Top Ten Tips for Buying in France

Written by: Graham Gilbert Date: 31 march 2007

  1. Know your budget, if yours is not a cash purchase approach lenders and find out how much you can borrow BEFORE you start to search. This will avoid disappointment later on. Whether you approach lenders directly or use a mortgage broker look into the length of term, the interest rate being charged and any penalty clauses for early payment. What proof of income is required ?, do you need a medical ? Answer all these questions early on and have the offer of a mortgage 'on the table' ready to activate when you find the right property.
  2. Remember that your budget has to cover not only the cost of the house but also the cost of buying the house. The estate agent's fees can be up to 10% of the purchase price but average 6% (they are on a sliding scale, the lower the property value the higher the percentage) - they are legally obliged to display their rates in the agency but have been known to negotiate on them to secure a sale. The notaire's fees are non-negotiable and set by a national scale or 'barème'; they are between 6% and 8%, the agent will be able to give you an exact figure.
  3. When you search for properties find out if the price includes the estate agency fees (frais d'agence), FAI means 'frais d'agence inclus'. The 'prix clé-en-main' (key-in-hand price) means the total cost including the 'net vendeur' (what the seller receives) estate agency fees and the Notaire's fees for the conveyancing, stamp duty etc. This 'prix clé en main' obviously mustn't exceed your total budget.
  4. Beware of buying when looking through your 'holiday spectacles' - find out about the climate in winter a s well as in summer. Is it in a flood zone? (ask at the Mairie or town hall if it's near a river, is it in a 'zone d'inondation') Will the Mistral be blowing? What about transport links? Are there schools nearby for your children? Our agents are duty bound to give you the wider picture but you must ask.
  5. Only deal with bona fide estate agents; high street premises are no guarantee, the agent must be affiliated to a professional body such as the FNAIM (Federation Nationale dAgences Immobiliers) and have a 'carte professionnelle' displayed. French Property Centre insists on these, and other precautions, before entering into partnership with our agents.
  6. It isn't necessary to buy via the proliferating group of English 'hand-holding' agents who charge you commission or a consultation fee for legal advice, help with the connection of services, arranging house insurance and opening a bank account. If your financial situation isn't too complicated, an English speaking French notaire will give you free advice and a good agent will be only too pleased to guide you and see it as part of their after-sales service. Remember that the seller's notaire is 'an honest broker' - he doesn't represent the seller as an English solicitor does, he is completely impartial. [If you do want that extra reassurance that money can buy, French Property Centre will be happy to recommend everyone from translators to bilingual French lawyers and English surveyors!]
  7. Make appointments with estate agents BEFORE you travel, a good agent will be busy and need to cover for his absence when viewing. French Property Centre will put you in touch with your agent before you leave. Agents are frequently frustrated by prospective buyers who don't turn up so we give you their telephone number and give them your mobile number in case of any last minute problems. French Property Centre will ensure that you are expected and if you also fill in an Ideal Property Form (see Contact Us) this will ensure that the agent only shows you suitable properties.
  8. When viewing; be on time, wear suitable clothing/footwear for the property, try not to take children or animals (a potential distraction), have a good map to mark your route and take something to eat and drink.
  9. Don't be despondent if you don't find the right property on your first visit - 70% of people don't! Look before you leap and view it as a reconnaissance mission. You will know when you find the right property - you won't be able to walk away from it !
  10. If you fall head over heels, do take the agent's advice on whether you can make the vendor an offer, they will know whether there is room to manouevre - for example if the vendor needs to release funds quickly. Unlike the UK, the property can be on several agents' books and someone else can be offering the full asking price while you are still negotiating.

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