Buying property in France is a relatively straightforward process, but there are a few things you need to be aware of before you start.
We have shared our own experiences of buying property in France in magazines before, but here they are in short.
For a start, take your time to do your research before you start buying property in France. We took a full year, for example. And ended up buying the property we fell in love with right at the start, but we were much better informed by then.
During this year, we visited property fairs, read up on regions of France and real life stories in magazines like French Property News, and endlessly compared property specifications on portals for buying property in France such as Green-Acres.com. If you take a subscription to Readly.com, you can read all back copies of French Property News and other magazines on France for a small monthly fee.
There are lots of considerations before buying property in France. Your budget, interests, work status, preferred climate and access by road and air may all play a part. Don’t rush it. We also found Google Streetview really helpful when we researched properties. It means that you can take a virtual walk around a town or village before you even visit France.
We took a week in France to look at properties and talk to local estate agents. We managed to see 14 properties in 5 days. Despite all our advance research, some proved to be disappointing the moment we set foot inside. Others had real potential, but were in an uninspiring location or needed a lot of work.
In the end, we bought Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois. It was the last property we saw, but it was love at first sight. During the year, the property had been put on the market and taken off again twice. That is quite normal in France, however, where potential buyers only start to apply for a mortgage after they have expressed an interest.
The actual process of buying property in France is different to the UK, for example, as well. Early on, the vendor and buyer sign an agreement (‘Compromis de Vente’) that is a lot more than just an expression of intention to buy. By law, the next three months are a cooling down period. Basic inspections take place for things like termites and damp. But a full survey is unusual in France.
The notary’s fees add an element of surprise to buying property in France. The fee can add another €20,000 to the advertised purchase price. On completion day, vendor and buyer must attend a meeting at the notary’s office. This is when the full exchange contract is read out – slowly – by the notary before both parties sign the final documents.
It is a good idea to build a good relationship with the vendors once you decide to buy. Should there be any structural problems, the previous owner is in theory still liable for damages for a number of years. It also helps to prevent other problems and it smooths the whole process to build a position of mutual trust. We took the Eurostar to Paris to take the previous owners out for a leisurely get-to-know-you lunch, for example.
If you are worried that your French is not good enough for you to make the big move, don’t worry. Our legal documents came with an English version without even asking the notary. Banks, doctors, vets and most other services are also available in English almost everywhere in France these days.
We had the benefit of working with a really good and reliable estate agent, Freddy Rueda at Real Estate in the Languedoc, now called Occitanie – Immobilier en Occitanie.
We often say that er should have moved to France years earlier. As well as the glorious countryside and weather, there is a completely different attitude to life… la joie de vivre. And do we really need to mention the food and drink in France?
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