Buying French property

Maria McLean, Director of Ellisium Partners, reveals her top 10 tips for buying property in France

1. No hasty decisions

Don’t buy a property on the back of a two-week holiday in glorious sunshine while in the throes of holiday euphoria. Is the property you are looking at equipped to keep you comfortable throughout the year? And what about the location? Before you even start to look seriously for your property, visit the region and really experience the lifestyle and culture on offer. Do your homework!

2. Avoid the language barrier

The French can be credited with inventing bureaucracy and this can best be seen in action when you are buying a property. A little French can almost be more dangerous than none and the services of an English-speaking estate agent or officially accredited translator are imperative to the successful purchase of your property.

3. Save time and money by using a property search company

In France it is quite usual to see the same property in the windows of several estate agents and at differing prices. It is also part of the selling game in France that advertised properties do not carry the address of the property. So potential buyers will often find themselves visiting the same property with a different agent having already decided that this particular villa is not on their shortlist.

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Using the services of an English-speaking property search company will save you time and money. Generally the services are free of charge to the buyer and you will be able to work with the property consultant, in your language, to ensure that you are only visiting properties that meet your criteria. As the consultant is already familiar with the area and the agencies, when you decide to buy a property they will conduct the negotiations on your behalf with an in-depth understanding of the value of property in the area.

4. Consult financial and tax professionals

Bear in mind that the inheritance laws concerning property in France date back to Napoleonic times and that the priority at that time was for children to inherit property from their parents. Today this can cause major issues for potential buyers who have children from more than one relationship. Talking to financial and legal professionals about who you buy your property from and putting the appropriate mortgage and tax plans in place can ensure that you are able to structure your purchase in the most appropriate way for your lifestyle.

5. Beat the bank charges

If you are buying a house in France and will need to convert currency to euros, then using your bank can prove expensive. Talking to a professional currency broker will mean that you save yourself the cost of bank charges and that you are able to take advantage of the best exchange rates available.

6. Property survey

Always have a professional survey made of the property before you buy. Unusually, the overcautious French have seldom seen the need to use the services of a chartered surveyor. Many international buyers have fallen into the trap of buying without a full survey, meaning that there is no hope of redress when a serious problem occurs.

7. Find a good English-speaking notaire

It is very usual in France for the same notaire to work for both the buyer and seller during a property purchase. Having your appointed English-speaking notaire working for you means that you will understand the buying process and have a complete understanding of the many anomalies of the property purchase system in France. Your property search consultant will always be able to recommend a good English-speaking notaire.

8. Is a refurbishment or a building project a good idea?

Buying and restoring a property or even building from scratch can be a great idea, but without careful management the costs can spiral out of control and the management of the project can be more than stressful. If you are thinking of buying a property to restore or a plot of land to build on then appoint the services of an English-speaking architect who can design and manage the project in your absence and whose services include interior design, garden design, pool construction and, increasingly important, the installation of technology including internet and international TV connections.

9. Making your property investment work for you

Many international buyers purchase a property as an investment with the intention of renting it out during the peak summer months. If you have decided to generate income from rentals then engage the services of a good English-speaking property rentals and management company. They should be able to demonstrate excellent knowledge of the rental income you could generate and demonstrate that they have a track record of successfully renting similar properties in the area.

10. Get local

Install yourself in a local caf� and engage the owner in conversation. It’s surprising just how much you’ll learn about the area, your potential neighbours and of course the feud between Phillipe and Jacques that dates back to the days of their grandfathers… after all, this is France...

Maria McLean, director of Ellisium Partners, www.ellisiumpartners.com