BUYING IN FRANCE
France is one of the most popular choices for property buyers abroad, second only to Spain. There is a long list of reasons to buy property in and spend time in France, from the fantastic food and drink, to the scenic countryside and coastline, the historic architecture and popular sights in the villages, towns and cities, to the more laid back pace of life.
WHERE TO BUY
The property market is stable and prices tend to be less volatile than in the UK. Traditionally prices are generally in line with the rate of inflation and property investment is more conservative than in other countries. Prices and types of property do vary between regions, however.
Location is the most essential factor in determining price; the large cities and towns are naturally more expensive – especially Paris. This is largely due to better employment prospects, greater choice of culture and shopping and less choice in actual accommodation.
City suburbs and smaller towns come next in terms of property prices and the countryside will always be the least expensive option. Do bear in mind that properties close to the coast and near wine regions always demand a premium price.
WHAT TO BUY
The choice in France is splendid. Properties range from derelict farmhouses and barns to modern townhouses and apartments with all modern conveniences, from crumbling châteaux and manor houses requiring complete restoration to new luxury chalets and villas.
Buying vs Renting
Buying a house is a very easy process in France. The buyer need not complete any admin procedure as the notary takes care of this. Financing is also simple, quick and many French banks have special packages for foreign clientele.
Thinking about trying the French way of life but not yet ready for the purchase of a house? Then why not rent a property? Whether on a yearly basis or for a short period of time, renting offers a flexible and secure way of living in France.
Selling in France
While there are some differences between selling your property in France compared to the UK; the core principles are the same. Make sure you do your homework, prepare the property to reflect its best features, market it carefully, be honest with potential buyers, and be realistic about the price. Good properties at the right price will always find buyers, so if your house isn’t selling it may be time to review either your presentation or the price.
France is a popular destination for British buyers, and even if the market relaxes for a period – don’t worry, there’ll be another Brit around the corner looking for a property just like yours.
One difference in the process is that a Compromis de Vente is usually signed after the parties have agreed a price and any conditions, and this effectively secures the sale unless the conditions stipulated are not met. There is, however, a cooling off period of eight days allowed after the signing of the initial agreement, but after this sellers and buyers can relax and enjoy a distinctly greater peace of mind than they would in a similar situation in England.
LIVING IN FRANCE
The French education system may have its complexities but it is generally of an exceptionally high standard. There are many types of school in France including; public, private, private bilingual and international schools. Parents will need to consider the language barrier, cost and curriculum before deciding which type of institution is best for their children.
The school year in France starts in September and ends in July.
World-renowned and ranked number one by the World Health Organization (WHO), healthcare in France hinges on an intricate public-private combination that’s both efficient and generous. While most locals claim to be happy with the healthcare system in France, many also supplement state-provided coverage with private insurance that covers creature comforts like private hospital rooms, dentistry and eye care. Expats lucky enough to take advantage of the public system and the associated insurance will be spoiled for life, but even those forced to shell out substantially more for private coverage will nonetheless be more than satisfied with the standard of care.
The prospect of working in France can be highly appealing to expats, as it claims the third largest economy in the Eurozone and sixth largest economy in the world, so there are opportunities for talented individuals.
Expats are often attracted by the perks of the French working world, which include a 35-hour work week, plenty of holiday time and early retirement. That said, finding a job in France is notoriously difficult for foreigners, and most expats who manage to find one do so through intra-company transfers or opportunities within large multinational organisations.
The expatriate community is large and well organised. There are plenty of well-established clubs in Paris, and many other French cities to be among people from similar climes if you so desire.
French families are close, and like to spend time together or with close friends. A traditional, although casual, form of entertaining with friends and neighbours is “Prendre un verre” meaning “to take a glass”. Usually, between 1800 and 2000, wine or sometimes champagne is served with “hors d’oeuvres” or appetizers and conversation takes place often over several hours.
Spectator and active sports are popular in France, and the many recreational facilities throughout the country provide a good opportunity for socialising. Cycling is popular as is golf and tennis. There are many public and private golf courses, and both private and municipal tennis courts. Municipal parks are popular for jogging: Tuileries and Luxembourg gardens, Champs de Mars, and Bois de Boulogne (during the day) and de Vincennes in Paris; the Parc de la Tête d’Or in Lyon. Walking and hiking trails are found throughout the country. Swimming is popular and municipal pools are available; sunning and swimming are extremely popular activities at the beaches in the summer. For information about sports facilities in your area, contact the local Mairie.
Soccer/ Football is one of the most popular spectator sports, and most major cities support a professional team.
Financing Your Property
Before going further, any potential buyer should take the following steps into consideration:
If you decide to take out a mortgage, you should make the arrangements before signing the “contrat préliminaire”, and ask your bank to provide you with an agreement in principle (a mortgage promise). Most promoters and estate agents will ask to see this document, as proof that you are credit worthy. This request is made in order to discourage people from beginning the purchasing process when they are actually not in a position to complete the sale. You will also be asked to write down your payment method in the “contrat préliminaire” (purchase with the help of a mortgage, or cash). French mortgages are not based on the UK model of multiple incomes. Typically, the calculation works with the principle that the total of the French mortgage payment (plus any UK mortgage or rent, plus any other long-term borrowings) should not exceed a third of the buyer’s gross monthly income.
In summary, obtaining a mortgage for a French property is relatively straightforward but you would be better equipped with an expert on board with you.
The French taxation system is different to the UK. For instance, you have to be careful with inheritance laws. However, there is nothing to worry about if you make the right decisions from the beginning. In order to avoid any unexpected taxation, we can advise you on the best way to navigate the system.
Once you have bought your property in France, you must register with the French Taxation Centre for Non-Residents. France has signed taxation treaties with most countries, which means that you avoid double taxation in France and in the UK.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in France is high, especially in the large urban centres such as Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Expenses decrease considerably further into the rural countryside, a result of both lower prices and a typically less extravagant lifestyle.
Expat salaries in France are also considerably less lucrative than the financial packages given to those who move to the Middle East or Asia for tax-free wealth or high-power positions.
That said, the pull of France, as any of the countless foreign retirees will attest to, is that plenty of money isn’t needed to enjoy a high quality of life. This is especially true in the south of France as well as some of the charming provincial villages.