The real estate market in France has been developing slowly but steadily upwards for years. This is because of the low population density compared to the UK and the more relaxed lifestyle.
Building houses in France
As in other countries, buildings in different qualities are being built here. However, the traditional regional house types of France: mostly pure quarried stone buildings with wooden beam ceilings, are robust and can be adapted to modern requirements with little effort owing to their design. The building features are similar in many regions such as – Brittany, Provence, Burgundy, Alsace, Alps, Normandy, Pyrenees, Périgord, Corsica, Atlantic or Côte d’Azur. Since ancient times, building traditions have guaranteed durability. In addition, good locations and affordable real estate prices make the purchase of holiday homes feasible. There are many beautiful examples of buildings, that are suitable as holiday homes and for sale.
Newly built holiday homes usually comply with similar standards as in the UK or may surpass these, for example by the installation of the so-called VMC (“Ventilation mécanique contrôlee”). This system ensures regular air exchange, cooling in summer, heat in winter and helps to save energy. In addition, it ensures that the pollutants contained in some modern everyday objects are removed imperceptibly but constantly from the living rooms.
In the case of own use of the holiday house, the following taxes are payable, the rates of which vary from municipality to municipality:
- Housing tax (“Taxe d’habitation”; currently under discussion)
- Property tax (“Taxe foncière”)
- Licence fees (“Contribution à l’audiovisuelle”); exempted from this are computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.)
Before buying a property we recommend to ask the exact amount of the taxes, as they vary greatly locally.
On a floor area of around 540,000 km² (In the UK, around 247,000 km²), France has a unique collection of preserved old towns, castles, monasteries, churches and other buildings and regional building traditions. This fact and the diversity of landscapes and climate zones – the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Jura, the Vosges Mountains – necessitates a comparatively quiet demand for real estate with a rapidly increasing population of actually around 67 million people. There is a constant demand from abroad, for beautiful and well-located holiday homes and also in unknown corners of France such as the Causses. The fast train connections of the TGV, ensure that even more remote areas of France are increasingly discovered by French and foreigners as a location for holiday homes. If you buy a holiday home in France, you cannot expect the house to increase in value in the short term.
From the UK / EU we know about EPC regulations. France offers buyers a significantly higher level of security when purchasing a property: By law, no house can be sold without a full surveyor’s report, in which the entire buildings technology is thoroughly tested and documented for certification by the notary. This includes, for example, potential hazards from earthquakes, termites, floods, etc. as well as the presence of pollutants in the building. In addition, the energy report as prescribed in the UK, is a legal requirement in France.
Real estate agent
In France, there are also strict requirements for brokerage. Brokers must have the “carte professionnelle”, a prerequisite for this is an apprenticeship as a real estate agent with successful completion and the culmination of two years of examinations. A distinction must be made between the simple mandate (“mandat non exclusif” which gives the possibility that several brokers can be commissioned), and the exclusive mandate (“mandat exclusif”). In principle, the order is made by the seller in writing. Here also the amount of the commission is fixed, which is usually between 3-8 %, depends on the price of the property and is payable upon conclusion of the notarial purchase contract.
The notary in France is subject to similar regulations as in most European countries. In contrast to this, however, it provides a high standard even more far-reaching protection for the buyer, whom it advises comprehensively and for whom it collects all relevant information from the authorities and the municipal administration. The purchaser – enjoys a ten-day right of rescission, for example, when concluding the obligatory mandatory preliminary contract (“compromis de vente”) and receives the above-mentioned extensive full appraisal of the property. In addition to the energy consumption, the entire building technology is thoroughly analyzed and any pollutants are determined.
In principle, notaries may operate throughout France, so that upon request, a bilingual notary from anywhere in France can be commissioned to purchase a holiday property on the Mediterranean. The assignment of two notaries, each for seller and buyer, is also possible and does not cause any additional notary costs. As in most countries, the buyer carries this. Before signing the main contract (“acte authentique”), the entire purchase price must have been received into the notary’s escrow account, only then the property changes hands and the registration in the land register and the handover of the keys take place.
Ancillary Purchase Costs
- Notary fees (“Honoraires du notaire”): about 1% of the purchase price
- Real estate transfer tax (“Droits de mutation”)
- Cadastral tax (“Taxe de publicité foncière”): additional 7-8% of the purchase price
- Brokerage fees: about 3-8 % of the purchase price depending on the property
Clarity over the entire purchase additional costs creates a simulation on the website of the notary, to which then the brokerage fees are to be added.
Before any construction work on existing buildings, it is advisable to take a walk to the town hall to find out whether a building permit should be obtained and whether an architect should be involved. Depending on the type, scope and degree of difficulty, architectural fees vary between 8-12 % of the building sum. Unlike to some countries, they are not regulated but a matter of negotiation. The architect’s fee can only be agreed upon after all cost estimates have been submitted.
In France, as in all countries, finding good craftsmen is not a matter of luck, but of one’s own patience and perseverance. In principle, one can say without exaggeration that they are in no way inferior to their British colleagues. It is noteworthy that French craftsmen usually stick to their estimates. Negotiating good contracts sometimes causes frustration in this country, because in France there is a relaxed attitude to the subject of money. It may well happen that a craftsman grants a discount on request, but without wishing to receive any form of advance payment.
Since the legislature also protects the consumer to a large extent when it comes to renovating, most trades must have a construction insurance, the so-called “décennale”, which covers serious problems for the period of 10 years. In addition, the client is obliged to complete the so-called “dommage ouvrage”. This is an insurance policy that takes immediate action in the event of damage and not only once the exact responsibility has been clarified, which can extend over longer periods of time. Unusual but easy to accept for many foreigners is the usually polite tone of the craftsmen among themselves and also towards the builder. This contributes significantly to the fact that the atmosphere on the construction site is good and renovating is fun.
France and its inhabitants
Did you know that the French regularly vote for the British in polls at one of the first places on the popularity scale? And did you know that for years France has been visited by more people than any other country in the world? Most recently, there were around 83 million tourists a year, compared to only 60 million in the USA. According to the statistical authorities, 100 million tourists will visit France in a few years’ time, further increasing the attractiveness of this neighbouring country.
France has about 67 million inhabitants on an area of about 540,000 km², the UK about 66 million inhabitants on… about 247,000 km². So the country has a lot more space and Burgundy, for example, has a density of about 60 inhabitants / km² compared to Wales with 150 inhabitants / km². There are numerous reasons for the unique popularity of France: diverse landscapes, enchanting old towns, castles, churches and museums and of course not to forget its gastronomy. Less in the consciousness of the British is that our neighbouring country worldwide is excellently networked by the common language and history, in the Maghreb alone about 80 million people, a total of about 300 million people speak French spread over all continents, tendency strongly increasing. The countries in the so-called “Francophonie” together, in which French is the official national language, a recognized second national language or the idiom spoken by minorities, comprise at least 54 states on all continents, 7 other associated states and 27 countries with observer status, including the USA with historical French-speaking minorities, especially in Louisiana, Maine and Vermont. In addition, the non-members Algeria and Tunisia. Already today in Africa more people speak the language of Molière than in France and in a few years French will overtake Spanish as a world language due to demographic developments (https://www.francophonie.org). Our neighbouring country therefore has a lot of potential and excellent prerequisites for a positive development.
What is more surprising to many British is that France is well advanced in the technical field, for example the TGV was introduced a decade before the ICE in Germany. The motorway network is also efficiently developed and offers a high level of travel comfort. So you will be amazed again and again about this country, its efficiency in public administration, where many things have been working online for years or about its innovative ideas such as ecologically sustainable facade greenings, its exemplary high quality of craftsmanship or the fact that around three times as many households as in the UK already have access to a fibre optic connection, despite the much thinner density of settlements (Although domestic access to the internet is generally more expensive than in UK). In recent years, however, France has also succeeded in reconnecting economically to its successful decades. French universities are enjoying increasing international popularity. The annual invitation of the French President under the motto “Choose France” was skilfully timed and was recently followed by around 200 business leaders from all over the world on their journey to the World Economic Forum in Davos. The success is not to be expected: multi-billion orders, foreign investment in France to an unprecedented extent and an image that hardly has anything in common with the one a few years ago. The international economic art centre has shifted to Paris in recent years. Therefore it is not surprising that the largest auction houses, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, were bought by the French. In a study published in January, Ernst & Young found that France attracts the most investment from all European countries and, moreover, with the greatest dynamism. The daily newspaper “Le Monde” noted that “France remains the most attractive country in Europe”.
France is a country of great contrasts worth discovering. The French approach their lives differently and give a higher value to the family and things like food. It is therefore not surprising that craftsmen, for example, consider it the most natural thing in the world to take their three-course menu at lunch with a glass of wine and subsequent coffee. Car parks remain free between 12 a.m. and 2 p.m. and many shops are closed on Mondays to the frustration of visitors.
In principle, balance prevails or is at least sought: whether in the state, where the various departments may or may not coexist on an equal footing. Family is family, food is food and work is work. The somewhat sharpened cliché, many countries live to work but the French work to live. France exudes a rare peace and harmony that is beneficial to many people and it is not surprising that France has been ranked first in the Quality of Nationality Index for eight years in a row.
Alors, bienvenue en France ! *
*So, welcome to France!