying a property in France

Some of the most considerable costs except for the house when buying in France are the following.

Notaires costs: this roughly equates to 7-8% of the French property value and will be deducted from the funds you transfer upon completion.

Estate agent fees: French estate agents fees can typically range from 5-8% and should always be a point of negotiation. They are also payable by the buyer.

Independent lawyer and translator cost- these can run up to €3500, subject to the complexity of the purchase.

Removal costs – will be utterly dependent on how belonging you have and how far the items are being shipped. Reputable companies include SantaFE, Britannia Removals and Gerson relation.

Best places to live in France

Many think about the seven finest places to reside in France to be: Paris, Brittany, Lyon, Montpellier, Luberon, Dordogne, as well as Provence. These choices are based on what we believe will matter most to those thinking about moving. Look into the table below for our recap, as well as read on for additional detail!

City or Area and the key attractions or benefits

Paris

Best for nightlife

Brittany

Best for affordability

Lyon

Best for food and drink

Montpellier

Best for families

Luberon

Best for countryside/ most picturesque

Dordogne

Best for retirement

Provence & Cote d’azur

Best for beaches

  

Associated costs of buying in France

Overall French property buying costs and fees can be as low as 2% of the price of the French residential property. However, they can be as high as 20%. Typically, a potential property buyer can expect to pay around 7-10% of the building’s price on a resale home. Newbuilds fees are cheaper at about 2-3% on a brand-new build (less than five years old), leaving out estate agent charges which typically vary from 2-8%.

Newbuild property or resale?

The advantages of buying a newbuild French property include a smaller deposit of 5% (10% for French resale property) and lower Notaire’s fees and taxes ranging between 2.5% and 3.5% (6% -10% for French resale property). However, many buyers are drawn to France by rustic properties and the dream of renovating a property in need of TLC. Resales easily make up the lion share of French property sales.

Most expensive cities in France

Frances most expensive cities to buy resale property include

  • Paris – €10,690 median resale property price per M2
  • Lyon – €4,750 median resale property price per M2
  • Nice – €4,050 median resale property price per M2
  • Bordeaux – €4,220 median resale property price per M2
  • Marseille – €2,550 median resale property price per M2

*Prices taken from sale prices of resale properties in Q4 2020 

Least expensive Cities in France

France most cost-effective cities to buy resale property include

  • Metz ­- €2,120 median resale property price per M2
  • Nimes – €224,800 median resale property price per M2
  • Montpellier –€2,860 median resale property price per M2
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*Prices taken from sale prices of resale properties in Q4 2020 

 

Buying your perfect property in France

Everyone’s idea of the perfect property in France is 100% subjective. Many will attempt to describe their picture-perfect French property. The agent will frantically try to locate a property in their portfolio that fits the bill. However, we feel the critical elements to finding the French property are the following …..

Price – finding something that fits your budget and won’t become a financial burden in later life or harder times.

Managing your French property – whilst having extensive land is appealing, will the appeal of cutting several hectares of grass in 25-30c heat be as appealing? Therefore it might be worth budgeting for someone to assist with your French property maintenance.

Room – is there enough accommodation for all the family, or is there too much. Striking the perfect balance is critical.

Running costs – will the tax foncieres and tax d’habitation become too much?

Do you want an older property? Are you willing to commit to an older property and the unexpected maintenance and renovation costs?

Location – whilst a recurring theme and somewhat of a cliché, the perfect house will undoubtedly be in the best place for your needs.   

Searches and surveys for a property in France

Property surveys in France can be considered slightly less detailed than those in other countries. The survey will typically cover the following –

Asbestos – A report on the existence or otherwise of products or items, including asbestos (aminate). This rule relates to residential or commercial properties given planning authorisation earlier than 1st July 1997.

Lead – A report on the visibility or otherwise of paintwork that contains lead. This study requirement applies to all residential or commercial properties built before 1949. the report is known as constat de risque d’exposition au plomb – CREP

Termites – A record of the existence of termites and other similar destructive bugs in the building. Typically, more appropriate in southern France, where the concern of termites is a lot more noticeable.

Energy Efficiency – A record of the home’s power efficiency is required to provide the future owner with some indication of the most likely level of energy intake and heating costs. The report should be executed before marketing the home, so it must be published on the property advert. If unavailable, request details before lodging an official property purchase offer. the report is called Diagnostic de Performance Energétique – DPE.

Natural or Industrial Risks – A record on any natural or industrial threats to which the French property might be prone, together with an affirmation by the seller on any previous insurance policy claim(s) on the building relating to a natural catastrophe. These can consist of flooding or a building’s distance to dangerous chemicals or plants. This is known as L’état des risques naturels, miniers et technologiques (ERNMT).

Gas Installations – A report on a natural gas installation (installations de gas) in the home. It applies to French properties where the gas setup has been installed in the last fifteen years. This survey is called un état de l’installation intérieur de gaz

Electrical Wiring – A record on the state of the power supply in the French property, applicable when the electrical wiring installation is over 15 years old. The electricity report is valid for three years, helpful if the sale is delayed or falls through. The survey and report is called un état de l’installation intérieure d’électricité.

Septic Tanks – A record of a septic tank system’s working state for French properties that do not have the main drainage. This report has been applicable since 1st January 2011. The local government department now requires all Mairie to evaluate all sewage-disposal tanks in their area and ensure for owners bring them up to the required standard.

Radon – In those locations covered by or a location where a plan de prévention des risques is prevalent, as specified by law, a potential radon risk exists, the buyer has to be informed of the presence of the danger. This requirement has been in the area considering that 1st July 2018.

Geotechnical Survey – In connection with the sale of constructible land, vendors must supply a geotechnical report (étude géotechnique). This report must be executed, but just in those areas considered a moderate or high threat from ground movement.

Those seeking a more in-depth structural survey or approval should research a property surveyor online. A handful based in France that can assist and forums will advise whether the surveyor is reputable.  

Transferring money to buy a property in France

Whether purchasing a new build or resale property in France, you will almost certainly need to send a deposit and final money transfer to complete the property.

Once you’ve found your dream property in France, you’ll need to enlist the services of a foreign exchange broker to arrange the money transfers to France. Subject to your project, there will be two or more payments that need to be made. A foreign exchange broker can expedite these funds once your account is open. You have the bank details for the Notaire who is representing you in France.

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The first money transfer will need to take place roughly ten days after the ‘compromis de vente’, the ten days allows for cooling off and either party to stop the sale or purchase.

The second will generally take place 30- 60 days later. It will need to be made a few days before completing the property purchase. This final transfer will be the more significant money transfer to France. It will typically be 90-95% of the property value for a cash buyer or 30%+ if the buyer is using a mortgage to finance the property purchase.

If purchasing with a mortgage, a foreign exchange broker will also have the ability to offer a regular payment plan to transfer money regularly and pay the euro mortgage in France.

Opening a bank account in France to buy a home

To open an account in your region with an English-speaking provider such as the service supplied by AXA Bank, you will the following documents as a minimum. Although please be aware requirements can vary, with each branch setting its criteria.

– Image ID– passport or picture ID drivers’ permit

– Documents on your residency condition

– Your address or future address – you can utilise a copy of your ‘compromis de vente’ if you haven’t completed your property deal.

Sometimes, you might be requested to provide a cash deposit for the account or referral from your French employer

To create a French savings account, you will have to meet the standards to be accepted.

  • Be over the age of 18 years of ages.
  • Are a resident in a nation where the financial institution accepts applications.
  • Numerous, as an example, choose not to take care of those beyond Europe.
  • Pass through France regularly or are intending to acquire property shortly.

Legal advice when buying a property in France

The legal advice you will require will depend on the type of property you are looking to purchase. The time France and whether you are buying to lease or with other parties. Many buyers will consult with a Nortaire in France. However, it is always worth consulting with a legal expert to overseas the purchase, especially on significant property purchases. 

Getting a mortgage for a property in France

As a non-resident or expatriate, there are many mortgages brokers and banks that will be more than happy to finance your French property purchase. Lending typically requires a 30% deposit, and interest rates can be fixed very far ahead in the future. For many foreigners purchasing a property in France with a mortgage can be a no brainer, with the ability to offset tax and benefit from historic low-interest rates proving too good to resist.

Experts such as Mitchell Johnson, French Riviera Mortgages and France Home Finance can scour the market for a solution that best fits your needs and budget.

Is buying a property in France a good investment?

Whilst most foreigners or expats buying in France are more motivated by the lifestyle change than asset appreciation if the cautious wise investment can be made through the property. For example, Rennes property prices rocketed 20.5% between January 2018 and 2020, Nantes by 14.8% and Toulouse by 11.8%.

This upward property price momentum was seen in other towns and cities, with a higher demand for apartments and houses. Meaning desirable areas are shifting, and the suburbs are also seeing lifts in prices.

Moving your furniture to your property in France

Several companies can help move your furniture to France once you’ve found your dream house in France. When finding a removal company, please ensure research is done, and they can fulfil the following-

  • They apply no hidden fees, and the price quoted remains the same
  • Your goods are covered up to their value, and any breakages are covered
  • Once loaded, you have a point of contact both at the depot and on route
  • The company selected if on trust pilot or has recommendations/testimonials to supply

Always ensure that a full quotation is provided beforehand and that the move isn’t guesstimated over the phone,  

Can I rent out my property in France?

Renting property both on a seasonal term or full term is common in France. If you are located overseas, it’s worth enlisting the services of a keyholder or agent to collect rent and or perform holiday changeovers. Dedicated companies such as Prestige property management can help with the management of short terms lets year round and cover the majority of France.

It’s worth also contacting an accountant to advise on your tax declaration to ensure you pay taxes correctly.

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