No previous owners: New build houses

Brand new and built just for you, Greg Taylor looks at new-build and self-build options

The merits of new-build French homes (low maintenance, little hassle, economical to run, ideal lock up and leave’ holiday properties) have often been extolled in FPN, and developers are always quick to point out the advantages of new versus old, in terms of a property purchase.

However, for those convinced of the benefits of brand-new bricks and mortar, there is another choice to be made: buy off-plan or go boldly down the self-build route?

Off-plan The off-plan option is arguably the most straightforward, least expensive choice. Notaires’ fees for off-plan properties are cheaper than for resale homes (between 3-3.5% instead of 6-8%) and there’s no tax to be paid, as new-build property prices include the VAT.

You are buying one of a number of homes that are yet to be built, within a development, and the involvement of other purchasers puts you in a strong position with the developer (known as le constructeur; off-plan construction is referred to as VEFA, which stands for vente en �tat futur d’ach�vement).

Although this kind of French home offers a more limited choice in terms of site and design (you will be able to choose from perhaps three or four designs, on a large plot already purchased by the company), it is usually wellequipped, and in many cases the buyer can specify the finish.

The starting price for off-plan homes varies widely, depending on region, location and style of property. In Normandy, €94,000 bags a one-bed bolthole within a gated residence in a residential area above the harbour of St Val�ry en Caux, near Dieppe; for a three-bed apartment in a riverside residence in the Belle Epoque coastal resort of Cabourg, near Caen, allow upwards of €235,000.

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Understandably, there are a great many new-build projects in the south of France, most within striking distance of the Mediterranean coast, in response to the market for easy to run, turn up and go’ vacation units in a sunny environment.

Starting prices down south range from around €120,000, which would secure a studio apartment within a canalside residence with communal swimming pool, near the medieval town of Aigues Mortes. Around €170,000 gets a onebedroom unit within a gated project overlooking the Mediterranean and the port of S�te, while further up the scale, two-bedroom luxury apartments in a small, 12-unit waterfront project in the pretty port of Marseillan sell from €360,000- €525,000. With seaviews and terraces, this is the cr�me de la cr�me of Languedoc new-build; there are, of course, cheaper options to be found elsewhere.

Self-build For those who feel a little more adventurous, the second choice is to commission an individual house, sourcing the plot of land yourself and then hiring a builder (it is possible to use a company to handle both the plot search and build).

Having found your land and builder, the next step is to select your plan. The choice usually ranges from around 90–150m2, with a reasonable specification in terms of build and finish. Once the details have been agreed, the planning application is submitted; building work starts when the purchase of the plot is completed and planning permission granted. This option is strictly regulated by the industry; delivery dates are contractually agreed and payment schedules are fixed by law, making it a safe choice.

Going down the self-build route is arguably more expensive than buying within a development, as you alone are responsible for the charges, rather than sharing them with all the other owners; you will also have to handle the administrative side of the build, quite a tall order – make sure your French is up to scratch!

Depending on location, prices start from around €1,000 per square metre, excluding the purchase of the plot itself. Most plots (terrain � construire) are sold with a defined square metrage of building space (for example, 150m2 would represent a modest, four-bed detached house, which could sit comfortably on 1,000m2).

Plot costs can vary greatly, and are defined by area and location. In the H�rault d�partement of Languedoc (one of the most popular areas in France for relocators), a plot large enough for a mid-range family home might be priced at around €100,000, depending on views and other factors (eg proximity to public transport, services and amenities) that would render the location more (or less) desirable.

The bespoke approach For those who want the ultimate in self-build, there is the madeto- measure’ level; you commission an architect to design a property exclusively for you, to your specification. The obvious benefit is that you get exactly what you want – but this comes at a price, starting at around €2,000 plus VAT per square metre for a fully equipped home.

It is wise to find an architect who will manage the entire project, or appoint a project manager (ma�tre d’oeuvre) to oversee the proceedings and report back to you on a regular basis. Some French builders can offer almost bespoke designs on individual plots, managing the whole project through to delivery, which is a safe and easy option that is a little cheaper than hiring an architect.

The Architecteurs group of French architects and builders has members the length and breadth of France who can help clients build to spec, as well as renovating or enlarging existing properties (www.architecteurs.fr).

Whichever version of newbuild rings your bell – off-plan, self-build or bespoke – as the purchaser, you will need to use your imagination to visualise the end result. Artists’ impressions and architects’ drawings can provide reassurance, as can visiting completed projects built locally by the same developer, builder or architect.

Greg Taylor is co-founder of www.creme-de-languedoc.com. For more information on newbuild homes in the south of France, see www.creme-delanguedoc.com/languedocproperty/developments/index.php