Seen a bargain French property that just needs a bit of work to turn it into a dream home? If your heart is set on a renovation project, do your sums first, advises architect Nick Adams
Many people launch themselves straight into buying a renovation project in France without considering the potential downsides because they have fallen in love with the property. As an architect with nearly 20 years of renovation experience on French properties, my advice is to stand back before making final decisions.
To save disappointment and/or financial difficulties, construction costs and the stressful process of building or renovation should be explored fully before buying a property.
From 2000 to 2007, rural house prices soared. Since 2008, in most rural areas, they have barely increased but are not reducing. So that’s 10 years with no growth.
Building and renovation costs, meanwhile, have gone up. Since 2008, the construction indices which are used dogmatically by artisans, have gone up in all but a few quarters.
A typical farmhouse renovation, using artisans, to include a new roof, services, some structural openings, new joinery, new insulation, plaster boarding and decoration, bathrooms, kitchen and often rehabilitating or moving a staircase, would cost (without fees but including 10% VAT):
in 2008: €1,450-€1,650/m2
in 2018: €1,750-€2,150/m2
These are for an average specification. High specifications need to be considered individually but can double the cost.
A typical solid pool measuring 5x10m with electric cover, pump, fence, terrace and so on could easily cost €40,000, and again, higher specifications will raise the price significantly.
Doing it yourself
Self-build costs, using the definition literally (i.e. not just someone project-managing other workers), may significantly reduce the total price but you need to be aware of current building regulations. These were made more complicated in 2012 and affect many decisions including thermal and seismic issues, as well as simple tasks like fixing plasterboard.
Post-sale arbitration is gaining momentum in France and it is essential to comply with French norms. New-build costs are similar but involve additional studies. Budget approximately €2,000 per dossier for thermal and seismic studies. If a renovation involves less than an additional 30% increase in floor area, these studies can be avoided.
A full architectural fee for design, tender and overseeing work would be approximately 12-14% of the building cost for mid-sized projects (€300,000-€500,000), which includes a 10-year professional guarantee. Be careful not to use ‘architectural design services’, ie. managers, if you want this guarantee and a regulated professional involved.
All the above takes time – say, around six to 12 months to clarify ideas, obtain quotes and gain permits. Artisan services may include maçonnerie (stonework), menuiserie (carpentry), couverture (roof), terrassement (landscaping), plomberie (plumbing), chauffage (heating), électricité (electrics) and cuisiniste (kitchen fitting). Imagine all the discussions! The average programme could take 12 months. If it is also a business then allow for two years with no income from said project (maybe more if it is a self-build).
Old or new?
So, based on the French construction indices, a 400m2 project would equal around €700,000 to €860,000 plus fees. The paradox is that you could buy a 400m2 renovated property in rural areas for nearer €400,000 with practically no loss of potential income.
According to your needs, there may be six months or so of adaptation works, but basically, a renovated property in the right location, meeting your brief, could potentially be bought for less than half the cost of renovating entirely from a cheap wreck, while avoiding two years or more of stress, frustration and hard work.
Or perhaps you really want a project? If so, please obtain a feasibility report from an architect registered in France before signing. Our professional indemnity is carefully regulated by the Ordre des Architectes.
As of November 9, 2018, the properties pictured here are on the market:
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