Businesses for sale in France

If you don’t want to wait for retirement to move to France, and you’ve always hankered after running your own business, then why not relocate now and buy a French business?

Whether it’s a B&B, a gîte, a farm, a restaurant, a hotel, a bar or a shop, you can buy a French business that’s a going concern and save yourself the time and paperwork involved in starting a business from scratch. If you buy a business it will also come with a ready-made network of local contacts – including suppliers and customers – which will help your business to generate an income immediately.

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Remember that you are in France and you are buying a French business - so the sooner you learn to speak French the better! Not only will it help you to get on with your suppliers, your clients and any employees; but it will also help you to integrate, make French friends and deal with the French administration. You might even diversify into areas where you can offer paid-for services to other ex-pats who can’t speak French!

Your first port of call should be to the local Chambre de Commerce for some initial help and advice; they can be extremely patient and helpful if you approach them in the right manner.

First you will need to decide how your business is categorised (its statut juridique) e.g. profession libérale, commerciale, SARL or SCI; this will in turn determine which Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE) will register your business e.g. the Chambre de Commerce itself, the Chambre de Métiers or URSSAF.

If your French is good consult www.apce.com (Agence pour la Création d’Enterprises) to help you with all this, otherwise your French accountant will immediately know which activities fall into which category. You can choose a comptable (bookeeper), an expert-comptable (chartered accountant) or a compte gestionnaire (management accountant) either by looking in the Pages Jaunes (yellow pages) or preferably by recommendation.

If your business is categorised as commercial (for example if you run a B&B or a gîte) then you register at the Chambre de Commerce. If you’re a skilled craftsman (for example a carpenter) then you register at the Chambre de Métiers, if you’re in agriculture then you register at the Chambre d’Agriculture and if you’re classified as profession libérale then you register at URSSAF.

Visit the appropriate CFE and ask for an application form and a list of documents you will need to collate to support your application. The CFE will process your finished dossier and send copies to INSEE (who will issue you with a SIRET/SIREN number), the Caisse de Sécurité Sociale (who will collect your health and pension contributions) and the Service des Impôts (who will tax you!)

*If you see a business advertised as ‘Fonds de commerce’ this means it is the goodwill that is for sale and not the walls. You will need to rent the premises with a ‘Bail commercial’ or commercial lease. As always, it is best to take professional advice from English solicitors specialising in buying and leasing commercial property.

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