What a great year to be buying French property: interest rates are low, prices have dropped, and exchange rates are improved. At this point in time, France’s real estate couldn’t come with better value. Purchasing French property isn’t a simple process, though. Since the French market doesn’t operate in the same way as the U.S. and UK markets do, it can be especially tricky for first-time buyers, this is where a specialised property buyers agent like Home Hunts comes in.
Consider these nine tips when preparing to purchase French property.
1. Decide what type of property you want
Write down your search criteria, including what you can’t live without, as well as your deal-breakers. What do you require in a home? What will deter you from making a purchase? As you search for property, this list will make it easy to wade through options.
2. Maintain realistic expectations
At first, it sounds like a great idea to purchase a rundown home for cheap and then renovate it. Many expats have shared that same goal, only to eventually abandon their dreams. Finding and managing competent people to renovate your home can be difficult from afar so you need to be prepared for it. Furthermore, be practical about where you’re purchasing property. Yes, you may love living in a countryside home with a ton of land, but you’ll have to drive a long distance whenever you need to go somewhere.
3. Set a budget
Aside from your mortgage and bills, your budget should also take into account fees for the notaire and land registration, not to mention government taxes. Taxes include those you’ll owe as property owners, like the tax fonciere, which is a property and land tax that every house owner has to pay, as well as the tax d’habitation. Taxes will vary depending on where the home is located. We work with a range of tax and legal specialists and always strongly recommend discussing these points before signing to buy your dream French property.
4. Decide how you’ll pay for the property
You may have your heart set on paying for your new home in cash, but it could be beneficial to take out a mortgage instead. By investing just a small amount of money in French real estate at first, you’ll be able to make your money work for you. Interest rates are low in France and there can be certain tax benefits for having a French mortgage too, feel free to ask for more details on this.
4. Hire a broker
Negotiating with overseas banks for the best deal on a mortgage can be a hassle, which is why a lot of buyers work with a broker, also called a courtier. Brokers already have contacts at various banks and lenders and it is their job to secure the best deal available to suit your needs. If you need any help with this, we work with a range of brokers throughout France who would be happy to discuss with you.
5. Choose your agent or property finder
Yes, you can save some money by handling the process yourself and buying privately but the French buying process can be complicated so it really helps to have a specialist on your side. Working directly with a French estate agent is very helpful but it can be limiting, since they may only cover a specific area or sector of the market. Without knowing the market, you won’t be able to determine if the price you’re paying for a home is fair. Many overseas buyers choose to use a buyers agent or french property finder (such as Home Hunts, obviously!) because they get unbiased advice, support from start to finish in their own language and access to the entire market. On top of that, it doesn’t cost you any more money because we are paid a portion of the selling agents commission once a sale is completed.
6. Prevent language barrier issues
Knowing conversational French may not be enough to get you safely through the home buying process. Our team of property specialists all speak a minimum of French and English and we are there to help to guide you through viewings, meetings and so on. You’ll need to understand any legal documents such as the compromis de vente (sales agreement) thoroughly. It is important that French documents are translated to English, then checked by an English-speaking legal professional.
7. Your own notaire?
The notaire plays a major role in the purchase and sale of property by helping along the process, checking all legal documentation and answering questions about the property and pricing etc. Many buyers choose to bring in a second notaire to act specifically in their interest (the first notaire is chosen by the vendor). This is very important if the first notaire cannot speak English for example… We work with a network of English speaking notaires throughout France and are happy to recommend them to you if required.
8. Have the building appraised
Buyers receive a Dossier Diagnostique Technique (DDT), which covers things like electrical installation and whether or not lead or asbestos are in the house, but it doesn’t include complete knowledge of the building. Have an engineer check the home before you buy it. Visit the Town Hall (or as Home Hunts to do so) to check out the plans and make sure they’re the same as what you’ve been shown.
9. Understand the compromis de vente
The compromis de vente, a mutual undertaking by both the vendor and the buyer, is the key component in the purchase of property. Before signing the compromis de vente, be sure you’re clear on what’s included in the agreement, such as clauses for fixtures and fittings that the seller will be leaving behind, as well as the date of completion. Prevent any confusion by asking for a draft of the compromis de vente in advance so you can look it over.
Above all, don’t panic, don’t be rushed and take your time to make sure that you are Buying French property that is right place for you. Home Hunts team of property specialists have been working in the French property market for 12 years and we work for you, the buyer. We are here to protect your interests and to ensure that you the find your dream home.