Thursday, November 02, 2006

Living in France

Living in France

Renting out your villa or apartment

There certainly are reliable companies in France who will take on the management of your property. This can be a beneficial way of making money from your holiday home, without having to undertake the marketing and day-to-day maintenance of the property, or of dealing directly with those wishing to rent it. Of course, any company offering to relieve you of this burden will also relieve you of around 20 per cent of the rental income. So if rental income is going to pay the mortgage, make sure you know how much you can expect to charge by checking with some of the many websites on weekly rates. The average holiday home rents for a maximum of 20 weeks a year and an average of only 10. It is usually less profitable to rent during the autumn and winter months so check with a local agent who will be able to advise you further. Search for ‘property management France’ on the internet to find companies offering a property management service.

Buying Property

Although the process is relatively straightforward, language barriers and local customs can make things more complicated for the British buyer. Remember - don't sign anything you don't understand.

The French system protects the buyer and seller, with cooling-off periods and get-out clauses, but you won't benefit from them if you don't understand them - a bilingual Notaire will really help with this. There are a few steps to get through before you can call France home. Here's a quick guide.

Arrange for an architect or surveyor to visit the property. Although a valuation is not required in France, we recommend that you instruct a professional to look at the property and give you an opinion on any renovation that's needed and how much it's likely to cost. This way you'll know what the total cost is likely to be before you sign anything.

Find a property through a reputable estate agent such as or through a longstanding intermediary such as or similar... you can find one local to where you want to buy through the fnaim site

Sign a Preliminary Contract or 'promesse de vente' in the presence of the Notaire, either at their office, or the estate agent's. The Preliminary Contract is made subject to conditions known as 'conditions suspensives'; these state that the contract will be suspended if certain things happen, for example, if the buyer cannot get a mortgage within a stated time, or outline planning permission is denied. The Preliminary Contract must be signed by both buyer and seller at the same time and in the estate agent's or Notaire's office.

Pay your deposit. On signature of the Preliminary Contract you should pay your deposit, which is normally 10%. We advise that you pay this to the Notaire not the vendor. You may also be asked to pay the Stamp Duty and registration fees at this time too. Before you do this, make sure you are 100% sure that this is the house for you as, if you decide to pull out of the sale, the seller is entitled to keep your deposit as compensation.

Cooling-off Period. You'll have a seven day cooling-off period, known as 'réflexion', during which you or the seller can pull out without giving any reason and simply cancel the contract. After the cooling-off period, if you don't go ahead after signing the Preliminary Contract, and there is no let out in the 'conditions suspensives', you will lose your deposit.

Your Notaire will draw up a deed of sale or 'Acte de Vente' and begin all the necessary searches. You will sign the Acte de Vente when you complete on the purchase. This normally happens between eight and twelve weeks - although it can take longer - from signing the promesse de vente. In many transactions the buyer and seller can choose and fix the completion date.
Sign the deed of sale and pay the remainder of the purchase price. This completes the transfer of ownership of the property to the purchaser. A power of attorney can be given, so that the Notaire or another person can represent you and sign on your behalf, should you not be able to attend.

Pay the Notaire's fees after which your deed of sale will be registered at the Land Registry. Once it's signed you can officially start enjoying your new home in France.

Teach Yourself

There are a number of good home learning courses in French, which will give you a good conversational grasp of the language. Here are some of the most popular providers of teach yourself courses:

The BBC language series -
Linguaphone -
The Open University -
Online courses:

Rule # 1 - Learn The Lingo

From helping your kids with their homework to buying your morning baguette, life is so much easier and more enjoyable when you can speak the language.