Just £2 per issue Subscribe to one of our France Magazines click here

Should you get a survey before buying a French property?

PUBLISHED: 11:16 19 September 2017

Should you get a survey before buying a French property? © Zoonar RF / Thinkstockphotos

Should you get a survey before buying a French property? © Zoonar RF / Thinkstockphotos

Archant

Pre-purchase surveys aren’t as common in France as they are in the UK but there are a number of reasons why it could be a good idea

Why might you need a building survey before buying a French property?

While it’s undeniable that first impressions count, wiser heads also realise that you shouldn’t necessarily judge a property by its outward appearance alone. For that reason it makes sense to have a building survey before buying.

It is true that by law in France, the vendor is obliged to commission a limited range of diagnostic reports, collectively referred to as the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT). These cover asbestos, lead in paint (if the property is post-1948), natural or industrial risks, gas installations, termites (if the property lies within a defined termite risk zone) and electrics (with an electric installation over 15 years old).

If the property is not connected to mains drainage, the vendor is also obliged to commission a diagnostic report from the authorised body on whether or not the drainage disposal arrangements are satisfactory. However, none of these inspections cover the structural condition of the building.

As one purchaser, Mark Hackett, attests, the benefit of a building survey is that you’ll go into the purchase aware of the risks you’re running and the likely costs of any remedial works. “We did a survey in April because we’re buying an 18th-century house in St-Émilion and wanted reassurance we were not buying something that we could not maintain or which needed a lot of work. It pointed out some things we had not bargained for and gave us some very useful reassurance and provided costings of our dreams for converting the house,” he explains.

________________________________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

The inspection reports you should have when buying a French property

5 things to know about architects and surveyors in France

________________________________________________________________________________

Do you need a survey if you’re buying a new property?

John Marshall, a chartered valuation surveyor and building pathologist, also stresses the importance of having a survey on a modern structure. “In France a new dwelling does not have ‘building control’ by the local council as in the UK and, if less than 170m², does not have had to be designed by an architect. The construction is not always supervised by an architect and the ‘assurance tous risques’, which is, in theory, compulsory and expensive, has not always been taken out.

“The supposed 10-year guarantee can be worthless if the original contractor is uninsured or bankrupt. Also, check the exact terms of the assurance tous risques, as it can, for a reduced premium, only apply to the original owner. For these and many other reasons there can be problems in modern houses that have not been repaired and even concealed.”

At what point of the buying process should you get a survey done?

It certainly makes sense to carry out a survey before you buy but in order to do so it’s advisable to have a building surveyor lined up in advance, as good ones are unlikely to be available at the drop of a hat.

Once you sign the compromis de vente you only have a 10-day cooling-off period to change your mind about buying the property. After that you’ll incur penalties.

Ian Morris, a chartered building surveyor based in France, points out that the phrase ‘subject to survey’ is virtually unknown in France, and certainly unknown to French owners. He suggests that, if you want to make your purchase subject to the survey that you commission, you could ask for a clause to be put in the compromis along the following lines: ‘subject to an expert revealing no major defects likely to cost more than €10,000’ – or whatever value you want to specify. French owners would understand that.

“But bear in mind you cannot add this, or any other clause, unilaterally; the vendor must agree to all of the clauses in the compromis, including any that you want to insert.”

________________________________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

The legal process of buying a French property

Where you can buy a property in France for under €100,000

________________________________________________________________________________

What does a building survey cover?

As to what a building survey should cover, John Marshall, explains: “The critical things that the client needs to know are: what is wrong, why it is wrong, what to do to remedy the problem and how much the remedy will cost. That enables the client to purchase in full knowledge of what they are taking on.”

While there are a multitude of things that will typically turn up in a French property, “from chimneys down to the drains,” according to Ian Morris, there are also problems specific to certain regions. He notes that these can include such problems as shrinkable clay, mining subsidence, termites (principally around the south and west of France), radon gas (for example in the Massif Central), flooding, and (if you’re near the Alps or Pyrénées) earth tremors. Some people might also be concerned about the proximity of their chosen property to one of the disused uranium mines in France.

How do you find a suitable surveyor in France?

The French traditionally have a more laissez-faire attitude to building surveys than the British, which makes finding a suitably qualified surveyor to carry one out more difficult.

Still, there are various ways to find a suitable surveyor. For example, there is a database for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and an online search should turn up a few candidates. Moreover, reading magazines such as French Property News will give you names and contacts of possible surveyors along with the Complete France directory.

As to whether you should only use a RICS-qualified chartered building surveyor and not a general surveyor, Ian Morris comments: “I myself am qualified as a chartered building surveyor, and I’d like to say yes, but there are very few of us based in France! I do know of RICS-qualified surveyors based in France who are not chartered building surveyors but who are perfectly capable of carrying out building surveys based on many years of experience. I think the answer is to look at the surveyor’s website and/or ask the surveyor for details of his/her experience of carrying out surveys in France, and over what period.”

John Marshall agrees, adding that a potential client should “ensure that the surveyor is qualified and experienced in ‘building pathology’ – a specialisation that can be studied by building and general practice surveyors in the RICS”.

Another thing to check is that the surveyor has professional indemnity insurance.

What will a survey cost?

While a building survey is never cheap, it will buy you peace of mind and potentially save you from making a dreadful and costly mistake.

The fee you can expect to pay for a survey will vary depending on the location, size and nature of the property. According to John Marshall, “an ‘average’ property of about 175m² will incur a fee of about €1,500, including taxes and expenses”.

Ian Morris broadly agrees, saying that, “the fee for an average property, depending on its size and how far the surveyor has to travel, might be in the region of £1,000-£1,500”.

Set against the likely purchase price of your dream property, this seems like good value to help provide protection ‘against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, as Hamlet might have said if he were buying a house in France.

Like this? You might enjoy:

How much should you negotiate on a property price?

12 things you should know about buying a French property

I wish I’d known that before buying my French property

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Complete France visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Complete France staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Complete France account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from French Property

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One of the best ways to find out if France is the place for you is to take out a long winter let in the area you’re thinking of moving to. Here’s how and what you need to think about

Read more
Renting in France
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Are you curious about when your French house was built and who else has lived there? Find out how to discover the history of your French property

Read more
Thursday, July 27, 2017

Take advantage of MGM French Properties’ flexible leaseback offering at exclusive new development in Les Saisies in the French Alps

Read more
Monday, September 4, 2017

Conditions for mortgage borrowers in France remain very favourable thanks to the election of President Macron, so is a mortgage a good option for British buyers?

Read more
Sunday, May 14, 2017

If you’re planning to buy a property in France, make sure you understand how French and UK mortgages differ

Read more
Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Pound to Euro exchange rate has continued to slide, presenting headaches for Euro buyers with Pounds. What seemed unthinkable a few months ago has now become a reality. What will be the main drivers on the rate for the coming weeks and months and just how low could this go?

Read more
Currency exchange update
Monday, July 10, 2017

One year after the EU referendum, currency broker TorFX asked their customers how Brexit and the subsequent currency exchange movements have affected them

Read more
Brexit
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pre-purchase surveys aren’t as common in France as they are in the UK but there are a number of reasons why it could be a good idea

Read more
Friday, August 18, 2017

If you’re selling a French property through an estate agent you will be asked to sign a mandate. These are the crucial things you need to understand before you sign

Read more
Thursday, September 14, 2017

Taxe foncière is one of the property taxes homeowners have to pay in France. Find out what it is, how it is calculated and who is exempt from paying it

Read more
French tax

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now