Arc de Triomphe at night

Buying Tips for France – Part 2

  1. Buying land in France


Any purchase of a French property covering more than a hectare (2.47 acres) has to be referred to the Société d’Aménagement Foncier et d’Etablissement Rural (SAFER), a body which has the right to pre-empt the sale if it feels that the property should remain in agricultural use; the notaire handling the sale will notify SAFER of the impending sale. SAFER rarely exercises its right, but if it does object to the sale, any agreement is null and void, so prepare yourself for disappointment; you will however be entitled to the return of your deposit.



  1. Buying French property near a listed building


If your dream home is near a listed building or site, there may be restrictions on the extent to which it can be altered or renovated (in some cases you may be told what materials and colours you can use). Check with the local Mairie. An organisation called Bâtiments de France is responsible for issuing and enforcing restrictions; each department has its own Architecte des Bâtiments de France, or ABF. 




  1. French property and planning permission


Planning permission (un permis de construire) is needed to make any external alterations to a French property. If you are planning to buy a French home and alter it in this way, ensure that a conditional clause (clause suspensive) is included in the preliminary sales contract (compromis de vente), stating that the purchase is subject to obtaining planning and building permission; this way, if your planning application is turned down, the sale becomes null and void and your deposit will be returned.



  1. Buying a French home with a septic tank


Most homes in rural France have individual sewerage systems (fosse septique). Have an approved specialist carry out an inspection before you agree to buy, and get a cost estimate for any necessary works. According to French legislation, most homes in French village centers were supposed to be connected to mains drainage (tout à l’égout) by the end of 2005, with owners paying connection charges; check with the vendor whether this has happened, and if not, ask at the Mairie to find out if this applies to the property you are considering.



  1. Owning a French property with a swimming pool


Installing a pool increases a property’s rental potential and letting rates; however, pools need regular cleaning and maintenance, which will add to the running costs of your French home. Planning permission is needed to install a pool of more than 20 square meters, and all new pools and existing pools in rented properties must have an approved safety system; all other pools will have to be fitted with the same by January 2006. 



  1. Building your own home in France


Buying a plot and having a home built to spec is popular with the French. If you want to follow their lead, you will need to obtain a certificat d’urbanisme (confirming that the land may be built on) and planning permission (un permis de construire). Be prepared to supervise the construction, or hire an architect to do it for you. Building costs vary from €500 to €1,500 per square meter, depending on design and build quality.



  1. Buying a building plot in France


Known as terrains à bâtir or terrains constructibles, French building plots are usually 1,000 to 3,000 square meters, and cost between €10,000 and €40,000; naturally, prices vary according to location, and whether mains services are connected. They can be bought from estate agents, direct from the owner, or from builders (insist on separate contracts if you opt for a package deal from a builder). 



  1. Buying a French property off-plan


The advantages of buying a new home in a development that has yet to be built include price (off-plan properties are often cheaper than homes that are already built); brand-new fixtures, fittings, insulation, ventilation and heating systems; lower deposit and registration fees, and exemption from property tax (taxe foncière) for two years from January 1 following the completion date. New build homes are generally high on comfort, and low on maintenance ideal for DIY dunces, older folk, and those who value the lock-up and go aspect. 



  1. Buying a resale property in France


Buying a new (i.e. modern, as opposed to brand-new, yet to be built) home means you see exactly what you get. The value will depend on the build quality and design, the age of the property and how well it has been maintained (ask to see copies of invoices and details of any work carried out). Resale homes within mature developments may offer the benefits of well-established services and amenities.


  1. Buying a French home for retirement


Older folk planning to retire to France should look carefully when purchasing a home, checking for proximity to services and amenities, public transport, shops, doctors and hospitals, and the availability of transport links back to the UK (you may be planning to retire permanently to France, but unforeseen circumstances can prompt a quick cross-Channel trip). A modern, low-maintenance home in an accessible town with good facilities might be a wise choice.

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