As our closest neighbour, France is a top holiday home destination for the British. This is perfectly understandable considering it’s the easiest country for us to get to by car, plane, train or boat and its diverse natural beauty, chic cities and charming lifestyle continue to attract visitors in their droves.
If you’re a Francophile at heart or even dream of a French holiday getaway of your very own, bear in mind that property in France is usually very affordable. What’s more, French is the one language we all have some schoolbook knowledge of, making it not too difficult to get things done.
Buying a holiday home in France
As a buyer in France, you are normally well protected in the purchase process and unlikely to hear stories of illegal properties or developers failing to deliver your off-plan property. There’s even a seven-day cooling off period just in case you change your mind. Here’s how the buying process generally goes:
- Once your offer is accepted, the estate agent or the notary (notaire) draws up the initial sales contract (compromis de vente). Once the seven-day cooling-off period is complete, the compromis de vente becomes a binding contract at which time you will pay a deposit of up to 10 per cent of the sale price. It’s important therefore that any queries are cleared up during this time or subject to conditional clauses (clauses suspensives).
- Once the compromis de vente is signed, the agent and the notary check the documentation regarding ownership and any debts on the property and land.
- On the completion date, both parties attend the notary’s office to sign the acte authentique (sales contract). By this date, the full price, including legal and any agency fees, must be cleared in the notary’s account to enable ownership to be transferred to you.
It is important to take into consideration the costs of buying your holiday home in France. Roughly speaking, you will need to account for the following:
- Notary fees: 2-3% of purchase price (these include the stamp duty for resale properties and land registry costs)
- Stamp duty (on resale properties): just under 5% of purchase price
- VAT on a new property: 20% of purchase price
- Communal tax: 1.2% of purchase price
- Departmental tax: 3.6% of purchase price
- Expenses tax: 2.5% of the departmental tax
- State tax: 0.2% of purchase price
Ongoing costs for your property in France are likely to include:
- Taxe d’habitation (dwellings tax): 25% per square metre (payable annually)
- Taxe foncière (land & buildings tax): Varies according to region, property value and rental value
- Contribution économique territorial on rental income: Up to 1.5% of annual rental income
- Taxe de sojourn (tourist tax) on rental property: Varies according to region, property value and rental value.
- Wealth tax – François Hollande’s introduction of wealth tax has deterred some wealthy buyers with over €1.3 million to spend. However, this does not affect everyone as such a sum would be difficult to spend in many areas of France.
Tips on buying holiday homes in France
- It’s usual to have a lawyer help with your property purchase in France. This is because notaries in France are highly qualified professionals, making their services entirely sufficient
- If you suspect the asking price is rather on the high side, you could ask your notary’s opinion. He/she will be familiar with the realistic prices of properties in the area
- Get some assistance with French translation – your school French may not be up to the legal language involved in buying property in France
- Ideally sign anything to do with your purchase in front of a notary. This ensures everything conforms to the French legalities
- If you are getting a mortgage or loan, make sure you include a conditional clause in the sales contract (compromis de vente) just in case your funding falls through
- If the seller owns land or buildings adjoining yours which are not part of the sale, try to include a clause in the sales contract to grant you the right of first refusal if they decide to sell the property in the future
- Don’t rely on the statutory survey reports that the seller is obliged to provide. If in any doubt, get an independent survey done on the property
- Confirm with the notary any fixtures and fittings that the seller has agreed to leave or remove from the property. Just before you complete on your property, it’s a good idea to visit it to check that all is in order
- If you are married and wish your spouse to inherit all of your estate, you will need to get a French marriage contract drawn up or buy “en tontine” – your notary will be able to advise you on this. Equally, if you are unmarried, make sure you buy on a joint basis to protect both your interests.
Wondering where to buy? Our guide to 10 top holiday home destinations in France provides plenty of inspiration along with an overall look at today’s French property market.