Top tips for buying property in France
- Credit: Archant
From a gîte in the Pyrenees to a cottage in the Dordogne, international property specialist Lindsay Kinnealy, of Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester, passes on her tips on how to plan your move to France. ADVERTISING FEATURE
Whether it’s the sun on your face, the sea lapping at your toes or the mountains on your doorstep, there are a number of important legal issues to think about before you decide to purchase a property in France.
This is especially important as the legal system and the steps to follow are very different to what you’re used to in the UK.
Things to consider when buying abroad
• Spend some time getting to know the local property buying process and inheritance laws.
• If you’re going to spend some of your time in the UK and let out the French property, check you understand the letting and tax laws and how they will apply to your particular circumstances.
• Always get written confirmation of any special arrangements and negotiations. Don’t just leave it on trust.
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• Don’t hand over any money without suitable professional advice first (unless you are prepared to lose this) and, if you do, always insist on a paper receipt for any monies paid. Check whether and under which circumstances a deposit will be refundable.
• Check that the seller actually has the legal right to sell both the construction and the land it sits on. If buying a brand new or partially-built property, check that the title deeds / ownership are actually registered at the local land registry.
• Check whether utilities are connected at the property and, if so, are they in good working order – and that the property is legally entitled to use them. Some partially-built properties may not be directly connected or the existing connection may not be legal.
• Make an effort to meet the neighbours. Locals can tell you if the area is liable to flooding, if there is any problem with water or electricity supply in the summer or advise you of any other problems that a seller or developer may keep under his hat.
• If you’re buying off plan either a partially built property or a new build, ask the developer to show you an example of one of his completed projects and, if you can, talk to the owners of the completed houses to see if they have had any problems.
• Many property owners come unstuck because they haven’t sought independent legal advice. Often new owners will have gone off the recommendation of the local estate agents or builders and wind up in a lot of trouble. When you’re dealing with documents in a language you don’t speak and you don’t have someone independent to at least translate, then you leave yourself open to signing something you don’t understand and which might not say what you think it does or have agreed with the seller.
• A good lawyer would deal with many of the above points on your behalf. It’s always best to appoint an independent English-speaking lawyer who is fluent in French and knows French property law.
• Consider whether you need advice about a will. There is still some uncertainty about whether UK citizens are covered by the new European Law which allows EU member State citizens to choose the law of their nationality as the law to govern their succession as a whole. Even if this does apply to UK citizens it is still important for UK resident owners of French property to consider making a separate French will.
• Do you need power of attorney? If you are unable (or simply don’t want) to travel to France to sign deeds, you can request a French power of attorney from your notaire which would enable you to nominate a third party (a friend or clerk or employee of your notaire) to do so on your behalf.
Lindsay Kinnealy is Head of International Property and a Principal Lawyer specialising in International Property at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester. She leads a multilingual team and specialises principally in French property matters.