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

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

From how to deal with an estate agent to the importance of making friends with your neighbours… experts and expats share the things they wish they’d known before they bought a property in France

1. It is advisable to rent accommodation for a brief period of time on your arrival to give yourself time to see the lie of the land, and assess lifestyle and employment options, before committing to a property purchase. Kate McNally, lives in Ardèche

2. Don’t try and do too much on a property viewing trip. It can be easy to underestimate the time it takes to travel around an area so don’t try and fit I too many viewing in too short a time. Not only will it be stressful but you’ll be unlikely to properly take in all the details and information about each property, and you’ll miss out on the opportunity to explore the area. Karen Tait, editor of French Property News

3. Visit the area at different times of the year, if possible, as a village or seaside resort can vary considerably in summer and winter. At least visit at different times of the day and on a weekend and weekday. Karen Tait, editor of French Property News


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4. Be honest with your estate agent about your budget, what you are looking for and what you think of a property. This will save you both a lot of wasted time and energy in the long run. Shelley Hunter, owns a property in Brittany

5. There is a huge difference between privacy and isolation. When we first thought about buying in France we wanted to be alone, no neighbours, off the beaten track, the more remote the better. Luckily we got talking to someone who pointed out that it gets pretty boring driving half an hour every time you run out of milk and that privacy was what we were actually craving. Julie Savill, marketing director of Beaux Villages Immobilier

6. Think outside the box. I thought at one time I would not be able to return to France with my small budget but, by considering a mobile home as an alternative to bricks and mortar, I have been proved wrong. Jacqueline Blanford, lives in Gironde

7. Don’t forget to budget for agent and notaire fees. Most advertised prices include the fees charged by the property listing agent, but not always so it is worth checking. However, the notaire’s fee is rarely included in the price and usually amount to around 8% of the property price, so make sure you include this in your budget. Tim Williams, finance director at Beaux Villages Immobilier


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8. When budgeting for a holiday home remember that it needs to be furnished and outfitted, you will invariably have to pay for some renovation or redecoration and there are acquisition costs and taxes to be paid. Also factor in the cost of airplane tickets, car rentals and hotel for your viewing trips. Ask a local agent to help you with a comprehensive budget so that you don’t forget to include anything. Sophia Mose, runs property search agency Provence Search and The French Property Finders

9. Your choice of estate agent is critical. France is completely different to the UK when it comes to property purchases so you will need someone you trust to guide you through the process. Paul Cherry, lives in Gard

10. When purchasing a property in France, it is important to take advice on the co-ownership structure and on related inheritance issues before signing the purchase deed to ensure that the property will be passed on in accordance with your wishes. Loïc Raboteau, director of Francophile Legal Consulting

11. It can take up to three months between making an offer and completing on a property in France and during that time a fluctuation in exchange rates can make a huge difference to the amount you pay for the property in sterling. Look at ways of fixing your exchange rate so you don’t have a nasty surprise when it comes to actually paying for the property. Laura Parsons is a currency analyst at TorFX


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12. Always consult your own advisor who you pay to assist you and who doesn’t have a vested interest in the sale completing before they get paid by you. Their only purpose will be to help you. Lindsay Kinnealy, international property lead at Slater and Gordon

13. Dress formally when you go to the notaire to sign the final documents for your property purchase. We hadn’t appreciated that this was such a formal affair and so felt somewhat embarrassed by our casual attire with the solicitor and vendor both dressed in funereal black suits. Polly Fielding, lives in Paris

14. There are two main local property taxes – taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation – which are payable on all homes, whether they are used for holidays or as a permanent residence. So don’t forget to budget for these. Kate Brehaut

15. Nothing happens quickly in France! Despite our best efforts to arrange for work to be done when we’re at our property, especially during our longer visits in the summer, things don’t always go to plan. Shelley Hunter, owns a property in Brittany

16. Check parking and loading restrictions before moving day. My removals lorry blocked the entire road outside my house and two hours into unloading a very irate Frenchman came to tell me that I should have applied for permission to block the road previously. Luckily my new neighbours cam out to see what all the fuss was about and assured him that they didn’t mind me blocking the road. Paul Cherry, lives in Gard

17. The French you learn at school and adult learning classes will only take you so far – for example, I never learned the word for ‘chainsaw’ or the phrase for ‘someone’s donkey is in my garden’. However, the words you learn because you really need them will stick harder and quicker than anything you learn in the classroom. Julie Savill, marketing director of Beaux Villages Immobilier

18. The more integrated you become, the richer life becomes. A smattering of French goes a long way and rural people will generally go out of their way to help you if you make an effort. Valerie Slowther, lives in Aude

19. French law is different and it’s essential to know the ins and outs, as well as taxes and healthcare etc. Looking back, we took a big risk moving here. We didn’t have much money, but by working hard we’ve survived. Christianne Zeelan, lives in Tarn

What advice would you give to prospective French property buyers? Email us

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