The FrenchEntrée Property Team answers your burning questions
Q. We hear more and more British property owners in France are selling up because of Brexit. Is that true?
A. We have not seen a flood of British-owned properties coming onto the market post-referendum.
Q. I would like to buy a property jointly with three friends and use it as a shared holiday home. Is this possible under French law?
A. Yes it is. Put it this way: when a married couple purchases a property, each partner essentially buys 50 per cent, so there is no reason why four individuals couldn’t buy 25 per cent each. Many of our clients – particularly those living overseas, in Australia and the US – find a joint purchase a handy way to get a foothold in France without committing to buying a ‘full-price’ property. That said, if one of the buyers died, it could get complicated. We’d recommend taking legal advice to make sure this arrangement works for you.
Q. I have a £12,000 deposit and am planning to buy a €50,000- €60,000 property in France, with a view to renting it out. Is this realistic or am I being way too optimistic? What would my rights/options as a landlord be?
A. There are a few things you need to consider at this stage. If you are looking for finance, the majority of lenders will not loan less than €50,000. In most cases €100,000 is the minimum. Long-term rentals are definitely a sound strategy in France as yields are reasonably stable. But to be able to successfully rent long-term in France (to the French) you need to buy in a commutable and reasonably sized village or town. Go too rural and you won‘t have a large enough pool of potential tenants. Everyone will be over 70 or an expat – so not of working/ rent-paying age. It’s also important to note that renting a long-term unfurnished property is typically done on a three-year lease. So you wouldn’t be able to use the property yourself for three years.
If you wished to use it as a holiday home, but rent it out the rest of the year, you would have to let it out furnished – as a gîte/self-catering holiday villa – or alternatively, on a short-term six-month furnished contract (eg to house-hunters looking to rent in the area). Renting out as a gîte would be more work and offer fewer guarantees.
You‘d also have to factor in the leisure/tourism appeal of the area. It is a competitive market and being able to let out a house or flat for eight to 12 weeks during peak tourist season is usually considered quite a good result. You might want to consider other alternatives like leaseback.
Again, with leaseback you’re looking at a £100,000+ investment. Or you could ‘go in’ with friends or family in a co-ownership scheme. You could also buy a property with two ‘units’ (eg a house split into two flats) and keep one for your own personal use and rent out the other.
Alternatively, you could buy a plot of land (very cheap in France) and build a three-bedroom house, then rent the house out when it is finished. If €50,000 is the top of your budget, you’ll need to consider areas where you will get more bang for your buck, such as Brittany or Limousin.
Q. We have been watching Escape to the Château and are now considering buying a small manor house to renovate. How much does renovating a small château cost on average?
A. That‘s a difficult question. The answer will vary from one property to the next. The two main things to take into account are the state of disrepair and size – and that includes the roof and windows. The larger the property the more materials will be needed, and the higher the costs. To give you an idea of average renovation costs, you’re looking at between €800 and €2,000 per square metre.
Of course, that‘s if you leave all the work to the experts. If you decide to take on the bulk of repairs yourself, you could easily halve these figures. But speaking from experience, renovations always end up costing more than you‘ve budgeted for; and often take longer than you expect. Old properties come with bags of charm – and structural quirks – and, while it‘s part of the appeal, be prepared for the odd unwelcome surprise…
Q. Is getting planning permission in France difficult?
A. It’s not easy, but then again bureaucracy never is. Planning rules are set at national level and administered locally, so the Mairie is the point of contact for all planning applications. To find out what rules and restrictions apply to any building or plot of land, consult the local land plan, the Plan Local d’Urbanisme (PLU). This document lays out what you can and cannot do and how to apply to get the required planning permission. This can be done at the point of sale to ensure that renovation/building/ extension work is, in fact, possible before you commit to buying a property. A word of warning, however: even if the mayor assures you off the record that work is possible and that you‘ll get planning permission in no time, don‘t take them at their word. They may have the best intentions in the world, but this is not legally binding – or ultimately entirely up to them!
Get in touch with FrenchEntrée Property to run through your options and help finance your French property purchase. Call us on +44 (0)203 773 2824 or visit our property pages.
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