Attractive property prices make France an appealing proposition. But with house-hunting costs and conveyancing fees to think about, it can all add up quickly…
Often overlooked, these initial costs aren’t to be underestimated. There’s getting to France, then travelling during your property search; it’s a big country! Also, if you’re hoping to buy a holiday home or relocate but are finding it hard to afford property-hunting trips, you should probably ask yourself how you’ll afford regular visits – to France, or back to the UK – once you actually buy.
French estate agents, known as agents immobiliers, charge a fee of between 6% and 10% of the price of the property for their services. What you may not realise is that it’s the buyer who pays the agent’s commission in France. The letters FAI (Frais d’Agence Inclus) or HAI (Honoraires d’Agence Inclus) next to the price on property listings mean “agency fees included”.
A notaire is an independent legal specialist who acts on behalf of the state. For property sales, notaires handle taxes and land registry duties in addition to the legal fees. Notaire ‘charges’ are banded but the total fee payable will come to about 8%-10% of the purchase price, slightly more if you’re buying with a mortgage. Some notaires also sell property, offering lower fees than estate agents but a less commercial service. You’ll find them in each town or by searching online (generally in French).
Upon agreeing the purchase of the property, you’ll usually pay a 10% deposit, which will be held by the notaire. After signing the initial Compromis de Vente, you’ll have a ten-day cooling-off period. If you change your mind during that time, your deposit will be returned to you within 21 days. However, if you withdraw from the purchase after the ten-day period, you’ll lose your deposit. Unless you pre-agreed a set of conditional clauses, known as clauses suspensives, with the notaire allowing you to withdraw under certain circumstances, such as a mortgage refusal.
Unless your French is flawless, you’ll probably need a bilingual legal representative in your own country to check contracts and clauses, and you might also need help while in France. Don’t simply use someone whose French is better than yours – check their credentials, or you’ll have no recourse should problems arise later. In addition, any translations of official documents, such as birth certificates, are only recognised if they’re provided by accredited translators called traducteurs assermentés, so other options could prove a false economy.
There can be frequent regulation changes in France, such as to the strict rules regarding all houses within certain historic zones (similar to listed building status), and they aren’t always well publicised. In addition, old houses in rural areas nearly always have septic tanks, and although French councils generally allow the current owners to keep their existing systems, incomers will need to upgrade to comply with current regulations.
All compulsory pre-purchase checks for lead, asbestos and termites, as well as the energy consumption report (Diagnostic de Performance Énergétique), are commissioned and paid for by the vendor, not the buyer. However, you’ll still need to factor in moving costs, short-term rent, if you can’t move in immediately, and the cost of connecting utilities or transferring them into your name. But don’t be alarmed. The associated costs of buying property in France are very reasonable. Make sure you do your homework and the purchase process should go smoothly.
If you are looking for property in France but can’t find what you’re looking for, or don’t have time to search yourself, FrenchEntrée has a dedicated Property Team to assist you in finding your dream property. Let us know what you are looking for and we will do our best to select properties matching your requirements.
We offer a wide range of services designed to help you to buy a property in France. If you need a mortgage or advice on your international money transfer, FrenchEntrée is dedicated to assisting you through all the steps of your property purchase.