Buying Property In France

Property In France

Buying property in France is hugely exciting as you can retire in style, live in a dream home or relax in a new laid-back lifestyle.

However, it’s essential to understand how the French property market works and how much the move will likely cost.

Buying a home in France is an attractive option, and you’ll get a larger property and more outdoor space than you’d expect for your money in the UK.

A lot depends on if you have your sights set on a chic Parisian apartment or a lavish countryside chateau.

Many expats look to purchase a property to get a visa, similar to how buying a property in Portugal can get you a visa.

This guide explains what to look for when viewing properties in France and details the taxes and laws you need to know as a French homeowner.

The French Property Market

New builds are unusual in France, so many of the homes you’ll see listed on the market are period properties.

Notaires de France reports that in the year to May 2021, 1.13 million older homes were sold, a 20-year record high.

As in any country, prices vary between cities and regions, with prime locations such as Provence and Cote d’Azur commanding premium values. It pays to do your research since you can live in Languedoc, about 200 kilometres away, for about half of the cost.

Paris is inevitably the most expensive place to live, with an average price per square metre of €10,460, around 60 per cent more than any other region.

Average House Prices In France

The table compares average prices in popular places:

RegionLowest Average Cost Per Square Metre (€)Highest Average Cost Per Square Metre (£)

Living costs and transport links are just as essential as property prices since once you’ve purchased your French home, you need to know that you’ll be comfortable living there.

Finding A Home In France

There are all sorts of ways to browse French property listings, but you should keep an eye out for a designation that confirms any estate agent – or immobilier in French – or marketplace is suitably accredited, such as:

  • FNAIMLa Fédération Nationale de l’Immobilier (National Real Estate Federation)
  • SNPIPremier Syndicat Français de l’Immobilier (National Union of Real Estate Professionals)
  • UNISLes Professionnels de l’Immobilier (Real Estate Professionals Union)

Most expats choose to buy property in France through an estate agent since they will handle the legal aspects of the process for you. Agents can also help with practicalities like setting up utilities.

However, there is no pressure to pay agency fees if you’re fluent in French and confident you can manage the transaction yourself.

You can find properties through online listings, local newspapers, property publications or a local immobilier.

French cities also have public property auctions, called Vente aux Enchères, although you’ll usually need a representative to manage the negotiations on your behalf.

One of the popular options is to use PAP Immobilier, an online property website with direct listings and English language translations.

The French Property Purchase Process

A French property purchase runs in stages. The first step is to visit the home in person, particularly if you’re a prospective expat living in the UK.

Next, you’d make an offer, and there are several types of contracts, depending on the transaction terms.

  • A promesse unilatérale de vente, or unilateral offer to sell, is more commonly used by developers or investors, securing the option to buy a property or land where there are unknown factors, such as pending planning consent
  • The more typical contract is called a compromis de vente, a regular sale and purchase agreement.

For most purchases, you’ll go with the second option and agree to a date when the deal takes place.

Most purchases require a ten per cent deposit, and legally the sale is then confirmed.

If you change your mind, you’ll lose the deposit and could even be sued for breach of contract, so you must conduct any searches or other work before signing the agreement.

There is, however, a seven-day cooling-off period, and you can withdraw from an agreed purchase before the week is up without being penalised.

Given this structure, there are several steps you should take before you move forward with a sale contract.

Surveying a French Property

Property sellers must provide various search reports as part of the standard process, called a DDT file or Dossier de Diagnostic Technique.

The property file will include some or all the below surveys. Note that some are not required for older properties or in some provinces:

  • Septic tank reports
  • Electrical wiring survey
  • Gas installation checks
  • Energy efficiency rating
  • Termite inspections
  • Lead report
  • Asbestos survey
  • Checks for radon
  • Geotechnical reports in areas at risk

Make sure you read the file carefully. Signing the contract of sale means that you have legally agreed on the purchase, accepting all the factors identified in the surveys.

French Property Sale Contracts

The contract of sale requires thorough analysis and should include information about:

  • The property boundaries and total square footage
  • What is included, such as fixtures and outbuildings
  • Results of the above surveys and reports
  • Any conditional clauses or mandatory disclosures, such as defects
  • Legal interests in the property, such as tenants

Contracts may include a penalty clause, particularly if it is currently rented out.

Completing A Property Purchase In France

After you’ve paid the ten per cent deposit and signed the contract, your notaire will carry out further checks, looking for financial or legal claims on the property.

Usually, this process takes around three months but it can be longer.

You’ll then get a completion date when you and the seller sign the acte de vente (deed of sale) and finalise the purchase.

A deed of sale needs to be signed in person at the notaire’s office, at which point all taxes and fees become payable.

The notaire registers the deeds in your name at the French land registry, and the process is complete.

How much does property cost in France?

Aside from the cost of the property itself, you’ll need to factor in taxes and legal fees.

Some of the usual charges include:

  • Legal fees (through a local notaire) – usually between seven and ten per cent on older properties and one to two per cent on new-builds.
  • Estate agent charges tend to be anywhere from four per cent to ten per cent of the purchase price – sometimes this includes the notaire’s fees.
  • Stamp duty plus VAT (TVA), charged at 20 per cent on fees, including legal costs.

The French government regulates Frais de Notaire, or notary fees, depending on the relevant tax bracket.

Costs are proportionate. If you’re buying a home worth €200,000, you’ll pay 3.945 per cent on the first €6,500, 1.627 per cent on the next €10,500 and so on.

In 2021, the rates are as below for properties, excluding new-builds.

Property valueNotaire fees
Up to €6,5003.945 per cent
€6,501 – €17,0001.627 per cent
€17,001 – €60,0001.085 per cent
Over €60,0000.814 per cent

Buying a Property in France FAQ

How much stamp duty will I pay to buy a home in France?

The exact stamp duty rate depends on the nature of the property you buy.
Homes more than five years old attract a 5.8 per cent duty, and new homes 0.7 per cent, plus 20 per cent TVA (equivalent to UK VAT).

Do I have to pay property tax on a French home?

Yes. There are two potential taxes in France, both payable on January 1 each year:

Taxe foncière is a land tax payable on all properties, including rental investments. This tax is usually one per cent or three per cent for second homes.

Taxe d’habitation is a municipal property tax but only payable if the home is not your primary residence.
The second levy was abolished in 2021 on main homes but remains payable on second homes.

What ‘s different about buying property in France From in the UK?

Property taxes vary in France from those you’re used to in the UK, but the other big difference is around surveys.

In Britain, many home purchase or remortgage needs a valuation and often, a structural survey.

However, this isn’t standard in France, and if you want a survey, you will need to commission the work and pay for it yourself.
This report is in addition to the usual searches completed by your notary.

Can I get a mortgage to purchase a French property?

You have several options if you need a mortgage to buy a new home in France.

Although some have more attractive rates and accessible eligibility criteria, French banks will lend to expats. Most expats will use a broker specialising in mortgages for foreign nationals.

Below is a list of some related articles, guides and insights you may find interesting.

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