• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Finding a home in France

Clea Caulcutt · 14 Dec 2011, 18:40

Published: 15 Feb 2012 08:30 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Dec 2011 18:40 GMT+01:00

You might have your eyes set on a château, a farm, or a ruin you dream of renovating. But whatever it is that has caught your attention, be aware that finding a home in France, whether it’s renting or buying, is a challenging experience. 

Finding a home in France is a difficult task, one that even the locals dread. 60 percent of the French say they struggled to find a suitable home, a rate that increases to 71 percent for youths aged 18 to 29 years old, daily Le Figaro writes.

Should foreigners moving to France rent or buy? Legal fees for buying a first home are high and newcomers are advised to rent first and test the waters.

However, renting can also be a testing experience for foreigners. Landlords complain it’s difficult to kick out tenants who don’t pay the rent and demand a lot of guarantees before handing over the keys.

In Paris, housing shortages mean you often compete against other potential tenants for a flat or house.

Renting

You would think combing through ads in the local newspaper was a good way to start your house hunt. But that’s not the Gallic way to find a home. First, you must sort out your paperwork and put together a “bon dossier”, a good file in French.  Your “dossier” includes copies of ID card, tax forms, pay slips, etc.  You will need to hand these documents over to estate agents and landlords if you wish to rent.

In major cities, real estate agencies can require you to earn three to four times the rent, and have a guarantor who will step in and pay if you don’t.

These rules play against foreigners who often don’t have established relatives in France able to guarantee their rent.

You may be able to bypass these requirements by renting directly from owners, subletting or flat-sharing. Subletting is more informal so beware of scams, make sure the people you are dealing with are trustworthy.

If you are a foreigner working in France, do find out if your company can help you rent a flat or a house, they might be able to assist you with the admin.

The French state also runs schemes to help people find a home, check this website for details.

You can also find out what the average rent is in your area on this website.

You will be asked to put up a deposit, which cannot be higher than a month’s rent. Often landlords “forget” to refund the deposit at the end of the tenancy, so be sure to claim yours.

Buying

Buying involves hefty legal fees in France, so prospective buyers are advised to choose carefully.

Legal fees for buying a property reach 5 to 10 percent of the sale price.

Negotiating a sale in France has its distinctive features. Once you have reached a deal with a seller, the notary draws up a sale promise or “promesse de vente”. This takes the property off the market and bounds the buyer to purchasing the product or pay 10 percent of the sale price in compensation. This sale promise gives the buyer time to deal with paperwork, and finalise loans.

If the buyer fails to obtain a bank loan, the sale promise is cancelled.

Where to look

The Local’s own property section has English-language listings of hundreds of flats and houses across France.

Real estate agencies are a good source of information, but do not be tempted into buying lists of flats on offer, this is often a scam. You will be asked however to pay agency fees if you do find a flat through a real estate agent. These fees can reach up to a month’s rent. This does sound a lot, but renting through an agency can be cheaper on the long term. So check out all the options.

If you want to bypass agencies, check out ad sections in local newspapers, or online. These are some of the main housing websites in France: Particuliers à particuliers, craigslist, seloger, explorimmo. 

The website streetwise-france has links to many more housing websites.

Mortgages

French weekly Le Point writes that the middle classes are increasingly finding it easier to buy than to rent. Landlords will require tenants to earn up to four times the rent, while bankers will give clients a mortgage for a third of their earnings.

Home buyers in France are only allowed to allocate up to a third of their income on mortgages. Banks encourage future home buyers to have 10 percent of the price of the property in savings to get a mortgage. If you want to find out what kind of loans you can get, ask several banks to do a simulation, and don’t hesitate in shopping around for the best loan.

French banks will ask foreigners to put a larger contribution upfront, up to 20 percent of the property price.

Oddities

It is not unusual to rent a flat or house without a fitted kitchen. So if you do not want to spend your first weeks in your new home eating sardines on bread, make sure your home has “une cuisine aménagée”, a kitchen with furniture, or even better “une cuisine équipée”, a kitchen with furniture and white goods.

It’s illegal to kick out a tenant who doesn’t pay his or her rent during the winter months. Struggling tenants can stay smug under the blankets from November 1 till March 15.

Clea Caulcutt (news.france@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
15-hour tailbacks in UK as France heightens checks
The local Kent Police force said there was a 12-mile tailback, which it put down to a “vast volume of holiday traffic”. Photo: AFP

British officials were drafted in to help French border police on Sunday after 15-hour queues built up at the port of Dover due to heightened entry checks.

15 injured in Welsh bus accident in France
The bus ended on its side in a ditch. Two helicopters were dispatched to the site. Photo: AFP

UPDATED: Fifteen people were injured, two of them seriously, when a bus carrying teenagers from Wales rolled over on a motorway in eastern France on Saturday, the local gendarmerie said.

Libya armed groups urge fight against French troops
Dozens of protesters rallied Friday outside the GNA’s former headquarters in a Tripoli navy base. Photo: AFP

Armed groups including Islamists have urged Libyans to mobilise against French and other foreign troops deployed in the country, denouncing their presence as a “blatant aggression”.

EgyptAir flight broke up midair after fire: report
The Airbus A320 was en route from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean. Photo: AFP

An EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean in May likely broke up in midair after a fire erupted in or near the cockpit, the New York Times has reported.

IMF boss Lagarde to stand trial over $400 million payout
Lagarde will be the third successive IMF chief to face trial. Photo: AFP

IMF chief Christine Lagarde was ordered Friday to stand trial in France over a massive state payout to a colourful tycoon when she was French economy minister, dealing a setback to her stellar career.

Hollande defends minister under fire over Nice attack
The Nice assault was the third major attack on French soil in the past 18 months. Photo: AFP

French President Francois Hollande on Friday defended his government from accusations it relaxed its anti-terror defences after the Euro championships, and announced plans to arm the fight against the Islamic State group which claimed the Nice attack.

Why was Nice ordered to delete CCTV images of attack?
Photo: AFP

The fact that city authorities in Nice were asked to delete images of the truck attack has only given weight to those criticizing the government.

Thirteen free and easy ways to learn French
Photo: Runs With Scissors/Flickr

Struggling to learn French? Here are some free and easy ways to help you conquer the language once and for all.

32 mistakes foreigners make when they arrive in France
Photo: Tatyana A./Flickr

How many of these have you committed?

France to supply Iraq artillery as it steps up fight against Isis
Photo: AFP

France is stepping up its battle against Isis in the Middle East.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Six outdoor bars in Paris you simply must visit
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
The open-air Villette cinema has been cancelled over security fears
Culture
Henri Rousseau exhibition proves huge hit in Paris
National
Frenchman caught trying to sell Nice massacre souvenirs online
Society
OPEN NOW: Here's why you should head to the Paris Plages
Culture
What's on in France: Still plenty to see and do in July
Lifestyle
Treasures of Versailles to go on display in Australia
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Nice attack: What we know so far
National
Nice attacker: Body-building, drug-taking, violent flirt
National
IN IMAGES: Drawings in tribute to Nice attack victims
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Promenade des Anglais: The iconic heart of the French Riviera
France faces more questions after latest deadly attack
National
Why is France the target of choice for jihadist attacks?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Nice truck attack: 'Bodies went flying like bowling pins'
Nice attack: Families of missing make pleas on Twitter
Politics
Boris Johnson cheered and booed at Bastille Day party
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Ten reasons not to leave Paris this summer
Ten ways other expats in France drive you mad
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
'Very Stupid' village in France honoured for its silly name
Travel
Ten crazy things to do in France if you dare
Society
Paris: an obstacle course for wheelchair users
Brits ignore Brexit fears to make dream move to France
2,766
jobs available