It is becoming increasingly popular to purchase a plot of land in order to build your own property. This is mainly because it can be a cheaper option than buying a resale house, even when the price of the land is combined with the construction costs. Of course, the other major advantage is that you can design a property exactly how you want, to meet your needs, desires and budget. So when acquiring your land, you will need to sort out the various planning permissions and decide whether or not to design the property yourself, use an architect, or ask a builder for a ready-made plan.
The majority of land for sale does come with planning permissions, and even if it does not have it is often sold with the view that you will be applying for a certificat d’urbanism. The certificat d’urbanism gives permission for property to be built on the land.
If the land does not have planning permission, you should visit the mairie to find out whether or not it would be worthwhile to apply for a certificat d’urbanism. If so, the mairie will be able to help you obtain and fill in the paperwork. They will also be able to check that your chosen plot can be easily connected to utility services, such as the power grid, water board, local sewage works and the telephone line.
Most land is sold with a certificat d’urbanism. You will need a permis de construire for all new building work. To apply for this, you will need plans, drawings and maps of what you propose to do with the land. The mairie can assist with this. The permis de construire gives you permission to build your chosen property.
Some builders do offer to obtain your permis de construire, but this is a service in order to secure work and so ties you to one person and affects intellectual property rights. Legally, the builders own the rights to what they have made/created so they can charge you if you get planning permission and then do not use them for the building job.
If you are buying land with planning permission, check what it covers so that you know whether the type of house you want will be allowed to be built. Check what rights others have over your land, e.g. is it on a public footpath? Time spent checking all these factors will save you from being caught out further down the line.
See our article on planning permissions in France.
If you property is over 170 m2, you must, by law, use an architect to draw up your property plans. Either way, it is sensible for potential land buyers to work with an architect prior to purchasing the plot; this is because the architect will be able to check whether local authorities will accept your house design. Read more about calculating the area of habitable space.
An architect can be employed to draw the design plans for your entire house or check the viability of your own plans and suggestions.
The architect’s plans should include cost estimates and stage payments. The actual building work can be overseen by the architect, who will know exactly what their plans entail, but this is optional.
See our article on the role of architects in France.
In terms of building your property you have two options: self build, or buy from a new build company.
The first option is to self-build. There is some confusion over the term self-build which some people consider to mean physically building the property yourself. However, in this case we mean that you will commission and manage the whole project yourself from designing your property and drawing up the plans, budgeting, to overseeing a group of builders and tradesmen. This option allows you to design and build your property exactly how you want, for example in an eco-friendly way.
In most cases you will draw up your plans with an architect and, either they, or an independent maître d’œuvre (who will be able to spend more time on site but will not usually be as qualified as the architect), will manage the building of your property and will conclude all contracts with the various builders and tradesmen – both tend to have trustworthy contacts. Alternatively, you could manage the project yourself and agree contracts with builders and tradesmen. This option allows you to design and build your property exactly how you want with the help of an architect who will be able to recommend building materials and options in order that your property is designed to meet your expectations and budget.
The second option is to attain your property through a new build company. They will have ready made plans from which you can choose a property design and will also organise and oversee the building of the property. This will be the most hands-off option, but you may not get the variety or style that you may want. If you decide to take a ready-made plan, you will need to sign the contrat de construction d’une maison individuelle avec fourniture de plan. The terms of the contract are regulated by law. The builder must have financial guarantees and insurance. Typically, payments are made according to a well-defined schedule, but costs should be clear from the beginning e.g.
15% on starting the work
25% on completion of foundations
40% on completion of walls
60% when the roof is put on
95% when the heating, plumbing and carpentry are done
100% at the handover
Builders in France tend to be booked up months in advance, but it is still advisable to use a trusted and respected builder. Work done by builders registered in France is insured for ten years, and they will have trained to high standards. It is also good to support local builders. For big building jobs make sure you see more than one builder. Compare quotes and explain to them your requirements.
Have a list of all the work you need to do, including where you will be providing materials such as for kitchens and bathrooms. Then find an artisan for each type of work involved – a mason is not necessarily registered for plumbing and electricity and these two areas need to be left to experts. A general builder or building firm should be able to do most of the work assisted by an electrician and plumber.
See our article on Hiring an Artisan.
There are certain ways in which you can make your new build eco-friendly and energy efficient, including the installation of solar panels, wind turbines and insulation methods.
See our article on eco-friendly homes.
It is important to set out your budget in advance and work out the costs from the beginning, e.g. land purchase price, construction materials, and the fees for the architect and artisans, etc. It is also important to set aside some surplus cash for unforeseen costs – 10% of the overall project budget is advised. The cost of the land itself will vary greatly from area to area. For example, a 2,500 m2 plot could set you back around €525,000 in Provence-Côte d’Azur, €40,000 in Poitou-Charentes, and around €25,000 in some corners of the Limousin (though of course prices will vary greatly according to location, land quality and services available within a particular area.
Start your search for a plot of land here.
So you’ve got your heart set on going the self-build route and need to find the perfect spot? A phone call to the FrenchEntrée Property team is a good place to start.
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For further information or for help with your property search, please call the property team at +44 (0)1225 463 752 or email [email protected].
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