If you’ve decided on France as your retirement destination, then finding your dream home will undoubtedly be high on your list of things to do! The good news is that buying a property in France is actually a relatively straightforward process, there are currently no restrictions on foreigners buying property in France however there will be some differences to the UK system and quite a lot of paperwork and due diligence.
Here’s a checklist of 6 key things that you might want to consider during your property buying process:
- Know your budget & do your research
Like any country, France has high price hot spots as well as more budget friendly options so it’s definitely worth agreeing your budget first before you set your heart on a particular location. Whilst the glitz of living in Paris, the Cote d’Azur or the Alps may be highly attractive, properties in these locations can come with a hefty price tag! In a country the size of France there are so many cities and towns which offer good value property options along with a fabulous lifestyle and environment so be sure to do thorough research and consider a range of options. Also be aware that some ‘good value’ locations can be found right alongside the renowned expensive areas which might work well for you.Don’t forget you will need to factor fees and taxes into your budget too!
- Location, location, location
France is a large country with hugely contrasting environments which can lead to a complexity of decisions regarding choice of location! You might simply be thinking ‘rural’ or ‘city’? This can be a good place to start but actually the decision is much broader than that! You should consider whether you prefer a coastal, inland or mountain location. And don’t forget the climate consideration, are you sun-seeking, looking for the more Mediterranean-style climate of the south-east or would the cooler summer temperatures bolstered by the mild winters in the western regions of the country suit you better?
- Turnkey ready or renovation?
Many British expats choose to buy homes in the countryside where there are bargains to be found in properties that have fallen into disrepair! This can be a good option if you have a dream of spending your retirement years renovating a property and have both the money and the time to invest in restoring it to its former glory, however, don’t underestimate what might be involved in this process. Renovations can often turn out to be more costly than expected or you might hit snags with planning permission once things are underway and you are too committed to go back. On the other hand, turnkey properties, whilst perhaps coming with a higher initial purchase price, will enable you to get straight on with enjoying your retirement years in comfort and exploring the surroundings that your new home has to offer.
- Type of property
France comes with a plethora of options in properties for sale, from large rambling old chateaux in the countryside to small village houses; purpose built modern complexes; townhouses; and city centre apartments! The choices seem endless for your new home from home.The decision you make will depend on your budget, the type of retirement lifestyle you want to enjoy, the location you want to be in and the condition of property you prefer.
Old or new, large or small, country home with gardens or land, or town house or city centre apartment, there will be something to fit your dream home requirements.
- Involve the right team of experts
From finding a property that’s right for you, to translating contracts and completing the transaction, there are a range of different experts that will need to be involved in the property buying process.Working with an independent property buyer is a great way to really get the property that’s right for you. They will spend time getting to know exactly what you are looking for and will be experts in the local area and will often have access to details of properties not advertised in the usual places, such as estate agents or newspapers, or those about to come onto the market.
A ‘notaire’ is legally required to oversee every property transaction in France. The role of a notaire is different to that of a lawyer involved in a property purchase in the UK in that their main task is simply to ensure completion of the transaction not to provide any advice with regards to the purchase. They work independently and will usually work on behalf of both the buyer and the seller, although you can appoint your own if you prefer and any fees will simply be split between them. You may however want to instruct a solicitor as well, either UK-based or France-based.
It’s also worth noting that all contracts and legal documentation will be drawn up in French, therefore a professional translator or a bilingual lawyer may be required to ensure that you fully understand all the detail presented.
- Understand the fees and taxes involved
You should be aware of the various fees and taxes involved in the property buying process as there are differences from the UK and they can add up!Notaires and agents will both charge fees which between them can easily add an extra 10% or more to the property purchase price; and of course, there may also be fees for a lawyer should you choose to appoint one. When looking at properties always ask what fees are included in the quoted price and ask for an estimate of any additional fees.
You will be required to pay a deposit of 5-10% of the purchase price, usually at the point at which the initial contract signing takes place. If you are taking out a mortgage in France you will have to put a deposit down for that too, usually around 20% of the home’s value.
Once you have purchased the property you will then have a number of annual taxes to pay, which it is important to take note of: taxe foncière is a land tax and taxe d’habitation is a residence tax, both are paid by the property owner. The rates of these taxes vary based on a number of different factors including how much land is included, property location, the annual rental value of the property and the fixed tax rate in that part of the country. These taxes are both due on 1st January each year.
Whilst there are many things to consider about the property buying process in France now is a good time to buy with prices showing steady growth in recent years and expected to continue in the same way. And with the breadth of choices available, you have every chance of finding that perfect home that you have always dreamed of!