Part 1 - where to buy?
The French property-buying process is more straightforward than that in the UK, but it can still be nerve-wracking because of its unfamiliarity, especially if you don't speak French. The most important issue to bear in mind is that the sale becomes binding much earlier in the process than in Great Britain - gazumping is not generally a problem.
Part 2 - closing a deal
Creating a house in your own vision
If you want to be far from the madd(en)ing crowd, you can buy a plot and have a house built for you. The number of new builds in France is increasing by almost 50 per cent per year (the vast majority of them in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur).
Homes for the the elderly in France
Traditionally, the French expect to care for elderly relatives within the family unit (indeed adults are legally obliged to provide for their parents in old age, according to their means), so retirement homes (résidence pour retraités/seniors) are less common than in many other Western countries, although they’re becoming more usual: there are now around 5,000 retirement homes.
How to buy a mobile home in France
An increasing number of people – both French and non-French – are buying a mobile home (mobile-home), permanently installed on a French campsite, which can be an inexpensive way of obtaining a holiday home in France.
How to market your rentals in France
If you want to rent out your property in France, you’ll have to do a lot of marketing. But marketing is time-consuming (although it needn’t be costly).
The basic facts
The single most important element in successfully getting a mortgage in France is INCOME…
What's on offer in the region?
Moving to France is a dream for many Brits, and the South of France is undoubtedly top of many people’s dream destination. Whether looking to purchase a holiday home, retirement property or family home to begin a new life in France, southern France has something for everyone.
Safety checks on your property purchase in France
A number of safety checks may be desirable or even compulsory in certain cases. These include the following.
How to find a property in France
There are many ways of finding homes for sale in France; the main methods are listed here.
How to cover your property in France
Household insurance in France generally includes third-party liability, building and contents insurance, all of which are usually contained in a multi-risk policy (assurance multirisques habitation).
Quality standards and warranties
A ‘new’ house is generally defined as one built in the last five years, which is also the legal definition. Although new properties may lack the charm and character of older buildings (see above), they offer attractive financial and other advantages.
Reasons to buy a house in France
There are many excellent reasons for buying a home in France. It’s one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, if not the most beautiful, and has the most varied landscape, offering something for everyone: magnificent beaches for sun-worshippers; spectacular countryside for nature lovers; mountains and seas for sports fans.
Making money on your property in France
With prices rising faster than inflation in most areas and at several times the rate of inflation in many, French property is an attractive investment proposition, particularly in popular areas such as the Mediterranean coast and parts of Brittany and the west coast.
Think about where you want to live
The most important consideration when buying a home anywhere is usually its location – or, as the old adage goes, the three most important considerations are location, location and location!
Things to consider on your property purchase
The ‘best’ place to live in France depends on a range of considerations. Here you will find an entire list that will help you with this.
Reducing the risks
As when making all major financial decisions, give yourself time to think before buying a property in France and avoid doing something you might regret later.
What to know about viewing appointments
If possible, you should decide where you want to live, what sort of property you want and your budget before visiting France. Obtain details of as many properties as possible in your chosen area and make a shortlist of those you wish to view (it’s also wise to mark them on a map).
Property prices in France
Apart from obvious points such as size, quality and land area, the most important factor influencing the price of a house is its location. A restored or modernised two-bedroom house might cost €100,000 in a remote or unpopular area but sell for two or three times as much in a popular location.
What to bear in mind when bidding for property
The best property bargains can often be found at auctions (ventes aux enchères) – but this isn’t necessarily the case and you must know exactly what you’re doing; buying at auction isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Town houses, apartments and farms
For many foreign buyers, France provides the opportunity to buy a size or style of home that they could never afford in their home countries. In most areas, properties range from derelict farmhouses and barns to modern townhouses and apartments with all modern conveniences, from crumbling châteaux and manor houses requiring complete restoration to new luxury chalets and villas.
What to watch out for
In terms of the fees associated with buying a property, an ‘old’ property is one that’s over five years old that has already had at least one owner. However, the term ‘old home’ usually refers to a building that’s pre-second world war and possibly hundreds of years old and which is either in need of restoration and modernisation or has already been restored.
Shared properties in France
In France, properties with common elements (whether a building, amenities or land) shared with other properties are owned outright through a system called ‘co-ownership’ (copropriété), similar to owning a condominium in the US, but are referred to here as community properties to avoid confusion with part-ownership schemes such as timeshare.
Service fees for your French property
Owners must pay service charges for the upkeep of communal areas and for communal services. Charges are calculated according to each owner’s share of the development and not whether they’re temporary or permanent residents.
Buying a houseboat in France
France boasts extensive navigable waterways (rivers and canals), which are perfect for those whose ideal home is one that floats.
Making a living in France
A large number of residential properties are sold with a business such as a shop, farm, vineyard, hotel, restaurant or bar. The purchase of properties suitable for letting as gîtes or for use as bed and breakfast accommodation is discussed in Earning Money From Your French Home. The information in this section is a summary of the main points regarding buying a business property.
Checking up on your property
When you’ve found a property that you like, you should not only make a close inspection of its condition, even if it’s a fairly new building, but also ensure that ‘what you see is what you get’.
How to value a property in France
Although a survey isn’t legally required as part of the purchasing process, except for mandatory termite, lead and asbestos inspections, it’s strongly recommended before committing to a purchase.
French sewage systems
If the property is connected to a mains sewerage system, you’re fortunate! Most rural properties and many in small towns aren’t on mains drainage (tout à l’égout) and therefore have individual sewerage systems (officially termed une filière d’assainissement non collectif or autonome or a ‘non-collective or autonomous sanitary system’), which normally consist of a septic tank (une fosse septique toutes eaux or fosse toutes eaux or most commonly simply fosse septique).
What you should know
It’s common for foreign buyers to install a swimming pool at a home in France, which will greatly increase your rental prospects and the rent you can charge if you plan to let. Note that many self-catering holiday companies won’t take on properties without a pool. There are many swimming pool installation companies in France or you can buy and install one yourself.
Permissions, costs & more
Once you’ve decided to buy a property requiring renovation or restoration – a decision not to be taken lightly – there are a number of important checks to be made before committing yourself to a purchase.
How to buy property through a limited company
Buying a property in France through a limited company (which in turn could be owned by an offshore company) has certain advantages and may save you capital gains and inheritance tax.
A British way to buy in France
One purchase option to buy property in France (at least for UK residents) is to set up a trust. Although these aren’t recognised in France, they can be used to buy French property and may have certain advantages.
Property tax, wealth tax and capital gains tax
An important consideration when you’re buying a home in France, even if you don’t plan to live there permanently, is taxation, which includes property tax, wealth tax, capital gains tax (CGT) and inheritance tax.
Taxes on property rentals
Income tax is payable in France on rental income from a French property, even if you live abroad and the money is paid there. All rental income must be declared to the French tax authorities, whether you let a property for a few weeks to a friend or 52 weeks a year on a commercial basis.
Differences between ownerships and taxes
There are four types of local property tax (impôt local) in France: taxe d’habitation (referred to here as ‘residential tax’), taxe foncière (referred to as ‘property tax’), taxe assimilée (‘sundry tax’) and taxe professionelle (‘professional tax’).
Paying tax on your profits in France
Capital gains tax (impôt sur les plus-values) is payable on the profit from sale of certain assets in France, including antiques, art and jewellery, securities and property. Gains net of capital gains tax (CGT) are added to other income and are liable to income tax.
What you pay when transferring your property
As in most other Western countries, giving away your assets, either while you’re living or when you die, doesn’t free you (or your inheritors) from the clutches of French tax inspectors.
Taking care of the people you leave behind
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that you’re unable to take your hard-earned assets with you when you take your final bow. All adults should make a will (testament), irrespective of how large or small their assets.
Accommodations, bed and breakfast & gîtes
Many people planning to buy a holiday home in France are interested in owning a property that will provide them with an income to cover the running costs and help with mortgage payments (or to supplement a pension). The most common method of earning money from a property is to let all or part of it.
Rules & Regulations
Various rules and regulations apply to the letting of property in France and, if you’re planning to buy a community property, you must check whether there are any restrictions on letting.
Taking care of your property and guests
If you do your own letting, you will need to arrange for cleaning, maintenance and security, including pool cleaning and a gardener if applicable.
Options in France
Even in the south of France, there can be extremes of weather and winters can be cold. Unless you plan to visit a property only in the summer, you need to consider central heating, although air-conditioning is a luxury.
Price, presentation & estate agents
Before offering your home for sale, you should investigate the state of the property market. For example unless you’re forced to sell, it definitely isn’t recommended during a property slump when prices are depressed.
Electricity, gas, oil and wood
As well as electricity and gas, French homes use oil (fioul or fuel) and wood (bois) for heating and hot water, and the government offers tax credits for the installation of energy systems running on renewable fuel (e.g. wood and solar energy).
Standards, licences, cable & satellites
Before taking TV sets, VCRs, DVD players and radios to France, you should consider both costs and compatibility. There are few programmes in English on French TV (terrestrial, cable or satellite); occasionally, English-language films are shown in version originale with French subtitles (a good way of improving your French).
Travelling comfort makes the difference
When looking at current international property transactions you will notice that the time people spend travelling to their property is an important factor when making the decision in what country to buy property. Both the time travelling to France and within France is short compared with other popular countries, due to a good infrastructure and well functioning public transport. This, combined with a high level of comfort, is an important reason why people choose for French property.
Timeshare & Part-ownership
If you’re looking for a holiday home in France, you may wish to investigate a scheme that provides sole occupancy of a property for a number of weeks each year. Such schemes include part-ownership, leaseback and timeshare (or timesharing).
Tips on securing your property
Security is obviously an important consideration for anyone buying a home in France (or anywhere else), particularly if it’s a holiday home that will be unoccupied for long periods.