Do Your Research
France is a perennially popular tourist destination with beautiful and varied countryside, plenty of space, and a rich gastronomic heritage. If you’ve ever considered buying a holiday home in France you should do plenty of research and be prepared to commit the time and effort required to find the perfect place.
Do Your research. France is a beautiful country with varied landscapes and climates and lots of possibilities to buy holiday homes. Perhaps you want to live near the beach in the south of France, or near the Alps or Pyrenees mountains, or the great open expanses of the Massif Central. A holiday home is a major financial commitment and something that can give you a lot of pleasure, so take your time to explore the country and find out where you like best.
- Think about the local culture, especially the food and drink.
- Also consider the more practical things like transport links and affordability.
- Try to keep an open mind and see what places you feel most at home in.
Rent holiday homes first.
Once you have come up with a few towns or areas that you like most in France, it’s sensible to rent a holiday home to get a feel for what it would be like to stay there. You might fall in love with a place if you just spend a night or two there, but spending a week or longer will give you a better idea of the daily life and culture.
- You might discover that in practice it’s just too far from the sea, or the local wine isn’t to your liking.
- Try to talk to people in the area and get a feel for what it would be like to have a holiday home there.
- Try to visit at the time of year that you would envisage spending in your holiday home.
- This way you will get a good idea of the local climate and how busy or quiet it gets at different times of the year.
Read up on property market trends. You should spend some time researching property market trends in the different regions of France, as part of your research. Determine which areas are on an upwards curve, and which are on a downwards curve. Depending on your budget and your intentions, this information might help you to focus your search more closely.
- If you are looking to buy as an investment you might favour somewhere where the market is buoyant.
- If you are looking for a cheaper option to enjoy without thinking too much about a potential drop in value, a region with falling prices might be a more appealing option.
- You can access up-to-date quarterly figures for each area online.
Choosing Your Holiday Home
Determine your budget. Spend some time coming up with a firm budget before you start looking too closely at different property options. Your budget should not just cover the price of the property, but also any likely renovations, as well as all the fees and taxes that you will have to pay. Prices vary widely, but it is possible to get a village cottage or terrace for around €100,000. A one or two bedroom apartment in a small town may be available for €50,000.
- A larger house with multiple bedrooms and a swimming pool will cost upwards of €200,000.
- An apartment in a less popular ski-resort could be available for €150,000.
- You may find a run-down old rural cottage for as little as €25,000, but the renovation costs are likely to eat into your budget.
- Make a list – After you have selected the area you would like to focus on, and have a clear idea about your budget, it’s time to draw up some criteria to work from.
- There are all sorts of thing you could include on your criteria, and it will depend on what you are looking for from your holiday home.
- Accessibility: determine what kind of public transport links you will require. Is there a convenient airport? Is there a train station with good connections?
- Amenities: think about what local shopping and entertainment options there are. Will you have to drive everywhere, or are there things within walking distance?
- Climate: do you want someone hot, or milder in the summer?
- Community: are you looking to live amongst expats, or do you want to immerse yourself in the local culture? Speaking French and getting involved in local cultural activities will really help you feel at home.
- Crime: is there a high rate of burglaries in the area? Think about the risks if you’re going to be away from the property a lot. Making friends with neighbours who can keep an eye on everything can be a big help.
- Parking: if you are looking for a place in town, is there adequate space to park your rental car on the street or in a garage?
Are You making the Pieces Fit?
Drawing up some criteria will help you and whoever you are buying with come up with shared ideas about what your holiday home will be. It’s important that you communicate clearly and everyone has a common vision. If you want a house in the country, but your husband wants a city-centre apartment, you will have to work on a compromise.
Make a long list. Look through brochures and websites to build up a long list of properties you might be interested in. Doing this will help you get an idea of average prices in the area you are looking at, without you needing to be on the ground. It’s important to be thorough at this stage to make your actual viewings as efficient as possible.
Some of the best places to look for property in France include:
- Newspapers and magazines: if you are in France, national and local newspapers will have extensive property sections. There are specialist weekly property newspapers in France to look through. General property and retail magazines in your home country will also have listings.
- The internet: the internet is the easiest and most efficient way to access the vast arrays of properties for sale in France. Look for specialist websites and the sites of French real estate agents.
- Property exhibitions: keep an eye out for property exhibitions being held near you. Often developers will hold events showcasing the properties they have available.
Make a shortlist
Whittle down your list to a more manageable number before you plan a trip over to France to view the properties. Time will be tight if you have lots of place you want to look at, so you will have to be fairly firm when you are making your shortlist. Think about which properties meet the most of your criteria and work best within your budget.
- Build a consensus amongst everybody involved and make sure there is something for everyone.
- Don’t rush these decisions, and bear in mind that it might all change again once you actually go to view the properties.
Book Viewing Appointments
Book appointments through internet agents before you go if you have limited time to view. Agents can arrange for you to see the properties from the books of several agents immobiliers, (French estate agents) in one short visit. If you have more time, it makes sense to go visit the agents immobiliers individually as otherwise you will be restricted to the limited number of agents immobiliers that the Internet agent has an arrangement with.
- French Estate agents’ offices are now so common in France that you will find them even in some of the smallest towns.
- As the purchaser, you will normally have to pay their fees but they are often included in the asking price.
- If they are included, the price should have the letters F.A.I. attached, (Frais d’Agence Inclus).
View the properties. You should always try to view each property you are considering yourself, and preferably at least twice. Keep in mind that photographs can trick the eye, so it’s important that you see it for yourself and are able to actually walk around the property. Think about the location in relation to local amenities, and how easy it is to get to. Drive there yourself, and consider the surroundings as well as the property itself.
- Is the area more busy and built-up than you would like, or is it too remote and quiet?
- Are there busy and loud roads within earshot?
- Can you easily walk to local shops, or will you need to drive?
- Is there plenty of light and sun, and how private is any outdoor space?
Now it’s time to actually decide which property you want to go for. Talk it through with everybody and come to an agreement. Try to find a balance between what everybody is looking for and what properties meet most of your criteria. If you are uncertain, try to visit the properties again and make sure you have all the information you need. Before you make an offer, you should be able to answer the following questions:
- When was it built?
- Has it been used as a holiday home or a permanent home?
- How long have the owners lived there, and why are they selling?
- How long has it been on the market?
- Does it require any work or renovations?
- What is the neighbourhood like?
- What are the local property taxes?
- How realistic is the asking price?
Hire a Property Lawyer
Employ a chartered building surveyor if you require a survey. The French do not generally have a tradition of having surveys done when purchasing a house, but you can engage a chartered building surveyor to give you a report on the condition of the property. If you don’t speak French, there are some British surveyors working in France, type chartered building surveyors France into any search engine for a selection.
- Be wary of businesses who are not chartered building surveyors, such as those that are chartered valuation surveyors may appear as ‘sponsored links’.
Understand the role of the notaire. The legal aspects of the house purchase are handled by a notaire. He or she is a state employee, responsible to the government for the correct transfer of ownership and collection of associated fees and taxes. The vendor will certainly have their own notaire, but you should always appoint one to act on your behalf.
- The fees do not change, and the two notaires will split the work and the fee, so there is no reason at all not to have two notaires involved.
- As with the agent immobilier, the purchaser normally has to pay the notaire’s fees.
- Keep in mind that, although you are paying their fees, neither the agent immobilier nor the notaire are working for you or exclusively representing your interests.
- Notaire fees will typically be around 7-9% of the purchase price of the property.
Negotiate on price.
In most instances, sellers are prepared to negotiate on price. If the property is a little above your budget, don’t be put off from putting in a lower offer to start with. As with any negotiation, it helps to have as much information and understanding as possible. For example, if you know that the property has been on the market for a long time and prices in the area have been on a downward trend, this will strengthen your position.
- Don’t expect big reductions, however. On average prices tend to come down by not more than 3% in negotiations.
- Ask your agent for advice on how much to offer, but understand that she may not be able to suggest a price is she is working for the vendor too.
Make an offer. Once you have a price, make an offer to the vendor. In France, if you make an offer with clear main terms, and the vendor accepts, a contractual commitment is considered to have arisen. You may then also be asked to make a formal written offer. Always ensure that your offer is conditional on a formal sale and purchase contract being prepared.
- A deposit should never be asked for or paid at the time an offer is made. This should only happen once sale and purchase contract has been agreed and signed.
Familiarise yourself with your rights under the French system. After signing the initial contract, the compromis de vente for instance, you as the purchaser have a seven-day cooling off period during which you can change your mind and withdraw your offer, unless you are considered to be investing in property as a business. You should also ensure that there are clauses in the compromis de vente that will dissolve the contract in case of problems.
- Visit the property on the way to the notaire’s office to check that nothing has changed before you sign the final contract, (acte de vente).
- The acte de vente states that the property is sold as it exists on the day of the signing