French Property For Sale
Property Market: The French property market has been generally good in France. Rural property remains excellent value, particularly if you’re after a large plot, and some excellent bargains are available. However, coastal and city properties are at a premium and therefore cost more. French property on the Riviera remains among the most expensive, but also prestigious, in the world, with Paris likewise, although property in the capital remains a good long-term investment. New properties are widely available and include coastal and city apartments, ski and golf developments, and a wide range of individually designed houses and chalets. Many new French properties are part of purpose-built developments, often located along the coast or in mountain areas, encompassing a golf course, swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, a gym or fitness club, and a restaurant.
Areas: The most popular areas for buyers of French property include Paris, the Loire Valley (famous for its châteaux), the South of France (particularly the French Riviera or Côte d’Azur and Provence), south-west France (e.g. Charente, Dordogne and Gascony), and Brittany and Normandy, which are particularly popular with the British. Winter holiday homes in French alpine ski resorts are also popular, especially in fashionable resorts such as Chamonix, Courchevel, Mégève, Méribel, Val d’Isère, Saint Gervais and Val Thorens. Properties in French ski resorts are usually an excellent investment and also make fine summer holiday homes, especially if you’re a keen hiker.
Cost of French property: Apart from obvious points such as size, quality and land area, the most important factor influencing the price of a house is its location. A restored or modernised two-bedroom house costs under €150,000 in the north-west (e.g. Normandy) but sells for double or treble that price in the south-east (e.g. Provence). Similarly, the closer you are to the coast or Paris the more expensive property is. A Charente farmhouse with a barn and a large plot costs around the same as a tiny studio apartment in Paris or on the Côte d’Azur. Modern one-bedroom apartments in main cities or in resorts cost from around €150,000 and two-bedroom apartments from €200,000. A rural two-bedroom renovated cottage costs around €100,000 and a modern two-bedroom bungalow from €120,000. Villas situated near the south coast with a swimming pool cost from €350,000. Property in ski resorts varies considerably in price according to the resort and the location of the property. A small studio in a purpose-built resort costs from around €100,000, while a one-bedroom apartment close to the ski lifts in a resort such as Courchevel, Méribel or Tignes costs from €100,000, rising to around €120,000 in Chamonix or Val d’Isère. Small chalets start at €500,000, although you need to spend around €750,000 or more to buy a family-size chalet in a top resort.
Local Mortgages: If you need help financing your French property, mortgages are available from all major French banks (both for residents and non-residents) and many foreign banks. Prestige Property work with UCB and Baydonhill to offer very competitive mortgages for overseas property.
French Property Taxes: There are two property-based taxes in France. Property tax (taxe foncière) is similar to the property tax (or rates) levied in most countries and is paid by property owners based on the average (notional) rental value of the property in the previous year, adjusted for inflation, as calculated by the land registry. Rates vary considerably according to the region and even within a region from as little as around €300 to €1,500 or more per year. Residential tax (taxe d’habitation) is payable by whoever is residing in a property on 1st January, whether as an owner, tenant or rent free and is calculated according to income, number of children, etc. It’s normally around half as much as property tax.
Purchase Procedure: The purchase of French property is strictly controlled and regulated. Property sales are conducted by a notary (notaire), who’s a government official representing neither the vendor nor buyer (although you can engage another notary to act solely for you). However, it’s possible to hire a local lawyer to protect your interests and carry out the usual checks concerning title, outstanding debts, etc. A good estate agent is invaluable when buying in France. There are various types of purchase contract, the most common being a bilateral agreement (compromis de vente), which is binding on both parties. When the preliminary contract is signed a deposit is payable, which is usually 5 per cent for a new property and 10 per cent for a resale property. An agent must be bonded to hold money on behalf of clients and must display the sum of his financial guarantee (pièce de garantie). Note that the deposit isn’t returnable unless you’re unable to obtain a mortgage or there are serious legal problems involved in the purchase. The balance of the purchase price and all fees are due on completion of the sale, which is a fixed time after the signing of the purchase contract (normally six weeks), when the deed of sale (acte de vente) for your French property is signed.
Offshore Companies: Offshore companies can be used to purchase property, but for most people there’s little or no advantage.
Fees: The total fees when buying a French property are between 6 and 8 per cent. This includes Notaire's fees of around 1.5 per cent and Government registry fees of around 6 per cent. The rules for new build and leaseback are different with regard to fees, VAT and capital gains tax and will be explained in each individual circumstance.
Precautions: The legal procedure in France regarding the purchase of real property is very safe. However, any special conditions regarding a purchase must be included as conditional clauses in the preliminary contract. It’s wise to have a survey on an older habitable dwelling or at the very least have it checked by a building expert, as a property is purchased ‘as seen’ and the vendor isn’t liable for any defects unless he knowingly withheld information at the time of sale. Before going ahead with a purchase you should obtain written detailed quotations (devis) from at least two local builders. If a French property has already been renovated, you should check who did it, how it was done (i.e. professionally or by cutting corners) and whether there’s a guarantee.
Holiday Letting: No restrictions, although tax is payable by non-residents on letting income.
Restrictions on Foreign Ownership: None.
Building Standards: Excellent. The standard of new buildings in France is strictly regulated and most homes are built to official quality standards that are higher than in many other countries. The quality of renovation and restoration varies considerably with the builder.
Personal Effects: Goods purchased within the European Union (EU) can be imported duty-free and don’t need to be retained for a minimum period. An inventory must be provided. If you’re a non-EU resident planning to take up permanent or temporary residence in France, you’re permitted to import your furniture and personal effects free of duty. These include vehicles, mobile homes, pleasure boats and aircraft. However, to qualify for duty-free import, articles must have been owned and used for at least six months and cannot be sold for one year after import. All items should be imported within one year of the date of your change of residence, in one or a number of consignments, although it’s best to have only one.
Currency: Euro (€).
Exchange Rate: Variable. See Excel Currency.
Exchange Controls: None.
Interest Rate: Variable, set by European Central Bank.
Cost/Standard of Living: Salaries are generally high in France and the French enjoy a high standard of living. With the exception of Paris, where the higher cost of living is offset by higher salaries, the cost of living in France is lower than the EU average, particularly in rural areas.
Income Tax: Income tax for most people in France is below the average for EU countries, particularly for large families. However, if the high social security contributions (regarded as a form of taxation in France) and other taxes are added, French taxes are among the highest in the European Union. Tax rates range from 10.5 to 54 per cent.
Capital Gains Tax (CGT): Gains on profits made on the sale of a second home in France that has been owned for less than two years are taxed at 16% for EU residents and 33% for non-EU residents. There is also an obligation to have a fiscal representative that acts as a guarantor of the payment of the CGT by the vendor. The applicable standard charge is 1% of the selling price. On properties owned for more than two years, the difference between the purchase and selling price is reduced by 5 per cent for the third and subsequent years up to 15 years, multiplied by an index-linked multiplier of the sale price. In practice, one would pay the full rate if selling the property within the first 5 years of ownership; after that there is a rebate of the CGT bill by 10% per year, for 10 years. CGT isn’t payable on a profit made on the sale of a principal residence in France, provided it has been occupied since its purchase or for a minimum of five years. CGT at 7 per cent is payable on articles such as antiques, art and jewellery, and at 19.4 per cent on securities.
Wealth Tax: A tax of between 0.5 and 1.8 per cent is levied on French residents with world-wide assets valued at over €760,000.
Inheritance & Gift Tax: Inheritance tax in France is paid by individual beneficiaries, irrespective of where they’re domiciled, and not by the estate. The rate of tax and allowances vary according to the relationship between the beneficiary and the deceased. There are allowances for close relatives, after which inheritance tax is levied on a sliding scale at 5 to 40 per cent.
Value Added Tax (VAT): The standard rate of VAT in France is 19.6 per cent, which is included in the purchase price of properties less than five years old when sold for the first time. There are reduced rates of 2.1 per cent on medicines subject to reimbursement by social security and daily newspapers, 4 per cent on magazines, and 5.5 per cent on food, agricultural products, medicines, books, public transport, gas, electricity, canteen food, cinema, theatre and concert tickets, hotel accommodation and travel agency fees.
Population: 58.8 million.
Foreign Community: France has a large foreign community in its major cities and some rural areas (e.g. Dordogne) have a large number of British and other foreign residents.
Area: 543,965km2 (210,025mi2).
Geography: France is one of the largest countries in Europe, stretching 1,050km (650mi) from north to south and almost the same distance from West to East (from the tip of Brittany to Strasbourg). Its land and sea border extends for 4,800km (3,000mi) and includes 2,700km (2,175mi) of coastline. France also incorporates the Mediterranean island of Corsica (Corse) situated 160km (99mi) from France and 80km (50mi) from Italy, covering 8,721km2 (3,367mi2) and with a coastline of 1,000km (620mi). France is bordered by Andorra, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain and Switzerland, and the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 connected it with Britain (by rail only).
Climate: France is the only country in Europe that experiences three distinct climates: continental, maritime and Mediterranean. It isn’t easy to generalise about French weather, as many regions are influenced by mountains, forests and other geographical features, and have their own micro-climates. Generally the Loire river is considered to be the point where the cooler northern European climate begins to change to the warmer southern climate. Spring and autumn are usually fine throughout France, although the length of the seasons varies according to the region and altitude. In Paris, it’s rare for the temperature to fall below -5ºC/41ºF in winter or to rise above 30ºC/86ºF in summer. However, the capital receives its fair share of rain. The west and north-west (e.g. Brittany and Normandy) have a maritime climate tempered by the Atlantic and the Gulf Stream, with mild winters and warm summers, and most rainfall in spring and autumn. Many people consider the western Atlantic coast has the best summer climate in France, with the heat tempered by cool sea breezes. The Massif Central (which acts as a weather barrier between north and south) and eastern France have a moderate continental climate with cold winters and hot and stormy summers. However, the centre and eastern upland areas have an extreme continental climate, with freezing winters and sweltering summers. The Midi, stretching from the Pyrenees to the Alps, is hot and dry except for early spring, when there’s usually heavy rainfall. The Cévennes region is the wettest in France, with some 200cm of rain per year. Languedoc has hot dry summers and much colder winters than the Côte d’Azur, with snow often remaining until May in the mountainous inland areas. The South of France enjoys a Mediterranean climate of mild winters (daytime temperatures rarely drop below 10ºC/50ºF) and humid, hot summers, with the temperature often above 30ºC/86ºF. The average sunshine on the Côte d’Azur is five hours in January and 12 hours in July.
Language: French. France also has a number of regional languages including Alsatian (spoken in the Alsace), Basque (Pyrenees), Breton (Brittany), Catalan (Roussillon), Corsican (Corsica) and Occitan (Languedoc). Local dialects (patois) are also common in many areas.
Political Stability: Extremely stable.
Medical Facilities: Excellent. French doctors are highly trained and general hospitals are superbly equipped, although they’re few and far between in some rural areas. There are foreign-run hospitals in major cities, e.g. American and British hospitals in Paris. France has an excellent national health scheme for those contributing to social security and retirees. If you aren’t covered by the national health scheme, private health insurance is essential and often obligatory for residents.
Pets: You can take up to three animals into France at a time, one of which may be a puppy (three to six months old), although no dogs or cats under three months of age can be imported. There’s generally no quarantine period. If you’re importing a dog into France, it must be vaccinated against rabies or have a health certificate signed by an approved veterinary surgeon issued no more than five days before your arrival. For visitors with pets, a rabies vaccination is compulsory only for animals entering Corsica, being taken to campsites or holiday parks, or participating in shows in a rabies-affected area. Resident dogs must be vaccinated against distemper and hardpad and need an annual rabies booster. Cats aren’t required to have rabies vaccinations, although if you let your cat roam free outside your home it’s wise to have it vaccinated annually. Cats must, however, be vaccinated against feline gastro-enteritis and typhus.
Residence Permits: A formality for EU nationals, although non-working residents must have sufficient income or financial resources to live in France without working. Visitors can stay in France for a maximum of 90 days at a time, although many nationalities require a visa. Non-EU nationals require a long-stay visa (visa de long séjour) to live in France for longer than three months.
Work Permits: Work permits are unnecessary for EU nationals, but are difficult for non-EU nationals to obtain.
France, famed for its boulevards, fashion and food, is one of the most popular areas of Europe in which to buy a second home, and offers a great range of typically French property for sale such as pleasant townhouses, rustic farmhouses and magnificent French chateaux. Its location between the temperate climes of Britain and sun-drenched Spain ensure a variety of climates to match your lifestyle. You are bound to find the ideal French property for sale, whether you long for balmy days on a Cote d'Azur terrace, the sparkling clean air of the mountains or the seasonal ebb and flow of Normandy life played out amongst bustling markets and sleepy country lanes.
France is still a largely agricultural country and, away from the towns, the population density is still one of the lowest in Europe. With a long history of countryfolk leaving for a more cosmopolitan urban life, the potential of much French property lies unexploited and waiting for a new owner with ideas and enthusiasm. With prices rising steadily for both non-renovated and renovated properties, now is the time to look for that hidden gem that is both affordable and a great investment for the future.
Buying French Property
A notaire (public notary) is an integral part of buying a property in France. They represent neither buyer nor seller, but the French Government - and their impartiality is an obligation taken seriously. The notaire oversees many legal aspects of the sale, such as whether the seller is legally entitled to sell what he is offering, whether any future nuisance is likely to impinge on the use and enjoyment of the property and the drawing up of contracts. However, as many notaires speak little English, it may be worthwhile engaging the services of an English-speaking legal consultant who is qualified in French law and who has experience in the area of French property sales.
The notaire can also offer advice on how to buy your French property to reduce the tax implication when you sell or will your property.
You will be expected to organise connection to utilities - gas, electricity, water - and to provide a translator (if required) to help you to understand the documentation. A good French-qualified legal consultant may be able to help with these tasks.
Where to buy property in France
We market over 1500 examples of French property situated in most of the departments, from plots of land to the most exclusive chateaux and villas. We work closely with a number of professional local agents, carefully chosen for their service and after-sales support.
Like many countries, France has some distinctive regional building styles that reflect the materials available, the history and wealth of the population and the age of the local settlement. Many older French properties are built from local stone, quarried and brought the few miles to the site. Other more prominent buildings may be built from more durable or more beautiful stone, quarried many miles away, such as the famous, golden Caen stone from the Normandy region. Whether your dream French property is a little riverside cottage or a farmhouse surrounded by acres of land, our large database of French property will undoubtedly provide a number of options to consider.
The Poitou Charentes region, incorporating the Charente, Charente-Maritime and Vienne, is an enormously popular location to buy a second home benefitting from one of the highest sunshine indexes in France, a beautiful coastline, forests, lakes and gorgeous villages just waiting to be explored. The rural way of life stills grips the Poitou Charentes, with weekly petanque in the village square, fresh produce at the local market and friendly bistros from which to watch the world go by.
Provence and Cote d'Azur is well known as the capital of sunshine and sunflowers, lavender and luxurious villas and includes the departments of Alpes Maritimes, Var and Bouches du Rhone. The region includes glamorous hotspots such as Nice, Cannes, Monaco and St Tropez where beautiful residences cling to the hillsides amid shimmering azure seascapes.
The Loire and its famous valley, full of stunning manors and chateau estates, offers some of the biggest bang per buck of any area of France as well as a down-to-earth but modern French lifestyle.
The Languedoc Roussillon is an area in the south of France, between Provence and the Spanish border, with a coastal plain that is mainly flat and greatly influenced by the Rhone delta. It includes such famous towns as Montpellier and Carcassonne, stunning gorges, lovely nature parks and many beautiful sandy beaches. The departments of Herault, Gard, Pyrenees Orientales, Aude and Lozere are included in the Languedoc.
Income from your French property
While the gite market has slowed as demand begins to be sated by supply, potential for generating income from French properties is still good. As the world's top destination with an average of over 60 million visitors per year, France's position and variety of coastal, rural and city backdrops gives it an enviable holiday and cultural fascination amongst the tourists of the world, particularly in the UK, Germany, Netherlands and the US. Many buyers are now looking for French properties suited to providing activity breaks to generate a summer income, rather than just basic accommodation. We have many such properties in France, from country cottages to a fully-functioning Parisian hotel.
French property with gites are still strong favourites among our clients, who look to casual renting as a means to help pay off the mortgage rather than as a main source of income. Of course, demand has not dropped for gite accommodation among tourists. One cautionary note, however, is that some mortgage lenders are now refusing to offer quotes for gite and leaseback properties due to their perceived risk if this income is relied upon to cover repayment.
Guide to the French Buying Process
1. Signing the Agreement (Compris)
On finding a property you wish to purchase you will need to negotiate the terms, price and conditions of the sale with the owner. The next step, once you are in agreement, is to sign the preliminary contract (Compromis de Vente). This is a legal document and after ten days will be binding on both parties. Rules change frequently in France and it is best to consult with your notary about when this period starts. Generally the compris will be signed in France with the Agent. Variants can be included in the compris, for example an Acte (clause) can be added if the name or names to go on the title deed have not been finalised. If a mortgage will be required to purchase the property, the details for this, including the name of the mortgage company, must be on the compris.
2. Paying the Deposit
Generally the deposit will be 10% of the agreed purchase price. This will normally be paid to the notaire. There are exceptions to this, if the agent holds a carte professionelle, is bonded and fully registered then you may pay them, but do not hand over the deposit to anyone else. If for some reason the purchase does not go through, for example, if you write to the notaire and the agent that you do not wish to go continue with the purchase before the contract is binding (within seven days of signing the compris), then your deposit would be repaid. This would also apply if a condition had not been met, or the mayor or S.A.F.E.R. (a government agency that has the right of first purchase on most rural property that comes onto the market in France) could oblige the purchaser to give way. If you decide after the seven days 'cooling off' period that you do not wish to complete the purchase and pull out of the sale you would lose your deposit. If however the vendor pulls out of the sale then you will receive your deposit back plus the same amount from the vendor.
3. On Completion
Generally it will take around two or three months to complete the purchase. During this time the balance of the purchase money must be paid into the account of the notaire, this must be done well ahead of the completion date. The notaire will prepare the documents, check that the deed of sale (Acte de Vente) is in order and have the legal title ready to be signed over. It is possible to have someone sign on your behalf if you give them power of attorney. An interpreter may be of use at this point if your French is not very good and many Notaires will suggest (or insist) that an interpreter is with you.
IMPORTANT - Disclaimer :
All information provided is believed to be current and provided free of charge. No liability can be accepted for the reliability of the information and statements made as this is obtained from 3rd parties. We always recommend you take legal advice from a fully qualified Lawyer or Notary before buying a property overseas.
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