Something new

Building a property from scratch can give you a bespoke, green, dream home. Danielle Bishop gives the low-down on how to approach your build from start to finish

For some, the idea of breathing new life into a tumbledown farmhouse is the epitome of the French dream. But it isn’t just about old, character-packed farmhouses. New-build properties are also a very popular option for those who want to move straight in, and enjoy sleek designs and all the modern conveniences. What’s more, it is also a great way to get exactly the house that suits your requirements and satisfies your vision of that life in France.

The first step is the land. The good news is that land is readily available and cheap to purchase in most areas of France, making it more affordable and achievable to build your new home. A typical plot of land would be 1,000m2 upwards.

When you have found your plot and negotiated a price you will then be required to sign a compromis de vent. This is an agreement between the purchaser and the vendor protecting the rights of both. In this agreement as a purchaser you have the ability to include clauses suspensive (special conditions). If these conditions are not met within the time limit of the compromis de vente you can withdraw from the purchase, reclaim your deposit (typically 10%) with no further claim on yourself or the vendor. I would always recommend when purchasing a plot of land that you enter as a clause suspensive the necessity of gaining full planning permission (permis de construire) before the signature of the final act (acte de vente).

Typically, plots of land are sold with a CU (certificate d’urbanism). This roughly equates to outline planning permission and is a general agreement by the authorities that a dwelling can be constructed on the land. It will probably contain conditions of size and the type of construction that can be built on the land. Therefore, having a CU is not a guarantee that you can build the house that you require.

Once you have purchased your idyllic plot in the French countryside you are then ready to apply for your permis de construire (planning permission). Initially your dossier must be delivered to your local mairie. This dossier contains elements including the design of your build and layout, elevations and floor plans, site survey and planning documents. The mairie will then keep track of it and issue the receipt. It is then sent on the DDE, which is the state department responsible for planning matters in France. Obtaining your permis de constuire usually takes two months from the time of submission unless further information is required. An important aspect to bear in mind is that, once a planned build goes over 170m2 in size, it is necessary for an architect to sign off the drawings. Avilion works in association with a qualified and insured French registered architect and can arrange this for you if required.

So, you now have your land and your planning permission. Typically in France, there are various option for the way in which you can build your house that can suit different budgets and situations. If you want hands on involvement in the build of your home then you could go for the dry-build option. This is where a company such as Avilion constructs the frame, delivery of frame to the site and completes the ground works, foundations, erection, roof, exterior doors and windows, leaving the building completely water tight. With an option such as this, you benefit from speed of construction, keeping labour costs down, and it also gives you the opportunity to complete your build in your own time. Any registered artisan in France working on a new build project must carry a 10 year guarantee (a ‘decennale’) on all work carried out. If you sell your house within 10 years, all fecennales will be requested by the purchaser. If on some of the main elements of your house you do not have a decennale this could be viewed as a problem. Therefore Avilion will always suggest you always have the main structural components erected under the terms of a decennale.

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Then there is the full turn-key project-managed build, where a company takes on the pressure and stress that building a new home can bring and ensure that all the elements and components that make up your home are pulled together in time and on budget.

Another interesting aspect to note with new-builds is that they also give people the chance to build a house that is ecologically friendly and, therefore more economically sound. The construction of new homes with timber frame houses is becoming increasingly popular both within the UK and France. As we all watch our energy costs rise consumers are becoming more aware of these facts, with those looking to build keen to investigate eco-sustainability. For example, with every timber-frame-structured home built, about four tonnes of carbon dioxide are saved compared with other forms of housing. Indeed, timber frame has the lowest CO2 cost of any commercially available material in comparison concrete uses five times and steel six times more energy to produce than timber. Of course, the further good news is that this means significant savings on the home’s day-to-day use, as well financial benefits from lower running costs. To further reduce energy costs, people building new homes in France are also installing well insulated windows and electric underfloor heating systems as well as solar panels to heat hot water.

Designing your own home gives you the complete freedom to choose what really matters to you. Whether it’s the kitchen that you consider the heart of your home, a large cosy living space with open fire or a vaulted ceiling giving you that feeling of space and warmth. If you like the beauty of exposed traditional woodworking or the natural light that large amounts of glass can offer to your home; whatever your tastes, the layout and design of your bespoke new build is dependent on your specifications and dreams.

For or further information on building Timber Frame Homes in France visit www.avilionhomes.co.uk or contact Danielle Bishop by email danielle@avilionhomes.com

For advice and assistance when buying land in France check out www.blueforestgroup.com or contact Tim Clarke at tim@blueforestgroup.com