This article aims to offer you some insights into finding the right property in your ideal French location, and provide some advice on the process of buying a property in France.
Finding the right area in France
All 13 regions of France have something different to offer, and each comes with its own culture, character and climate. Brittany’s Celtic traditions and milder climate make it an ideal location for those looking for something close to the UK, while the coastal regions of Languedoc offer sandy beaches and Mediterranean climates more familiar with its Spanish neighbour. Whether its hot summers, skiing or just good wine you’re looking for, there are regions in France that will suit everyone.
If you don’t already have an idea of your perfect French location, it’s very easy to start your research online, there are a huge number of resources available and lots of useful articles written by expats living in France. These will help to give you a good sense of the area.
One thing to bear in mind is how convenient it is to travel to and from your chosen area. Is it easy, cost effective and time efficient? This will quickly become apparent when planning your viewing trip. Google maps is a handy online tool to determine the nearest airport, travel links and even local amenities.
Planning your property viewing trip
When planning your property viewing trip, make sure that you have narrowed down the number of properties you wish to see, and allow for plenty of time between viewings to explore the area. As a rule of thumb, try and limit the number of viewings per day to five. This will keep the properties clear in your mind when you are comparing them later.
It’s a good idea to inform your property finder or the estate agent (immobilier) of your likes and dislikes so they can help you narrow down your search and provide recommendations on properties and local areas. Make sure to tell the agent what you don’t want in a property, i.e. not near a main road.
Allow time for exploration
Spend time exploring the area where you are looking to buy, speak to the agent and even some locals if you can. Consider what the property and area would be like in different seasons; where is the local post office or schol, how good are the local restaurants and where’s the nearest supermarket? All these things will likely be part of everyday life when you’re living in France and these answers will help you make a more informed decision on where to buy.
Have a good GPS system and remember that France is so much bigger than the UK. For instance, if you were looking in the Dordogne (just one department) it is over two and a half hours driving from the top to the bottom!
Make sure to research the travel links in the area you are looking in. France has extremely good travel links including the TGV and many airports.
Selecting the property
Choosing your dream French property is up to you… you’ll know when you’ve found it.
Appointing a solicitor or notaire
The role of the notaire is to draw up initial and final contracts of a property purchase, and in many cases the notaire will be assigned to both the buyer and seller of the property.
A notaire shares similarities with solicitors, but there are key differences which first time buyers should be aware of.
The notaire’s role is to simply draw up the necessary contracts and arrange the required fees needed for buying a property. A solicitor on the other hand, will act as a legal representative by checking the necessary certificates and advise on any work that needs carrying out on the property.
If it’s your first time buying in France, it may be prudent to find a solicitor to carry out the legal aspects of the process, as you may be unfamiliar with the buying process. This may also be beneficial if the language is a barrier to ensure you don’t miss any important details.
Know the finances
While the process and fees involved when buying a French property share similarities with the UK, there are differences. Typically the costs are about 7-10% of the property price, but they can vary:
- Notaire fees - 1-3% of the property’s value
- Transfer fee – 4-5%, the equivalent to UK Stamp Duty
- Certification – usually 0.5% but allow for a further 2% if it’s a new build
Another factor to consider is exchange rates, which can move during the process of buying your property. A well-timed currency transfer could save you thousands so speak with a currency broker about the options.
Making an offer
If you’re worried about losing a property to another buyer, remember that in France, if you put in an offer at the asking price the seller is legally obliged to accept.
If your property purchase is subject to conditions, such as the outcome of a job interview, it’s important that you include this within the offer to protect yourself from any change of circumstance. Remember, you can pull out of a deal up to 10 days after signing the Compromis de Vente, but after this period you will lose your deposit. Outlining conditions in the offer such as a job offer, will allow you to pull out from the contract if such conditions are not met.
Once you’ve made your offer and all parties have accepted, the Compromis de Vente is drawn up (a preliminary contract). You will then be expected to pay the deposit and transfer fee.
You will have only 10 days to change your mind from the date you sign the agreement, so make sure that you are 100% satisfied with the property before you proceed.
The final agreement
The process of buying your property in France will usually take about 12 weeks. You will need to sign the Acte de Vente (final agreement) and will be required to pay the necessary notaire and transfer fees. It’s strongly recommended that you or a representative views the property beforehand on the day you sign it. There is a clause that states ‘sold as seen on signing date’, and this could be one of the last opportunities to query any potential concerns you may have.
If you need to buy Euros in order to complete the sale, it is well worth doing so as soon as possible as this may limit the risk of exchange rates moving against you. To put this into context, a GBP/EUR movement from 1.20 to 1.18 would leave you €4000 worse off if you were transferring £200,000.
It may be worth speaking with a currency brokerage who understands what impacts exchange rates, as they can also provide a number of contract options such as a forward contract, that lock in exchange rates months in advance.
Now it’s time to open the champagne and enjoy a glass of bubbly. Congratulations on buying your new property in France.