• France edition
 
Finding a home in France
William Schmitt

Finding a home in France

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
Armed Isis Islamist grew up in small French village
Demonstrators protesting against Isis. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP

Armed Isis Islamist grew up in small French village

One of three Kalashnikov-wielding Islamists seen burning their French passports in an Islamic State propaganda video this week grew up in a small village in southern France, the mayor said Saturday. READ  

Tactical Argentina stun France in Paris
Photo: Frank Fife/AFP

Tactical Argentina stun France in Paris

Argentina produced a tactical masterclass to beat France 18-13 at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday. READ  

French PM Valls arrives in Chad on regional trip
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls with President Francois Hollande. Photo: Philippe Wojazer/AFP

French PM Valls arrives in Chad on regional trip

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls arrived in Chad late Friday at the start of a two-day regional visit, in a show of support for a French-led anti-jihadist force. READ  

Sanofi still has a 'driver' despite shakeup
Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

Sanofi still has a 'driver' despite shakeup

The temporary head of French drugmaker Sanofi insisted the firm still had a bright future Thursday, declaring there was still "a driver in the seat" despite a sudden change in leadership. READ  

EU could give France until 2015 on budget
France's Finance Minister Michel Sapin. File photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

EU could give France until 2015 on budget

The EU could delay a decision on France's budget overshoot until early 2015 instead of making a ruling next week as expected, sources said on Friday. READ  

France's 'first ladies': A look at the other halves
How does the actress Julie Gayet match up against Yvonne de Gaulle, Claude Pompidou, Anne-Aymone Giscard d'Estaing, Danielle Mitterrand, Bernadette Chirac, Cecilia Sarkozy and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy? Pho

France's 'first ladies': A look at the other halves

With François Hollande’s romance with Julie Gayet apparently blossoming, the actress looks set to become France's latest unofficial 'first lady'. Writer Amaryllis Barton takes a look back at her predecessors to see how they matched up. READ  

'Ten reasons the French can be proud of France'
Ten reasons why the French can be proud of France, (according to the government).Photo: AFP

'Ten reasons the French can be proud of France'

France has come in for a harsh criticism recently whether it's from British CEOs or budget chiefs in Brussels and Berlin. But the government has taken it upon itself to hit back by publishing ten reasons to be proud of the country. How many do you agree with though? READ  

Scandal forces another Hollande minister to quit
Kader Arif was a junior minister for veteran affairs. Photo: Alain Jocard/Pool/AFP

Scandal forces another Hollande minister to quit

A junior French minister resigned on Friday as a scandal implicating him in the awarding of lucrative public contracts to members of his family hit President François Hollande's Socialist government with another bruising. READ  

France gets a new map, but what's the point?
France is to get a new map, but what is the point of it all? Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

France gets a new map, but what's the point?

After a long and passionate debate about reducing the number of France's regions, the National Assembly finally voted for a new map with 13 regions this week. But after all the fuss, what's the point of the reform and is there any point to France's regions? READ  

North Korean student feared kidnapped in Paris
Paris prosecutors are investigating the disappearance of a North Korean student linked to political rivals of leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: AFP

North Korean student feared kidnapped in Paris

Paris prosecutors are investigating the disappearance of a North Korean student linked to political rivals of dictator Kim Jong-un, a judicial source said Friday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Win your Christmas list: €250 at Marks & Spencer
National
Would background music make the RER in Paris feel safer?
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles from British Airways
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Winter is coming to the French Alps
National
Trierweiler to break her silence... in the UK
Gallery
Don't confuse France with Paris: Here's ten reasons why
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
National
From the homeless to migrants: A portrait of modern France in ten stats
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Culture
Are you brainy enough to be Miss France? Take the quiz
Gallery
France's most notorious celebrities. How many do you know?
Society
City of Love? Seven Paris myths debunked
Education
Why is France worst in the EU at English?
National
C'est pas possible! Paris is 'world's cheapest city for young people'
National
Looking to save space? France allows toilets in kitchens for first time
National
Find out how women in France are getting stung for a hidden tax
Culture
Which one is your favourite? The top 10 heartiest French winter dishes
Face Of The Week
Nabilla - 'France's Kim Kardashian' held for attempted murder
National
So who's scaring everyone by flying drones over France’s nuclear plants?
Education
Whoever thinks French was a dying language should read this
Politics
OPINION: 'One day France will be grateful to François Hollande'
Gallery
IN IMAGES: A history of France's most controversial architecture
National
How to make an 8-square-metre Paris apartment perfectly liveable
Gallery
VIDEO: France's raunchiest TV ads, including that infamous Perrier one
National
Five reasons why you should work a ski season in France and five not to
National
10 art exhibitions not to miss this autumn in Paris
Culture
What's on in France: 11 things to do this November
National
How French have you become? Take our quiz to find out
National
10 things to never say to a French person
National
Top 10: When French translations go wrong
National
Parisian bars that serve drinkers free meals
National
France falls to Germans in nude swim tourney
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

493
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description