The 3 golden rules for French property hunting

The 3 golden rules for French property hunting

Follow these three basic rules and your French property search will be a success

Here are our 3 golden rules for French property hunting. They do not change!


Be clear about what you want and make sure your agent understands this. Specify what you are looking for: house or apartment, number of rooms, preferred location, needing renovation or ready to walk into and, of course, give an indication of your budget.

Buyers normally have a clear idea of how much they are able to spend, yet they are often shown properties that are well above, or even below, this figure. Buyers may be funding their purchase via a bank loan or mortgage and ideally will have reached an agreement in principal with their bank or mortgage provider for a specific amount. If their budget is dependent on the proceeds of a prior sale there may be no margin for flexibility.

The truth is that a property worth, say, €500,000 is not the same as one costing €400,000 so someone clearly has not done their homework. The devil is in the detail – room size, quality of construction and finishes, outside space, and location.


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In real life, due to competition between agencies and vendors’ insistence on signing up with more than one estate agency, property descriptions tend to conceal more than they reveal – above all when it comes to location. As a result buyers are often taken on visits to areas or properties they hate on sight, without even walking through the front door.

Property searching takes time and your first golden rule is to insist on being told the location and seeing a photo of the exterior before you even set off to visit. If you aren’t familiar with the location take time to look around before the agent tries to hustle you inside. Remember also that what is now an attractive, uninterrupted view can be blighted by later building development; you need to verify as accurately as possible the official status of neighbouring land and buildings, noting that these can change over time due to future planning decisions outside your control.

Unless you already know the area where you hope to buy a property, it is always wise to return and take a look around at different times of the day and during a weekend as well as working days of the week. There can also be a huge difference between summer (sunshine, possibly tourists) and winter (empty homes, reduced services).

The amount of traffic and pedestrians can vary enormously at different times, changing the whole appearance and feel of a city or small town. You also need to check the availability of essential services such as shopping, post office, bank and local surgery.

It is also a good idea to look at the state of neighbouring properties, checking exterior paintwork, general state of repair and gardens, as well as the one you are about to visit where any refurbishment needed is going to add to your costs.


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Bear in mind that luxury bathrooms featuring a bath and shower, double wash basin and fully tiled surrounds are comparatively recent fashions, and unlikely to be found in many properties more than 15 or 20 years old, as are the current trends for open-plan kitchens and large living/dining areas. These are more likely to be found in newer properties or in traditional buildings that have been recently refurbished by the owner.

There is demand is for large amounts of storage space or walk-in dressing areas as today’s buyers seem to accumulate more belongings than our predecessors. Do not reject a property based on a lack of cupboards – these are some of the simplest items that can be purchased and installed at very little additional cost.

Old-fashioned decor can also be easily changed – orange paint or floral wallpaper popular with previous generations can be replaced, along with flooring, work surfaces and even tiles and bathroom units. During your viewing you should not be overwhelmed by typical cosmetic changes that may be needed but be more aware of the potential cost of remedying more substantial defects such as a leaking roof, faulty double-glazing or rising damp.

Peter-Danton de Rouffignac lives in Perpignan and advises on all aspects of buying and selling French property. Visit his blog here.

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