Talking from experience…
No matter how many texts you may read on property acquisition in France, there is nothing quite as good as learning from other people’s mistakes! Below are some tips from those who have already been through the process of buying property in France. If you have anything that you could add to this page please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and save others from making the same mistakes!
♦ My property cost 260,000€ plus 18,000€ in agency fees. The notaire charged me a percentage of 278.000€ which I found out later that I could have avoided! Apparently, in most cases, you should be able to negotiate the house price separately from the agency fee. This means that the percentage that you pay to the ‘notaire’ will be based purely on the house price and not on the house price plus agency fees. It can definitely save you a few quid (remember that agencies charge up to 10% or more if they can get away with it!) and is worth ensuring that a competent French speaker is present at the initial stages in order to arrange this.
♦ If the gite business seems like a great deal, ask yourself why are they selling?
♦ One thing that you could warn people about is to look out for hidden ‘extras’. When we began looking some time ago we visited a few French property exhibitions and at one point considered a new build. The agent was based in Carcassone and we spent some time working out prices, etc., for each individual style of property. Even though it was a little above our budget, we decided that my wife should fly out and look at some of the plots the agent was about to build on. This is when we found out that the prices quoted did not include the price of the land! At no stage during the discussions on price did this arise. Luckily it was not a wasted flight my wife stayed on and toured around the area for a couple of weeks, dropping in on immo’s to see what they had on their books. And eventually found our house in Clermont l’Herault.
♦ It is worth carrying a current utility bill around with you as when doing paperwork this helps prove your address. In a lot of cases the utility bill carries more weight than your passport!
♦ Potential buyers of property in the Alberes, and other regions, so I am told, should be aware that if their property is in a zone rouge they may not be able to reconstruct it in the event of its destruction by forest fire, even though the land is technically constructible. However, they will still be liable for annual clearance of the land, and the land value itself will not be covered by insurance. Check with the local Mairie regarding such restrictions before entering on property transactions. Even then, don’t forget that such legislation can also be introduced retrospectively!
♦ Be prepared to do a LOT of paperwork, organise everything in folders for easy access as the french love making you hunt around for paperwork sent out months before.
♦ If the house for sale is very cheap, ask yourself why?
♦ If you buy an old house, get a survey . Estate agents and even some ‘notaires’ may tell you that it is not necessary, (it is not always in their interest for you to check too closely of course) but I know too many people who are now stuck with cracked walls, ceilings and suspicious manifestations in their newly acquired ‘character’ homes.
♦ If your income is from abroad, you may have difficulty finding a bank to give you a mortgage – the Banque Postale changed its rules just before we went looking for our mortgage in 2014 to discount any foreign income. Other banks wrote down the monthly income to 70% of what was actually being received, meaning that the size of mortgage we could obtain was limited.