The French Property Exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to gather valuable insights and information for anyone considering a move to or an investment in France. Here are 8 key takeaways I got from the event that can help you make informed decisions about moving to and buying property in France.
1. You can fix an exchange rate for up to two years
Mar Bonnin-Palmer‘s seminar on currency exchange when buying in France clarified the role that currency exchange plays when buying property. With the market constantly changing, it can be daunting not knowing how your budget may be affected by market volatility. Fixing the exchange rate with a forward contract can give you the confidence of knowing the exact price you’ll pay for the property upon completion, giving you some certainty and allowing you to plan your finances accordingly. A favourable exchange rate could mean the difference between a new kitchen when dealing with larger sums so it’s worth looking into…
2. Planning permission may be required for a garden shed in France
With regards to planning permission, consent in France is required for any new-build, extension or other changes, no matter how small it may seem – even for a small garden shed, porch, pool etc, and there can be restrictions on what is possible. Tom Easdown of French Plans shared why it’s important to take note and listen to professional advice so as not to start off down the wrong track and potentially have problems in the future.
3. New items may be subject to tax when moving to France
It’s crucial to check specific customs requirements when moving to France, and you can ask your removals company to do this for you. It’s also important to note that personal effects need to arrive within 1 year of a person’s arrival in France otherwise duty will be applied. Scott Middleton of GB Liners shared some top tips including that you should always ensure your removals company is a member of the British Association of Removers Specialist Overseas Group, which also means they can offer an ‘advanced payment guarantee’ for worldwide moving.
4. The six-month short stay visa can be the answer to your 90-day rule stresses
While 90 days might sound like plenty, it’s often not long enough for people with second homes in France or those looking to rent or buy a French property. Say hello to the six-month short stay visa! Often overlooked, it offers certain advantages as Richard Hammond of French Connections HCB explained
- One, it’s easy to acquire. You can start an application three months before the date you intend to travel.
- Two, you don’t need to show proof of health insurance. Your current GHIC is enough.
- Three, the short stay visa is multiple entry, meaning you can come and go as you please, as long as you head home by the end of your designated six- month period.
5. You should consider an independent survey when buying in France
As Fabienne Atkin of Ashtons Legal said, the pre-contract inspection reports may tell you about the property, but they are limited. An independent structural survey will cost you more, but it can offer more reassurance. Matt Noble of MKN Surveyors reassures that a survey isn’t just about identifying issues; it’s about understanding the property’s unique story and preparing for its future, offering a clear picture of any immediate repairs or potential costs down the line.
6. If you are of pension age and receiving a UK state pension, you are still entitled to an S1 form post-Brexit
However as Helen Harrop of Agence AXA international mentioned, the S1 form can take some time to be processed and registered before you have a social security number, so it’s important to consider this when moving to France so that you don’t face unexpected costs should you fall ill in the meantime. If you are not working in France, you may choose not to take out a mutuelle, but if you have particular health conditions, regularly see a doctor, or just want to protect yourself in the event of an accident or illness, it is recommended.
7. You need to activate your visa on arrival in France
Fabien Pilissier of Fab Insurance pointed out that your long-term visa does not get automatically activated, and this needs to be done once you are actually in France. You must do this within the first 90 days of your physical presence on French soil, and it must be done online. However, before you reach that stage, proof of medical insurance is often a sticking point with visa applications, and most types of visa require a policy that provides cover equivalent to that of the French national healthcare system (la sécu), so make sure you’re all set with that.
8. You should visit an area you’re looking to buy in out of season
The sun is shining, the boulangerie’s doors are wide open, locals stop for a chat and the town square is abuzz with activity – no wonder you’re feeling good about the town you’re looking to buy in. But what happens if you move there and find that during winter there’s not much to do? That’s why it’s important to consider where you’re looking to buy very carefully. The estate agents at the French Property Exhibition stated that this can be a stumbling block for those that move to France for a new life and find that it’s not all as they expected, so do your due research before you buy.
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