Top Tips for Your Renovation Project from a French Estate Agent


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Top Tips for Your Renovation Project from a French Estate Agent

So you’re ready for your new French adventure, and the idea of doing up a charming old farm has caught your eye. It can be a great way of making your dream home, but there are lots of things to think about too.

I’m a professional estate agent in France covering the Dordogne and Lot et Garonne regions, and I run residential masterclasses at our gites every June and September. If you can’t wait that long, here are my top tips to get you thinking about your renovation project now.

1. Negotiate a good price

There is no doubt that most regions of France have a great selection of properties in need of some care and attention, from the old farm, which is barely more than a few walls, to the village property that hasn’t seen a lick of paint for 30 years. Many French people have a preference for buying newer houses, so the asking price for renovation projects can be attractive.

2. Do your homework before you make an offer

Make sure you have consulted the local Mairie to see if the Plan Locale d’Urbanisme (PLU) will allow you to make your desired improvements. If you are close to certain historical buildings, there may be restrictions on building materials and styles.


3. Set your budget

Make a realistic budget that takes account of the actual material and labour costs in France. Generally, materials are more expensive here than in the UK, so even if you are able to carry out lots of the work yourself, you can blow your budget quickly.


4. Know the rules regarding DIY

If you are doing work yourself, you will need to comply with building regulations here, and you may need to have a qualified person, such as an electrician, to provide you with a certificate of conformity for the work you have done yourself.


5. Be aware of Capital Gains Tax regulations in France

You can use renovation costs to offset any gain, but you must have receipted invoices and corresponding entries in your bank account to show these have been paid.


6. Do the maths

Have your eyes open about the financial gains. The ultimate value of your home is quite likely to be less than all your costs added together. So, you must find your principal value in enjoying the benefit of the improvements yourself.


7. Don’t ignore the energy rating

There is a big drive for energy-efficient homes in France. If you buy an old property, it is likely to score an F or G on the diagnostic de performance énergétique (DPE) scale. From April 2023, it is a legal requirement that the vendor of any poorly performing home must have an audit of the works necessary to raise the grade to a minimum of an E. The buyer isn’t obliged to carry out the improvements, but if you do want to improve the energy rating, it can be challenging to do so while retaining the charm of stone walls, exposed beams, and a Roman tile roof.


8. Understand your tax liabilities

Every homeowner pays a local council tax (taxe foncière), and the annual charge depends on the internal facilities, such as a number of bathrooms and whether the attic has been converted into living space. If you make any improvements, you need to declare these so the taxe foncière can be updated.


9. Consider a new build

If all the above makes you feel unsure, consider buying a building plot with planning permission (CU) and engaging a builder. You can pick up a plot of land of 4000 square metres (1 acre) with outline planning permission for about 40k€.


Learn more with our French property masterclass

If you are ready to jump into your search, why not book a week at one of our Dordogne gites in June or September and take part in a masterclass? As well as tutorials and one-to-one advice, there’s time to get to know the region and view properties.

Tony and his wife Lisa came to live in France in 2020 and now run Au Coin Des Arbres, four gites in the Dordogne countryside. Find out how they did it and learn how to do it yourself with their masterclasses

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