Buying property off-plan in France

Buying property off-plan in France

Can’t find quite the right property? It might be time to consider an off-plan purchase – new developments can be ideal for private buyers and investors. Julie Savill explains what you need to know…

In France, off-plan developments have long been a staple of the property market and are increasing in popularity. Finished to a high standard and ready for you to move straight in and enjoy, they are an ideal investment for those wishing to run rentals or a low-maintenance option if you simply want your own French bolthole. This isn’t the way forward if you want to be in by Christmas – these sites usually have a two-year build schedule – but if you find the right property and are prepared to wait, you might just end up with something really special.


Buying off-plan is a very secure purchase option in France. Extensive legislation covers the build and the legal process of the sale and the French system is probably the most robust in Europe. Financially, it also eases the load on cash flow as payments are scheduled by law according to building stages all the way to completion. The art of a successful off-plan purchase is choosing the right property for your needs, and for that, local expert advice is key.


There are two types of off-plan purchase in France. You’ll see properties listed as either VEFA (vente en l’état futur d’achèvement) or VIR (vente en l’immeuble à rénover), each of which can offer several advantages to buyers.

VEFA relates to the sale of property that is to be built from scratch. It offers buyers the opportunity to purchase a property before construction is completed (and often before it is even started). The buyer pays for the property in stages, with payments linked to construction milestones. This allows buyers to spread the cost of their investment over a longer period, making it even more affordable. There are also favourable rates for notaire’s fees on this type of purchase. Buyers enjoy a full construction dossier including planning and extensive diagnostic reports.

VIR is a similar model, but it applies to existing properties that are being renovated to create new accommodation within a character building. So, for example, an historic property in a desirable town or city might be transformed into luxurious apartments and penthouses offering a quality lifestyle. For those who are paying tax in France, there is the possibility of significant reduction in the taxes paid on the purchase. This, of course, depends on the personal situation of the purchaser and advice should be sought on your own specific situation.


If you get in early on a development, there may be literally nothing to see except a plot and plans of the intended build. Of course, you can visit the site to see the location, the surroundings and the nearby towns or beaches. You should also be able to see floor plans of the intended apartments or villas and, in many cases, quite sophisticated CGI illustrations of how both the exterior and interior will look. You should also be shown an overall plan of the whole site and, sometimes, a 3D model so you can get an idea of the height of the buildings and which plots will have the view that you want. Remember – early birds get the pick of the properties!

For VIR developments you may be able to visit the building to be renovated to see it in its original condition. If works are already under way, access to the interior might be limited for safety reasons.


There are three main contract stages with an off-plan purchase in France.


Buying off-plan is well regulated in France, making it a great option, Photo: Shutterstock


  • This very early step sets out the terms of the purchase, including price and delivery timings, and reserves the property in your name.
  • At the early stages of the development, you may be offered a choice of internal finishes including kitchens, bathrooms and other materials.
  • In most cases, it is drafted by the notary of the vendor (the developer). This allows the developer to keep track of the pipeline of sales and the schedule of payments that will allow for the development of the site. The amount to be paid to the developer at the time of booking is either:
  1. 5% of the full purchase price if the purchase deed is to be signed within one year after the reservation contract was signed.
  2. 2% of the full purchase price if the purchase deed is to be signed between one and two years after the reservation contract was signed.


  • The dossier is sent to the notaire who prepares the equivalent of a compromis de vente (sales agreement).


  • This is the point at which the purchase is complete and will be signed at least three months after the reservation contract.
  • Delivery of the completed property will be up to two years after this date depending on how advanced the build is at the time of signing.

Withdrawal options:

  • The buyer gets a 10-day withdrawal option after signing the booking contract and another 10 days after the signature of the preliminary deed of sale.
  • If the buyer withdraws within 10 days of the signature of the above deeds, any funds already transferred will be returned.
  • If a buyer meets with a salesperson at the buyer’s home to sign the contract, the legal withdrawal option extends to 14 business days.


If this has whetted your appetite for a packet-fresh property, you will want an overview of what is currently out there and available. From waterfront Mediterranean villas and apartments to studios and duplexes in cities such as Carcassonne, ski properties and even a naturist resort, there is a wealth of choice. Find an agent that has experience and contacts and use their expertise to guide your buying journey.


Julie Savill is the Marketing Director at Beaux Villages estate agency.

Tel: 0800 270 0101 (Freephone from the UK) 0033 (0) 805 69 23 23

The unique mix of legal, financial and tax advice along with in-depth location guides, inspiring real life stories, the best properties on the market, entertaining regular pages and the latest property news and market reports makes French Property News magazine a must-buy publication for anyone serious about buying and owning a property in France.

Lead photo credit : New developments like this one in Herault - see opposite overleaf - often have great facilities, Photo: Julie Savill

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