Unlike in the UK for example, having your property structurally surveyed is not compulsory with French banks and building societies, and only a very small minority of property buyers in France get a survey carried out on their house. It is a cultural attitude which makes the majority of French buyers assume that if a property looks structurally sound, and has been in existence for a number of years, it must be.
Furthermore, the profession of surveyor does not exist in France as it does in the UK. For instance, there are Architects who survey the land and Géomètre Experts who calculate the surface areas of buildings and land. Nevertheless, if you decide to get the property surveyed there are a number of English speaking surveyors to be found in France.
Using a surveyor is perhaps most worthwhile if you plan to renovate your property as they can determine the cost implications and feasibility of renovation and repairs on that particular property. The other option is to arrange to visit your property with a local builder to get opinions and costs.
Undoubtedly, there can be considerable benefits to getting your property professionally surveyed. On the rare occasion a survey could prevent you from purchasing an unsafe property. If you are planning to rent out your property as a holiday home it is also reassuring to know that it is structurally safe for your guests.
Surveyors will look for defects in a property which are waiting to manifest themselves as problems. Some of the dangerous features they will check for include: electricity cables, wiring and heating; pipes and waste drainage; wall structure and cracks; dampness and mould. They will survey both interior and exterior structures. Many underlying property problems are caused by environmental factors such as fungus, insects, floods, droughts radon gas, earth tremors etc., but older properties can have potential complications just because they are tired from overuse.
Some people will be satisfied by carrying out their own basic check. A good number of the problems that surveyors look for may be noticeable yourself, such as dampness or drainage problems. If using a surveyor, look for potential problems prior to their visit as it is a good idea to make a checklist of the things you are particularly concerned about to show them, before they carry out the survey.
It is worth getting the property surveyed before you sign the Compromis de Vente, because any problems found could influence the purchase price of the property sale. It also allows the surveyor a chance to recommend conditional clauses which can be put in the contract and thus work to the buyer’s advantage.
If you do not get a chance to get the property surveyed before signing the contract, but aspects of the house are concerning you, it is feasible to place a “subject to survey” clause suspensive in your Compromis de Vente to ensure that everything will be as you wish. It is possible to get your property surveyed during the seven day cooling off period after signing the contract – though this will not allow you the benefits of doing it prior to signing the contract.
Surveys are compulsory for the vendor, however, and are now grouped together in a single report known as the Technical Diagnostic File (Dossier de Diagnostic Technique) or “DDT”. This is completely unrelated to the buyer having an independent survey done by a surveyor. The DDT includes surveys on gas, electricity, lead, asbestos, termites, natural risks, energy performance, and an inspection of sewage disposal systems (if not connected to the mains).
Whether you choose to get your French property surveyed will depend on your personal circumstances. The majority of people in the UK for example, get their house surveyed because it is compulsory, not necessarily because they feel it is of significant importance. Whatever you decide, do not be put off by the fact, or assume that a survey is not necessary, just because it is not the norm in France.
If you are searching for an English speaking surveyor in France, search our FrenchEntrée Directory of Surveyors. Most professional surveyors will give you a full structural survey with a number of pages, rather than a short one page summary, so before employing a surveyor ask them about their survey format.
If you are looking for builders in France search our FrenchEntrée Builders Directory