The FrenchEntrée Property Team answers your questions
Q. We’ve made enquiries with several estate agents in Languedoc, but they don’t seem to be very interested in arranging viewings – perhaps because we’re British. What do we need to do to be taken seriously by French estate agents?
A. Firstly, you need to send the right “buying signals”. This means being honest about your time frame. Are you looking to buy immediately, or just getting an idea of what’s out there? If you aren’t actually looking to buy anytime soon, agents may be reluctant to show you properties and get vendors’ hopes up. But that doesn’t mean they can‘t be helpful.
While some agents may not be willing to arrange ‘full visits’, they may be more than happy to show you properties from the outside, to give you a feel for the housing stock in that particular area. We’d highly recommend taking them up on this.
And since we’re on the topic of honesty: never tell an agent you’re a ‘cash buyer’ unless it is true. If your purchase is contingent on releasing equity or getting a loan in your home country, you risk losing credibility with the agent and the vendor.
Speaking of credibility, do your research before arranging viewings. Make sure you know how far the property is from amenities, the nearest town or village etc. Your agent – no matter how patient and understanding – will not want to play tour guide. And, importantly, stick to your appointments. If you can’t make it, let the agent know in advance. You‘d be surprised how many potential buyers fail to turn up, disappointing both the agent and the property owner. It’s just plain rude!
Q. The property I am interested in has some land next door, which I‘d also like to acquire to extend the garden. What is the best way forward?
A. Firstly, don’t assume everything is for sale. Make it clear to your agent early on that you are interested in finding out who owns the land and whether they might be interested in selling some or all of it. You will be reliant on the agent to put in the legwork to establish who the owners are, and potentially negotiate on your behalf.
They will have to agree to do this for you. If the land is potentially for sale, get a few opinions about what it may be worth. Agricultural land has a much lower value than constructible land.
You may need to sign a Mandat de Recherche with your estate agent allowing them to act on your behalf in the transaction. This is normal practice – the agency needs to cover itself!
If your purchase of the main property becomes contingent on acquiring the extra land (which might be for sale via a different seller), then you can ask for a clause suspensive to be included in the Compromis de Vente stating that you won’t go through with the house purchase unless you can buy the adjacent plot of land too. The vendor of the main property, however, will have to agree to this – and they are under no obligation to do so.
Q. Why is there so much property for sale in rural areas of France?
A. Well, let’s not forget that France is the largest country in Western Europe and has approximately twice the land mass of the UK. And as the majority of France is countryside it’s little wonder rural areas have plenty of properties that are for sale.
Another reason relates to job prospects. The younger generation often moves from their family home in the countryside closer to major towns and cities with thriving economies and more opportunities. As a result, property that might have been their parents’ or grandparents’ is not wanted or going to be used, and so ends up on the market.
Then there is the issue of inheritance. Inheritance law in France means that property can be divided between several children, who may or may not agree on what to do with it. So they end up selling. While there is a strong market for international buyers in France, outside of hyper-popular areas like Paris, Provence and the Alps, there is simply more property for sale than buyers. This means there are amazing deals to be had in the countryside. That said, too much choice can be a bit overwhelming. Why not seek the help of a property-hunting service like FrenchEntrée to find the right house for you?
Q.We live in the UK, but are planning to rent out our holiday home in France. Would the rental income be taxable in France?
A. Even if you live and work in the UK your rental income is subject to tax in France. This is the case whether the property is owned by a partnership, a Société de Personnes or an individual resident in France or the UK, under the rules of the current double-tax treaty.
If the owner is resident in the UK at the time, the income will also always be taxable in the UK. It is therefore a legal requirement that tax returns are made in both France and the UK, regardless of whether there is a profit or a loss.
The French tax system has its quirks, so if you’re in any doubt we’d recommending soliciting the advice of a tax expert.
This article has been edited to reflect a correction to the final question. The previous information published was incorrect at time of posting.