Q – I’m going out to view properties but still haven’t discussed my mortgage options, what should I do?
A – Before you move forward with your search, it is essential to have your finances in place. Make sure you have at least started the mortgage process and ideally have got a provisional agreement in place before you go to France. This will spare you the crushing disappointment of finding the perfect property but not being able to buy it due to application timelines.
Q – I’ve heard that the price of a property is always negotiable, is that true?
A – This is a difficult question to answer. What we will say is that it is a discussion to have with the estate agent showing you the property. They will know the background of both the property and the seller, and be in a good position to advise what a suitable offer would be. Don’t, however, look at
properties over your budget, assuming you’ll be able to negotiate down. Sod’s law says those are the properties that will go at the full asking price!
Q – I have no idea where to look in France, can you suggest areas?
A – While we can’t decide for you, we can off er several things to consider when trying to figure out areas. Think about the things you like doing, hobbies you enjoy. Think about looking at areas that offer easy ways to do the things you like. It’s also worth considering areas you are familiar with as a starting point, or perhaps have friends who are familiar with. What we don’t recommend is heading over and trying to narrow down areas by travelling through region after region in one trip. Not only will you wear yourself out, but you also won’t get any feel for the area at all and what it offers.
Q – I don’t speak French. Will the language barrier be an issue for contracts/paperwork?
A – Although you may find a notaire who speaks English, it is important to realise that all the documents will be in French and contain unfamiliar legal terms. But you can easily obtain a professional translation either in France or in your home country. In France, you’ll find officially registered translators qualified to translate legal documents. Ask the agent if they can recommend an independent translator or use the FrenchEntrée directory.
Q – I am looking for a renovation project, what things do I need to consider?
A – First and foremost: budget. The most important factor to consider is both your purchase budget AND your renovation costs. How much can you spend on both, is the first question you want to ask. Secondly, you need to research the local planning permissions in your chosen area and look into possible renovation businesses and building companies. Visit the FrenchEntrée website for an extensive list of builders and renovation firms in France (including British ones).
Q – Will I be able to live on rental income?
A – Like any business, the size of the endeavour will play a big part in how much revenue can be generated. Having a small gîte with a property should be viewed as a bonus, rather than a major source of income. Inversely, having dedicated and large gîtes or guest accommodation can provide a sizeable stream of revenue. There are important factors to consider, such as proximity to popular areas and amenities, potential length of rental season each year, past income generated (which can be discussed with sellers/agents) and potential running costs. Considering all of these aspects will help you to decide which properties would or wouldn’t be suitable.
Q – How easily can I integrate into the local community?
A – This depends on how much you intend to participate in local events, how hard you try to get to know your neighbours – and, of course, where your home is situated. Expats choosing to live in towns or villages may find that there is more to get involved in, whereas those opting for properties in a more rural setting may find that peace and quiet comes with fewer opportunities for socialising. It’s also worth noting that there are schemes funded by the French government, such as AIKB in Brittany, that offer members access to social events, language lessons and translation services for a small annual fee.
Q – I’ve heard that some areas of France have more expats than French people. Is this true?
A – Simply put: no. Certain areas, such as the Dordogne or Brittany, have always been popular with expatriates for relocation. But they have by no means run the French out of these regions. Your best bet to find out more about the local communities will always be to visit and get a feel for the atmosphere and mix of nationalities. The great thing about looking for a property in France is being able to choose where you end up, so if you have your sights set on somewhere a bit more authentic and predominantly French, the Hexagon is your oyster.
Q – I’ve heard that the French healthcare system is complicated. Is that true?
A – While the French healthcare system does differ slightly from other countries, it’s not very complicated. Appointments/treatments are paid for upfront, then mostly reimbursed by the government. Any remaining amount that isn’t reimbursed can be covered by signing up to a mutuelle, a private top-up insurance. The main advantage of the French system is being able to choose who treats you, bypassing long waiting lists and the need for referrals. The World Health Organisation has, in fact, praised the French system as being “close to the best overall healthcare” in the world.
A great vote of confidence!