Help! 7 tradespeople who could save the day at your French property
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Even the handiest of French property owners need a helping hand at some point. Here’s who you might need and why.
Even before you’ve bought your French property, a surveyor could save you time and money by spotting any defects or work that may need doing in the future. In the UK surveys are commonplace but it’s quite unusual for French househunters to get a structural survey. This may come as a surprise to you but don’t worry, there are British surveyors working across the Channel who can give you the peace of mind a survey brings.
Apart from the obvious reasons for having a survey done, i.e. spotting serious problems, they can also point out areas that may need attention which you can then use in your price negotiations with the seller.
The timing of your survey is quite important as in France binding contracts (e.g. the compromis de vente) are signed early on, shortly after a price being agreed. If your offer is dependent on a successful survey, you can include a condition outlining this in the compromis (subject to the vendor agreeing to this). Alternatively, you may wish to have a survey done before you sign the sales contract, in which case you will need to organise this quite swiftly to reduce the risk of another buyer coming along and stealing the property from you.
Don’t confuse a structural survey with the dossier de diagnostic technique (DDT) – these are a series of mandatory reports provided by the vendor covering lead and asbestos, gas (fixed) and electricity, natural risks and parasites such as termites, energy efficiency, surface area (apartments or properties in a shared building), sewerage and septic tanks,and radon gas.
Find a surveyor on the Complete France Directory
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You may not be planning a complete renovation but there’s a good chance you’ll need a builder at some point – maybe to convert a loft or outbuilding, extend a kitchen, add an extra window or build a garden wall. In France, artisans tend to specialise in a particular area, for example, plumbing or stonemasonry. General builders are less common but do exist. Another role is the maitre d’oeuvre, a kind of project manager who will oversee different trades on a particular job.
When employing any artisan in France to do work on your home, it’s essential to check they are properly registered and insured. They should have a SIREN or SIRET number on their paperwork, showing that they’re registered, while the Extrait Kbis or Extrait K document outlines all the activities their registered to carry out.
All French artisans must have two forms of insurance – assurance responsabilité civile, basically civil or public liability insurance covering any accidental damage to a person or property during the course of the work being undertaken; and assurance décennale, which guarantees the work itself it for 10 years in the case of ‘gros ouevres’ such as roofing, structural building, plumbing and electrical works (smaller jobs, such as painting and decorating will normally be insured for up to two years).
When using an artisan in France, you should get a devis or quote, which provides a detailed description of the proposed work, including a schedule and the cost of materials. It usually includes details about their insurance too.
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If you’re planning any work that will be involve over 150m² of the net habitable floor area (surface de plancher) of your French property, you’re obliged by law to use an architect to prepare and submit a planning application. They must be properly qualified and registered to work in France.
Of course, you can use an architect for smaller projects too, and for more than just submitting planning applications. They’ll be able to see the full potential of your home and can advise on modifications and the most cost-effective solutions (which can help offset their cost).
As well as working with the planning department, architects can liaise with other artisans or sub-contractors, and can act as a project manager.
Architects in France must belong to the Ordre des Architectes and are listed on the website.
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It’s so tempting to buy a French property with a large garden but, especially for holiday homes, this can result in you turning up to a wilderness and spending all your precious time off taming a jungle! Brambles, nettles and grass grow like crazy, and while you’re away they can ruin your carefully planned garden. So it might be worth engaging the services of a gardener to keep everything tidy and manageable. This goes for permanent moves too; it’s easy to underestimate how much time a big plot takes to look after so why not offload the boring work like mowing the lawn and cutting the hedges and save the fun garden work for yourself!
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Although not artisans as such, property managers can often turn their hand to all sorts of maintenance jobs, saving you the hassle of finding people to fix things and, importantly, spotting any issues before they become major problems. They usually have a little black book of good local tradespeople when they are needed too.
Over the course of the Covid pandemic, when people were unable to visit their second homes in France, good property managers were in great demand and were very busy! While it’s great having a friendly neighbour to keep an eye on things, there’s a limit to what you can expect them to do, especially if you’ve been absent for some time. A property manager doing regular checks on your home can give you the peace of mind that everything is ok, and will ensure your property stays in good order.
If you’re not on site yourself, a property manager is also essential when renting out your home to holidaymakers. They will manage all the cleaning, changing of bed linen and liaising with guests.
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Satellite, TV and telecoms
No home is a home without TV and wifi these days, regardless of whether your French property is a permanent or holiday place. You may well be sufficiently technically minded to set it all up yourself, but if it makes your brain ache trying to work out how to tune in all the channels or get wifi to all the rooms in your house – especially in an old French property with thick stone walls – luckily help is on hand.
Find a satellite/TV/telecoms installer on the Complete France Directory
Find everything from a builder to an insurance provider, and a tax and legal advisers to a removals company on the Complete France Directory