Real Life: Selling up and moving on

Real Life: Selling up and moving on

After 22 years of owning their second home in Ste-Maxime in the sunny south of France, it was finally time to move on for Anthony and Janine Marfleet…

The experience of watching our little home rise from the ground had been exciting if not a little daunting, from having to overcome our lack of French and trying to understand the process, to eventually receiving the keys some 18 months later.

Our story of ‘Living the dream at Ste-Maxime’ was published in FPN and I later mentioned to Karen, the editor, that I found the process of selling far more daunting than buying due to French laws, procedures and especially the tax implications. Here’s why…



One major consideration was to identify when the ‘start date’ of our off-plan purchase was documented as this had a major financial bearing on the 22-year ownership as far as capital gains was concerned. The French plus valeur is nil after this period for the property, but the same doesn’t go for non-EU citizens’ social charges against plus valeur. As UK citizens and residents, we would be charged for this despite never being able to claim a cent from their social services as we are covered under our UK system. More on this later…

The above was, initially, secondary to putting chez-nous on the market. Of the many agencies in Ste-Maxime, we chose one in the main street leading down through the centre to the ‘town beach’ and casino. This thoroughfare is always busy with pedestrians walking into town towards the seafront with some rather nice ‘retail therapy’ outlets. A branch of a major bank is opposite the agency too. Belgian friends had chosen this family business to sell their two-bedroom property previously and spoke highly of the couple who run it, who were successful in selling their home at a fair price. And so we chose Agence Excellence. They put our house on the market in October 2021 in the firm belief that it would probably take two years to sell – as per previous experience of similar sales.

Within a month we had an offer! It took us by surprise as we’d hoped to spend at least another summer there and have time to sort out heirlooms that we had collected over the previous 20 years. Come January 2022, our buyers were very keen to purchase and our agent offered a €2,000 reduction in his commission to ensure we received the price we wanted. Ultimately, he would still receive €17,000, but not the full 5% normally charged!


So, we agreed to sell at €385,000 to a charming couple we eventually met in February 2022 when they arrived at chez- nous for a conversation about ‘how everything works’: the hot water cylinder and various appliances and we handed over their mode d’emploi booklets. I also explained les réglements for the co-propriété (co-ownership) as many local French owners interpret some aspects to suit themselves! This was a little tricky as the buyers didn’t speak any English – not that we would have expected them to. However, we got by a flick through the Franglais dictionary beforehand made it sound like I was ‘fluent’, but not actually so!

Jean-Claude and Arlette Alainé were delighted to be taking our house on. It was a purchase for themselves and not for their extended families, as they were quick to point out. A bolthole with only two bedrooms, shower-room/wc, downstairs wc and kitchen with an open-plan dining area. Interestingly, I recognised their name as on our many trips south, we’d passed trucks and trailers and a depot off the autoroute at Mâcon carrying a similar name. In the documentation, the promesse de vente, full details of names, dates of birth and marriages plus home addresses appear, so it was easy for me to conclude my hunch was right. Jean-Claude and his brothers owned the haulage company but had recently sold it to a conglomerate that wished to keep the family name on the vehicles. The ‘Eddie Stobarts’ of France?
A more charming couple you could not meet. Two days later, on 22 February 2022, we were all seated in the notaire’s office in Ste-Maxime for the signing of the sale contracts. Their solicitor oversaw proceedings via a Zoom link. After the wording was read out and we’d agreed that everything was correct, we signed and all shook hands.

We left the building for two large crèmes at our usual Brasserie Bianca. What had we done? Sold our dream after 22 years of wonderful experiences we would not have wished to miss for all the rosé in the Var!



Calculating the costs of sale reveals just how much the French authorities take – especially as we are British citizens post-Brexit. Not that Brexit had any influence on our decision – quite the contrary. We didn’t pay any plus valeur on the property as the authorities calculated that we had ‘owned’ the property for over 22 years we’d signed the contrat de reservation in October 1999 for the off-plan building, and paid the agreed deposit, even though we didn’t pay the final instalment until receiving the keys on 1 April 2001.

Included in their calculations was a 100% taux de la réduction against the sale price versus the purchase price (corrected to euros from the francs we had paid before the euro became the EU currency). Deductions were made from the agreed sale price for the notaire and fiscal representative’s fees (€1,730), agency commission (€17,000) and the diagnostic charges for electricity checks, termites etc (€182) and the utility company’s water/waste survey charge €181.50). The net figure was reduced to €366,088. All other ‘offset’ charges, including the 15% figure for costs against construction, reconstruction, improvements and so on from our initial purchase price netted down to €177,010 leaving €189,078 as the actual ‘capital gain’. However, this was nullified due to our 22-plus years of ownership.

However, there remained a charge of €23,416 for plus valeur against social charges (calculated using three different percentages off the net figure €366,088!). This was a ‘penalty’ as we could never enjoy any benefits of their welfare state because we are UK residents and no longer members of the EU. This bitter pill was sweetened somewhat when M. Macron had a change of heart and we received back €13,000 two years after the sale, but he still has €10,000 of ‘our’ money.

For UK tax purposes, we also had to declare capital gains outside the UK in our self- assessment. We sent our tax office copies of all the French documents and translated their charges to avoid dual taxation under the double-tax treaty agreed between our governments. It took them an age to calculate what we owed. Eventually, we paid the £10,500 they demanded.

In summary, this is what we received from the sale:

  • Sale price: €385,000
  • Deductions: €17,000 (agency commission), €1,730 (notaires’ fees, including fiscal representative fee), €182 (diagnostics fee), €181.50 (Veloia water/waste survey), €870 (fee from the copropriété syndic for ‘informing’ the notaire we had paid our service charges up to date!), €23,416 (‘net’ plus value – social charges)*
  • Total deductions: €43,379.50
  • Net received: €341,602.50 *Later credit of €13,000 repaid

Throughout our negotiations with the notaire, agency and appointed fiscal representative based in Paris (compulsory for non-EU property owners), we were helped tremendously by Sue Busby of France Legal,
who is based in Suffolk near where we had moved. Her fees were similar to a UK solicitor’s in a property sale and were worthwhile as she kept us on the straight and narrow throughout the formidable selling process.



When asked by friends and family how we felt about selling ‘our dream’, we said that we were naturally very sad at closing that door after so many years. However, we would not have missed the experience for all the world. Travelling to and fro, mainly by car, we had great fun exploring L’Hexagone, driving south via the east across to Mulhouse (which has some great museums) and following the Route Napoléon beside the Alps. We also went via Normandy, Brittany and Charente-Maritime to the west, and from Santander in Spain to Biarritz and across to Carcassonne and the Camargue. All ending up at Ste-Maxime. We also took occasional trips via Eurostar and flights to Nice during the festive season, all adding to our ‘French experience’ for almost 24 years.

We’ll never forget the friends we’ve made along the way, and during our last visit in September 2023, we caught up with many of them. However, after such a period, things do change. Ste-Maxime’s maire has spent wisely on improving the town during his tenure, as well as dramatically reducing the ‘borrowings’ inherited from his predecessor!

If ever anybody asks us about ‘investing’ in France, there are so many places we could recommend, but our hearts remain in Le Var for so many reasons – the best rosé (in our opinion) being just one of them. There are also, many delightful fortified hilltop villages, interesting towns and cities, and a history going back to Phoenician, Greek and Roman occupations. ‘La belle vie’ – sans aucun doute!

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