Man jumping outside a new property

There’s a lot to think about when buying a property in France and even if you already speak good French, you will likely come across a host of unfamiliar words and French property vocabulary along the way.

When it comes to signing contracts in French or understanding the complexities of French property law, it’s highly recommended to seek the services of an English-speaking legal representative or a French-English translator. For everything else, we’ve put together all the essential terms, phrases, and vocabulary.

Essential French Property Buying Terms

The key people, contracts, and legal jargon that you need to know when buying French Property.


Agences immobilières or Immobilier  – Estate Agents or Estate Agency

Bon de visite – a form you sign before viewing a house with a French immobilier to prevent you sunsequently buying it through another agent or privately

Notaire – the public officer legally responsible for conveyancing in France.

Frais de notaire – total amount of money paid to the notaire on top of the sale price (includes, notaire fees, registration duty, land registration duty and other charges)

Plans cadastres – the plans of a property, land, and boundaries

Compromis de Vente – a legally binding contract that sets out terms of a property sale agreement

Clauses Suspensives – provisional conditions that can be added to the Compromis de Vente

Dépôt de garantie — The security deposit paid after signing the Compromis de Vente, typically 10%

Acte de Vente or Acte Authentique – the final purchase-sale contract signed by the buyer and seller of a property in France.

En indivision – a way of owning property in France equiviliant to a ‘tenacy in common’ under English law.

En Tontine – a way of owning property in France equiviliant to “joint owners” under English law

Société civile immobilière (SCI) – a way of owning property in France as part of a ‘partnership’ between two or more people.

Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT) – the compulsory diagnostic surveys which the vendor of a French Property is required to provide by law. These include surveys on lead and asbestos levels, fungal or beetle infestation of any woodwork, and the DPE test that relates to power consumption and insulation.

Attestation d’acquisition or attestation de vente – a written certificate from the notaire sent to you after all the sale paperwork is completed

French Property Vocabulary: Key Phrases

Useful French phases and questions to help during property visits and the buying procedure.


I want a house to live in permanently: Je cherche une résidence principale.

I am looking for a holiday home: Je cherche une résidence secondaire.

I’m looking for a flat in town: Je cherche un appartement en ville.

I’m looking for a house in the country: Je cherche une maison à la campagne.

Do you have any houses by the sea? Vous avez des maisons au bord de la mer?

We are looking for a farm: Nous cherchons une ferme.

We are looking for a property with a large south-facing garden: Nous cherchons une propriété avec un grand jardin très bien exposée (abbreviation TB expo.)

We are looking for a property that can be turned into a gite complex: Nous cherchons une propriété qu’on pourra transformer en ensemble de gîtes.

We are looking for a property to run as bed and breakfast business: Nous cherchons une propriété pour faire des chambres d’hôtes.

We are looking for shop premises: Nous cherchons des locaux commerciaux.

We want a house that is ready to live in: On voudrait une maison habitable de suite.

We want a new house: Nous cherchons une maison neuve.

We want a house for renovation: Nous cherchons une maison à restaurer.

We want a house that only needs decoration: Nous cherchons une maison à rafraîchir.

I would like something a little bigger/smaller: Je voudrais quelque chose un peu plus grand/petit.

I would like something that is closer to a village: Je voudrais quelque chose qui se situe plus près du village.

We want a house with at least four bedrooms: Nous cherchons une maison avec cinq pieces minimum (because this means four bedrooms plus a living-room, which is how it is stated in French)

I want a fitted kitchen: Je voudrais une cuisine équipée.

Our budget is €200,000: Nous avons un budget de 200,000 euros.

Above all, we want somewhere quiet: Nous voulons le calme avant tout.

What will I have to pay in taxe fonciere and taxe habitation? Combien est-ce que je vais payer en taxe foncière et taxe habitation?

Where are the boundaries of my land? Quelles sont les limites de mon terrain?

I would like a surveyor to look at the house: Je voudrais faire examiner la maison par un expert.

Do I need planning permission to renovate this house? Est-ce qu’il me faut un permis de construire pour pouvoir rénover cette maison?

Is the house connected for water and electricity? Est-ce que la maison est branchée? (Or Est-ce qu’il y a de l’eau? Est-ce qu’il y a de l’électricité?)

Is this house in a flood zone? Est-ce que cette maison est dans une zone inondable?

Does the price include all fees? Est-ce que le prix comprend tous les frais?

The house is very close (literally two steps) from the beach: La maison est à deux pas de la plage.

The house is five minutes from the village: La maison est à cinq minutes du village.

Essential French Property Vocabulary

An A-Z glossary of all the essential words and vocabulary you might come across during your French property search.


abri – a small outbuilding, a shed or shelter for shade
acceuil – reception, welcome
acompte – deposit
agence immobilière – real estate agent
agglomere – chipboard
l’ancien propriétaire – the former owner
aménager – to convert
appartement – flat
ardoise – slate tile
ascenseur – lift
atelier – workshop
attenant – attached
bâtiment – building
bergerie – sheep barn
bricolage – DIY
buanderie – laundry
cadastre – local town planning register
carreleur – tiler
carte de séjour – resident’s permit, obtained from the Préfecture of the department
cave – cellar
cellier – pantry or store
certificat d’urbanisme – land use certificate
chambre – bedroom
charpentier – carpenter
chauffage – heating
chauffage central (abbreviation ch c) – central heating
chauffage central fuel – oil central heating
chéminee – fireplace
combles – attic
cuisine – kitchen
cuisine américaine/USA – open-plan kitchen
cuisine d’étè – outside kitchen, BBQ area
démenager – to move house
demeure ancienne avec cachet – old building that has character
de plein pied – bungalow
devis – estimate for work
double vitrage – double glazing
duplex – maisonette
entièrement rénové – renovated throughout
expert comptable – chartered accountant
FNAIM – Federation Nationale des Agents Immobilier
fosse septique – septic tank
frais d’agence inclus (FAI) – estate agent’s feed included
foyer – main hall (also the unit of people living together)
Les frais de notaire – notaire’s fees included
Les frais de notaire réduits – reduced notaire’s fees
fuelle – heating oil
grange – barn
grenier – attic
immobilier – property or real estate agent
impot – tax
individuel(le) – detached
loggia – covered terrace
lu et approuvé – phrases written accompanying signature of contract “read and approved”
maçon – builder
maison – house
maison de maitre – more formal, grander style of house
maison des amis – anything from an outbuilding to a separate apartment or cottage
maison mitoyenne – semi-detached
mairie – town hall
menuiserie – joinery
meubles – furniture
meublé — furnished
parpaing – breeze-block
permis de construire – planning permission
pièce (abbreviated to P): room
pièce principale – main room
piscine – swimming pool
premier étage – the first floor
propriété – property
plomberie – plumbing
proximité – close to
puit – well
quatre pièces principales (abbreviation F4) which means a three-bedroomed house or flat with three bedrooms plus a living-room
(a)rafraîchir – in need of decoration
(à) rénover – to be renovated
refait neuf – newly restored
remise – barn
rez-de-chaussée (abbreviation rdc) – ground floor
salle de bain – bathroom
salle d’eau – shower room, usually with toilet
salon – dining room
salle a manger – dining room
sans vis-à-vis – not overlooked
séjour – living room or lounge
séjour-salon avec cheminée (35 mètres carrés) – living/sitting-room with
fireplace (area 35 square metres)
sous-sol – the basement
style bastide – country style
surface habitable – habitable space, usually excludes bathrooms and garage – shown in square metres m2
T Type (e.g. T3, T4) – classification of property type and size showing the number of main rooms including bedrooms
taxe d’habitation – a local tax, partly means-tested, payable only from the December of the year in which you were the owner. Due on the 1st January in advance
taxe foncière – a government tax on property, payable pro-rata from date of completion to the end of December
terrain – land
toit – roof
toiture – roofing
TBE (très bon état) – very good condition
trois faces (abbreviation 3F) – a semi-detached building
TVA (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée) – French VAT
vidange curage – fosse septique emptying & treatment
Verser un acompte – to put down a deposit

Looking to Buy a Property in France?

From planning your property-hunting trip to collecting the keys—FrenchEntrée is here to guide you, advise you, and hold your hand through the entire process. Ready to get started on your property search? Browse our property for sale in locations all over France. About to make an offer on a potential buy? Read our step by step articles on every aspect of the purchase process then check out our property articles for the latest news, insider tips, and expert FAQs.

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