It is really important to check that the information you are using to organise your property buying trip is up to date. The majority of websites are only updated infrequently. Many agents leave good value attractive houses on the web for a long time to attract clients to make appointments.
What you see on the web may bear no relation to what the agent has to show you. Check this out carefully before you waste time going to see him or her.
Our website is updated constantly throughout the day. To the best of our knowledge all properties which we show are for sale unless they are marked as sold or under offer. Occasionally a vendor may have sold to a friend or member of the family and forgotten to let us know. That is a rare occurrence and one which we try to avoid by keeping in close contact with our vendors.
Arranging the finance
Before you start to look for a property in France it is important to know your budget. How much money do you have and how much are you prepared to and able to borrow?
Different regions of France, and different parts of those regions, will have varying price structures for similar properties. Many local and national factors come into play in deciding the price of property across France, as in any country. Until you know your price range it is difficult to start searching on the web, in magazines or talking to agents.
There are many UK banks and building societies who lend money on French property, there are also French banks who lend to foreign buyers or you may choose to raise the funds on your current property. You can either search such lenders out directly or use the services of a financial adviser or mortgage broker. It is important to be clear how you plan to raise the funds, the length of term, the interest rate, the type of mortgage, penalty clauses for early payment, the proof of income that will be required, the need for a medical and the length of time the mortgage will take to arrange.
If you choose to arrange your mortgage with our recommended lenders you can receive written confirmation of your borrowing capacity before you travel to France. This will save you time during the purchasing process.
How to start looking
France offers an enormous variety of landscapes, climate, lifestyle, property availability and price and access. Before you start your search for property you really need to research everything the country has to offer and decide where you want to buy. Otherwise you may become like many a house hunter we have met over the years, spending 3 months of every year in a camper van touring, going round in circles, getting more and more confused.
Our knowledge and experience saves you time and money at the beginning of your search.
Making your appointment
If you are hoping to view properties to suit your requirements during your trip to France it is important to make appointments before you travel. It is unlikely that a good agent will have the time to spend with you if you just walk into his/her office.
Finding the right house should not be a matter of pot luck, but requires time to understand the client and to visit a small selection of appropriate properties. Not only should you make appointments before you arrive in France but it is also wise to speak to the agent you are planning to work with to ensure he/she understands your needs perfectly and has the right type of property available.
It is much better to work with one agent in each of your chosen areas. If you book appointments with several agents in the same town, it is likely that none of them will devote much time to you. You will just be classed as another foreign window shopper.
We hear frequently from people who spent many disappointing days turning up for appointments only to find the agent out with other clients or finding the agent had absolutely nothing suitable for their needs. Again, it is a case that time is money and during this wasted time you are spending money on hotel accommodation and meals.
You can find agents advertising in magazines or on the web but do remember to speak to them before you go to France and to get confirmation from them that they will be there, expecting you and with suitable property to show you.
We will make a one or two day appointment for you which will have the best selection of properties to fit your needs. We will be expecting you and we will have already spoken to you over the telephone (wherever possible) to confirm your property needs and will have spent time deciding which houses we believe will suit your requirements ready to discuss them all with you on your arrival.
You will be expected, we will have been prepared for your visit and we will have suitable properties for you.
The viewing trip
Make sure you arrive at our office in Caylus on time for your appointment. Try not to take children, animals or anyone else who is not part of the buying decision. Have a good local map so that you can see where you are going and where you have been. Take some water and a sugar boost, stopping for refreshments is not always under your control.
You will need to make sure how much time the agent is planning to give you and how she or he plans to spend that time with you. Will you be seeing ten or more properties travelling at break neck speed through the countryside? Will he or she be able to get you in to see the properties or will you need to make an appointment on a subsequent day? Will he or she speak your language? Will he or she have all the facts about land boundaries, rights of way, tenants and anything else you need to know about the property? Lots of questions, it will be up to you to get the answers.
We will be awaiting your arrival with a welcoming cup of tea or coffee. We will have already spoken to you on the phone and will have prepared some suggestions of suitable properties. You will spend around an hour in our office discussing your property needs before going out on the road. This can be the most important part of your time in France. We know the properties and now we will need to spend time getting to know you.
It really is a matter of having the skill to match the property to the client and with the right questions asked and answered it should be possible to view no more than four properties to enable you to find the right one. This is where, not only is language important but also an understanding of the client’s culture to ensure that the right houses are chosen to visit. If you are like the majority of our clients, you will have lots of questions you need answered. We ourselves came to France to buy a property and were inexperienced in the mysterious ways of the buying process. We know how it will be for you when you buy a home here and we know many of the questions you will have and we will also know, or be able to find out, all of the answers.
Not found the right property?
It is not always possible to find the right property on your first visit to France. This is an important decision and everything must be right for you before you decide to go ahead to purchase.
If you have spent various bits of days with various agents you may now know exactly what you are looking for. However, it is not that likely that the agent will. If you are heading back home then what do you do next? Sometimes you strike lucky and meet an agent who offers to keep in touch with you, it is rare, but it can happen. If not, you will need to start back at square one on your next visit.
If you were not able to find the right property on your visit (30% of our clients do), then we should now know exactly what you are looking for. We always endeavour to keep in touch with you should we manage to find you a suitable property based on your previous visit. Of course you may well have changed your criteria so we will have to adapt to your needs.
We are here for you from the beginning of the search until you find the property you wish to buy and then through to final completion of the purchase and beyond.
Found the right property?
Now is the time when you really need to understand the purchasing process. The law in France is very different to that in most other countries, it is based on the Napoleonic code and for most first-time buyers of French property, the whole purchasing system will be different to anything you have experienced before. To ensure that the purchase proceeds smoothly it is a good idea to understand the culture of the country, the way people think and act, how your vendor will be feeling etc. Plain and simply, you need to know how things are to be certain you do not offend and lose the chance to buy your chosen property.
Beware of taking free advice from unqualified people. This could be a recipe for disaster. It may be that the sale appears to proceed smoothly but it is often only during the ownership of the property or when it is time to resell that problems emerge which can be exceedingly costly in both time and money and in some cases can even stop you from selling the house.
Making an offer
At this point it really is important to understand local culture. The French are fiercely proud people and we have often known vendors remove their house from the market if an offer is too low. His or her belief is that his pride, his family and his heritage have been offended by such an undervaluing!
We will have worked hard before mandating (taking on) a property to ensure that we have the right price. All too often local people and their agents believe that a foreigner will pay more for a property than a local person. We normally tell our vendors that if their property is marketed at the right price it will sell quickly.
We will also know if there is any possibility of reducing the price. Occasionally the vendor may have intimated that they need to release funds quickly, or they may be in a hurry to move to another area. Making an offer, against advice, is never a good thing. It virtually always results in losing the property, either because the vendor refuses to sell at that price, or removes it off the market altogether, or because someone else buys it while you are negotiating. Remember, if you liked the house at the price it was shown at, then so will someone else!
Securing the currency
For purchasers from non-euro countries it is important to secure a rate for the purchase of euro required for the deposit and for the completion of the purchase as soon as possible. You will be agreeing to purchase a property in euros and the only way you can be certain that the price does not change is to forward-buy the necessary euros at the time you make your decision to purchase. Alternatively, you can decide to take a chance on getting a better rate later, but whichever you decide to do you will need to take advice and act at this point.
There are many currency brokers to choose from. It is important to ensure that your currency broker will get the money to the notaire in time for completion. No funds, no completion plus the possibility of forfeiting your deposit and being charged the notaire’s and vendor’s costs if you over-run the completion date.
The buying process
Q. Who will be involved in my property purchase in France?
A. The agent who markets the property, the notaire who is responsible for drawing up the contracts, undertaking searches and the vendor.
Q. What is a notaire?
A. The notaire is a French national qualified in France and a specialist in a system that is very different from that of many other countries. There is often only one notaire involved in a purchase. He or she is responsible for collecting the sales taxes on behalf of the tax authorities and for doing the property searches.
Q. What will happen after my offer has been accepted?
A. You may be asked to sign an initial document registering your interest in the property immediately. Shortly after the offer has been accepted, you will sign the first contract which we will check for you and answer any queries you may have. This ties both parties into the transaction from a very early point and contains a number of conditions. As the purchaser, you will benefit from the 7 day cooling off period at this stage.
Q. Who will draw up this first contract?
A. Either the agent or the notaire depending on the circumstances. As soon as you have notified us of the acceptance of the offer, Allez will find out what the next step is so that we can ensure your interests are fully protected within the prescribed timetable.
Q. Will I have to pay a deposit?
A. If a deposit is required, it will often be up to 10% of the purchase price and is payable to either the agent or notaire. We will advise you fully about the deposit and its transfer at the relevant time so do not part with any funds before speaking to us.
Q. Will there be a survey?
A. Surveys are not common practice in France and, if you require one to be undertaken, this will have to be done during the 7 day cooling off period.
Q.What happens after I have signed the first contract?
A. The notaire undertakes all the searches, contacts administrative and other bodies and completes the formalities necessary for the sale to take place, including checks on the title to the property. He will also be responsible for ensuring that any checks that are necessary (e.g. termites, asbestos, lead, electrics, gas appliances and installations) are undertaken. Our responsibility is to liaise with the notaire, find out if there is anything adverse revealed during this process and we will keep you fully informed.
Q. When will I actually own the property?
A. You will sign a deed in front of the notaire and the ownership of the property will pass with this signing. A document (a power of attorney) can be drawn up giving somebody else permission to sign on your behalf if you are unavailable. You will take possession of the property immediately afterwards.
Q. What happens if I don’t understand what is happening during the signing in the notaire’s office?
A. We will accompany you to the signing and liaise with both yourselves and the notaire throughout. We will already have spoken at length to the notaire to ensure that he or she understands all your requirements and both the notaire and the client will have received a written report of the contents of the contract.
Q. How long does this all take?
A. Generally, it takes 3 months from the signing of the first contract to the signing of the deed.
Frequently asked questions: Financial matters
Q. What costs should I be aware of from the outset?
A. The agent's fees can be up to 10% of the purchase price and are generally paid by the purchaser. At Allez the fees are normally not more than 6%. The notaire's fees are approximately 6% to 8%. A large part of the notaire's fee is made up of government taxes due upon the transfer of a property and they are paid by the purchaser. You need to check what the fees are when you make an offer.
Q. Are there any other fees that I need to be aware of?
A. There may be fees for reports into the presence of termites, asbestos and lead. Generally, these fees are borne by the vendor but you need to make sure of this. There may also be fees for a surveyor (géomètre) if land is to be divided and these may be payable by the purchaser. There will also be a registration fee should you purchase using a French mortgage. We will ensure that you know all costs at the beginning of the purchase.
Q. What taxes will I have to pay on the property?
There are two main types of tax on the property itself, land and occupancy tax. These are based on the rental value of the property and are normally paid annually. The division of the taxes between vendor and purchaser will be specified in the first contract. We will be able to enquire on your behalf so that you know what these taxes will be when it comes to future budgets for your new home.
Frequently asked questions: Inheritance
Q. Which law will apply when I die?
A. French law will apply to the inheritance of the property in France.
Q. How does French inheritance law work?
A. French inheritance law is complex and the way it will apply to you will depend on your particular circumstances. French law gives certain rights to family members, and these rights cannot be ignored. The notaire should ensure you receive advice which is clear, comprehensive and adapted to your personal circumstances.
Q. Does the fact that I am married mean that the property will be transferred automatically to my spouse when I die?
A. Generally, the answer to this question is straightforward: no. However, there are different arrangements that can be put into place, depending on the individual situation, which can either ensure this happens or protect the survivor as far as possible whilst respecting other principles of French law.
Q. What inheritance tax will my estate have to pay?
A. In France, inheritance tax is based on the amount each individual receives and their relationship to the person who has died. Therefore, different methods of calculation of the tax apply to each beneficiary; for example, there is one rule and rate for a spouse and another for a child. It may be possible for married people to arrange their affairs in a particular way so as not to pay any tax, or for unmarried people to make arrangements to avoid some of the very high taxes that those who are unrelated have to pay.
Rules and regulations are constantly changing in France and the notaires should be aware of all the latest updates.