Buying Homes in France – How Easy is It?

Buying Homes in France – How Easy is It?

There’s something very seductive about the idea of buying homes in France, as many people have discovered. After a few days of marveling at the magnificent scenery, reveling in the delectable French cuisine and rejoicing in the amazing variety of superb wines, the temptation seems impossible to resist. Especially when you find how low prices still are in some lovely corners of France.

UK residents have been buying homes in France for many years now. With the easy access via Eurostar or several low-cost airlines, the idea makes a lot of sense, especially as you usually get a lot more “house” for your money than you do in the UK.

Now, with the vagaries in the property market in the USA, US citizens are also beginning to see the attraction of the idea. But how easy is buying homes in France for the US resident? One thing you can be sure of is that real estate processes in France are very different from those in the USA. If you are interested in the idea, you may like to take note of some of the points to look out for.

  • First and foremost, before taking any steps, consider what is your main reason for wanting to buy the property. Is it as an investment, to re-sell at a profit or for your pension pot? Is it to use for a vacation rental business? Are you intending to use it for a vacation home or retirement home, or both, for yourself? Obviously this will affect your choice of location. There are sad stories of couples who fell in love with an idyllic rural hideaway for their retirement, only to find they can’t use it when age or infirmity catches up with them.
  • If it’s a vacation home for yourself or to rent out, make sure you view possible properties at different times of year. A pretty country cottage that looks enchanting in the summer sunshine, can look bleak and uninviting in the winter. Check transport links and don’t just depend on one airline. If it closes down, your vacation home could become hard to access and will be of little value!
  • Once you have selected your property, you need to go along to a local “notaire” or notary, a legal official, and pay a 10 percent deposit. You and the vendor then sign a contract called compromis de vente. Either side can withdraw from this in the first seven days, after which it becomes legally binding.
  • Remember that the French have no procedure of appraisal or survey. If you want to check that the property is structurally sound – which is a good idea – it is up to you to arrange this during the seven-day cooling-off period. The best way is to hire a local builder.
  • The legal process usually takes about 2-3 months, during which the Notaire carries out his conveyancing and legal searches. You can of course go home during this period, but it is up to you to keep in close touch with the Notaire in order to find out when the exact completion date will be.
  • When the legal work is completed you will be given a date for the signing of the Acte Authentique or final deed. You must ensure that the full amount of money, including the Notaire’s fee of 3 percent, is in the Notaire’s bank account before this date. Once the deed is signed, the property is yours.
  • If you need finance, the easiest way is probably to arrange a Euro mortgage with a French bank. Alternatively you can remortgage or refinance your existing property to raise the funds.

Buying homes in France is actually a lot less complicated than it is in some other European countries, and there are fewer pitfalls to look out for. But beware of one thing. English is not widely spoken in France, especially in rural areas, and even when they can speak English, the French prefer to speak French in their own country (and quite right too!). They regard the assumption that they will conduct their business in English as discourteous. So brush up on your French – or, if you really can’t, make sure you take a French speaker along with you!

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