So you have decided to purchase a property in France? Maybe you fancy a holiday home or perhaps you’ve decided to make a permanent move. You have been seduced by one of the numerous TV programmes or press articles devoted to a new life in a bucolic French idyll. You’ve just spent a wonderfully relaxing summer holiday in the land where the sun always shines and the locals greet each other with ‘bonjours’ and kisses. Stop! Take a deep breath.
Why rent if you want to buy?
What may seem like a wonderful property to purchase on a relaxing summer holiday can take on a less appealing air come mid-winter. That picturesque village in summer with its happy throng milling around the market and cafés may not have quite the same ambiance in the dark chilly days of January. The summer holiday season in France can be relatively short and most areas will be much quieter off-season.
Ensuring the right decision can be difficult when attempting to purchase a permanent home or even a maison secondaire – given the time constraints of a one or two week ‘holiday’.
Ideally, time should be taken to ensure that you’ve chosen the correct area and that the ‘crazy idea’ stands up to the cold light of the following weeks and months. How welcoming are the locals when all the tourists have left? What is the social life like in winter? Are there enough activities to keep you interested and engaged year round? What is the climate like in the different seasons? Perhaps it’s time to discard those rose tinted spectacles and get real?
Taking on a long rental can be an excellent way to get to know your chosen area more intimately before making a huge financial and emotional commitment. Some prefer to take on several longer lets of two or three months each. This enables you to move around and check out different areas.
Many choose long winter lets, renting from October to March. This can be very affordable and has the added assurance that if you like it in winter you’ll love it in summer. Renting may at first seem like money down the drain but in addition to enabling you to focus your property search, you can also make crucial contacts, perhaps by being a regular in the local café even if it is only for several months.
How long is a long let?
There is an important distinction made in France between furnished and unfurnished rentals. Furnished properties can be let for any period, though if you have no other property as your main residence a one year lease is compulsory. This can be reduced to the desired length of tenancy by completing a notice to quit. We find the most common furnished rentals run from one to six months. Leases for unfurnished properties normally run for a minimum of three years.
How do I find a rental property?
Properties can be found on our specialist website and it can also be worthwhile trying searches on the internet such as ‘long let france’ or the classifieds (‘petites annonces‘) in the local papers. Unfurnished accommodation is probably best located by consulting local immobiliers. Many unfurnished rentals tend to be snapped up by locals and never see a website.
How to pay?
Normally you will be asked to pay a security/damage deposit up front, plus a deposit to secure the booking. Rent is normally paid monthly, in advance. Some owners offer all-inclusive prices but most charge extra for utilities and logs (especially for winter rentals).
Depending on the length of rental, you may be asked to sign a lease or some kind of booking form. If this is in French, ensure you understand exactly what you are signing. References may also be requested.
Should I rent out my home?
It may be worth considering renting out your own home while you are away in France. The rental income may be enough to finance your French rental, though this is really only practical if you intend to be away for more than six months. The downside is that your home will be unavailable should you need to return earlier than planned.
Do your sums and ensure you have the means to support yourself when in France. It’s a big step so ‘bon courage‘ but it’s also ‘une belle aventure‘. Choose your rental property carefully and you will be well rewarded – money and time spent renting can be money and time well spent.