If you’re looking to purchase a French property and move to France, opting to rent before you buy can have many advantages. However, finding a long-term rental in France is not always as simple as you might think, and the paperwork required can be a challenge for some new arrivals. Here’s what you need to know about your options for renting in France.
Should you rent before you buy in France?
There are many good reasons to rent a property prior to buying in France:
- Narrow down your property search area: Renting first allows you to ‘test out’ an area before committing to buy. If you are looking to move to France permanently but you’ve only ever visited on holiday, it’s highly recommended to spend a longer period of time in your chosen destination prior to buying. After all, you want to be sure your perfect property is just as perfect in the middle of winter or during a hectic mid-week school run as it is during the summer holidays.
- Master the property market: With the current property market in France moving very fast and properties often selling within weeks of going on the market, renting first could be a big help to your house search. Moving to France before buying your property means you can take your time searching for your dream home. Plus, you’ll be able to build a relationship with local estate agents and be available for viewings as suitable properties come on the market, ensuring you don’t miss out!
- Simplify the moving process: If moving to France is the goal, it can help to be established and have an address right from the start. Unless you already own a property, renting may be an easier choice while you’re getting settled. In addition to that, you’ll be able to get a headstart on making friends, improving your French, and integrating into the local community.
- Avoid costly mistakes: Buying a house in France is a big step and not one to rush into. Renting first means you can be sure that buying a home and living in France is really the right choice for you and your family before you sign a Compromis de Vente.
Renting a property long-term in France: is it possible?
Now that we’ve convinced you that renting before buying is the smart choice, there’s some bad news – it might not be as easy as you think to find a long-term rental in France! Don’t worry; that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible (and there are other options to consider, too, which we’ll go over in a moment), but it is important to understand your limitations.
The French rental market is quite different to that of the UK, United States, and many other anglophone countries in that it is very tightly regulated and subject to many laws that protect both the landlord and the tenant. We won’t cover all of the differences and details in this article, but the most important takeaways are this:
- Due to strict laws protecting tenants (which can make it very tricky to evict tenants, even in the case of unpaid rent or damage to the property), landlords and agencies are generally very wary of who they rent their properties to. Inevitably, this can make them even more cautious of renting to expats, especially if you are not able to prove your financial security and reliability.
- You will be expected to sign a minimum of a 3-year lease for an unfurnished rental. The contract can typically be ended early, providing that you give between one and three months’ notice (be sure to read the rules in the particular rental agreement that you sign).
- You must be able to prove that you have a monthly/annual income over three times the amount of the monthly/annual rent. If you already have a mortgage or other monthly repayments, you may need proof that you earn over three times the combined amount of your mortgage and potential rent payments. Also, note that it is not possible in France to pay several months of rent upfront instead of proving a regular income.
- You will need a complete “dossier” (file) of documents proving your legal and financial status, and this will generally be asked for prior to organising a property viewing. This includes your ID, proof of current address, your last three pay slips, your last avis d’imposition (your annual tax statement), and your last quittance de loyer (rental receipt). As an expat, expect to be asked for your visa or residency card, a work contract and/or other proof of income or financial stability. Depending on your financial situation, you may also be asked to provide a guarantor.
Hear former FrenchEntrée property advisor share her advice and tips for those looking for a long-term rental in France:
Your options for long-term rentals in France
The good news is that there are several options for long-term rentals in France, and even if you don’t meet the criteria for a standard rental, you may still be able to find a viable option. These are our top recommendations for renting before you buy in France.
The most common way to find a rental property is through one of the many real estate or letting agencies. These may be either local or national chains and will vary depending on the town or region you are searching in. Most agencies will advertise their properties through the same online channels as private landlords (sites such as leboncoin and SeLoger are the most popular), but if you are looking in a smaller town or rural area, it can also be a good idea to go in and present your dossier directly at the agency with details of what you are looking for.
Most rental agencies will specialise in long-term furnished rentals and will expect a full dossier making them notoriously one of the most difficult options for expats, especially new arrivals in France. If you don’t meet the financial requirements, don’t have the correct paperwork, are self-employed and don’t have a minimum of two years of activity in France, or only have foreign documents that are deemed “unacceptable” as proof of any of any of the above listed requirments, you may find it impossible to rent through an agency. All agencies will have slightly different rules, so it’s worth checking with a few to be sure.
A second option is to seek out a private rental property. With the ease of advertising properties online, an increasing number of landlords are opting to bypass the agencies and avoid the associated agency fees. You can find private rentals advertised on leboncoin, SeLoger, and Pap, and in rural towns, they may also be posted on local community boards in supermarkets, Mairies, or sports clubs. Make sure you put the word out to local friends, neighbours, or colleagues, too, as private rentals are often found by word of mouth.
Renting from a private landlord means a far greater chance of your dossier being accepted, as it will be assessed on an individual basis rather than being subject to strict agency rules. You will usually still be expected to provide a complete dossier and you will typically sign a contract with a notaire who will check over all of your paperwork. But a private landlord is much more likely to be satisfied with a foreign job contract, proof of overseas income, or a guarantor who isn’t based in France – all things that are unlikely to be accepted by the agencies.
Furnished (meublée) rentals are far less common in France and are typically only available in cities, but they can be a popular choice for expats. Furnished rentals are only subject to a one-year lease, and as the contracts are shorter and provide fewer rights for tenants, this means your dossier will not be subject to the same scrutiny as it would for an unfurnished rental. You will find furnished rental properties advertised in the same places as unfurnished properties.
Seasonal or semi-permanent lettings
A sub-group of furnished rentals are properties that are available on semi-permanent or seasonal contracts. Typically, these kinds of rentals are only available in cities or in tourist areas such as beach towns or mountain resorts. Some estate and letting agencies may offer these properties for rent, but often they are advertised by private landlords or second-home owners. For example, you may find a second-home owner looking to rent out their beach house from late fall through spring, or a Parisian city apartment available for a 3-month rental over summer while the owner is on vacation.
Seasonal rentals are often advertised on the above-mentioned websites, but it’s also worth connecting with local expat groups (especially online communities such as Facebook groups for expats in your area) as many seasonal lets are targeted towards these communities. These opportunities often get snapped up within days, so if you spot something that fits your criteria, act quickly!
AirBnb and Gites
A final option for those looking to rent before buying is to look for an Airbnb or Gite instead. While this could be a pricey option in the summer months, many gite owners or Airbnb landlords would be open to renting out their property in the off-season for a lower rate. With no official rental rules to follow, it will be much easier for renters who don’t have a full dossier, and it could also give you the opportunity to test out different regions or towns if you wish to expand your property search area. You may also be able to have your name put on the utility bills, giving you proof of address in France. Airbnbs and gites often advertise that they are available for seasonal rentals, but if you can’t find anywhere suitable, it’s always worth looking up gites in your area and contacting them directly – you never know until you ask!
Moving to France?
From applying for your visa and opening a French bank account, to integrating in your new community – FrenchEntrée is here to help! Let our Essential Reading and Visa & Residency articles guide you through the whole process, then visit our Owning Property, French Tax, Healthcare, and Life in France zones for everything else you need to know.
Disclaimer: Our Essential Reading articles are designed to give an overview of the visa requirements and procedures for moving to France. We always check our information against the official government information made available to the public, however, please remember that all visa applications are considered on an individual basis and the exact requirements, fees, or application procedure may vary. Unless you are an EU citizen, obtaining a French visa is not a right, and we cannot guarantee that your visa will be approved.
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