• France edition
 
Finding a home in France
William Schmitt

Finding a home in France

Published: 15 Feb 2012 15:17 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 iteasier 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 inshopping 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 1st till March 15th.

Clea Caulcutt (news.france@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ten things to do in France before Christmas
There's some great things to do in France before Christmas. Photo: AFP

Ten things to do in France before Christmas

With Christmas just round the corner, we've put together ten great festive and not-so-festive events happening around France in December to help you brave the cold and have a ball. READ  

More violent storms set for south of France
The south of France is set to be hit by more rough weather. Photo:AFP

More violent storms set for south of France

The south of France is set to be lashed by more extreme weather with some 12 departments placed on alert for floods on Thursday after violent storms and heavy rain were forecast. READ  

Economists urge 'meek' France to be bold
Photo: Guiseppe Cacace/AFP

Economists urge 'meek' France to be bold

A top level economic report on Thursday urged European heavyweights France and Germany to implement urgent economic reforms, warning that Europe risked falling into a "stagnation trap." READ  

New pills that make flatulence smell like roses
Christian Poincheval, the man behind the scented-flatulence pills. Photo: Pilulepet.com

New pills that make flatulence smell like roses

A Frenchman may have come up with the perfect solution to one of life's major problems after he claimed to have invented a pill that makes bodily gases smell like roses and chocolate READ  

France and Russia
Russia's Christmas gift to Paris raises eyebrows
From Russia...with love? Paris's diplomatic relations with Moscow have been strained by the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. Photo: Pierre Verdy/AFP

Russia's Christmas gift to Paris raises eyebrows

Cash-strapped Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has been handed a gigantic Christmas tree as a gift by an unlikely benefactor: Russia. But questions are being asked whether there is an ulterior motive behind the Christmas present. READ  

Farmers cry wolf in Paris over sheep 'massacre'
Sheep graze under the Eiffel Tower, as their shepherds protest against wolf attacks. Photo: Patrick Kovarick/AFP

Farmers cry wolf in Paris over sheep 'massacre'

Sheep grazed around the Eiffel Tower on Thursday as angry French farmers flocked to the capital to express their frustration over increasing attacks by wolves which some say have been "overprotected" by the government. READ  

Opinion - Lending to Le Pen
'France must ban foreign loans to political parties'
Whether or not Putin's attempts to meddle in French politics were the reason behind a €9 million loan to the National Front, it has to be forbidden, a lawmaker tells The Local. Photo:AFP

'France must ban foreign loans to political parties'

News that France's far-right National Front party had secured a €9 million loan from a Russian bank sent tremors through the French political class and prompted a French lawmaker to propose a bill to outlaw the practice. He told The Local why it was necessary. READ  

Paris holds on to title of world's best student city
There were a staggering 96,782 foreigners studying in Paris in 2013. Photo of student in Paris: Shutterstock

Paris holds on to title of world's best student city

Paris has clinched top spot in the global "Best Student Cities" rankings for the third year running, beating off stiff opposition from the likes of Melbourne, London and Boston. READ  

Napoleon's locks to be put in Swiss watches
Detail of portrait of Napoleon by painter Jacques-Louis David (1812).

Napoleon's locks to be put in Swiss watches

Napoleon's admirers will be able to carry his DNA on their wrists after a Swiss company announced Tuesday its plans to sell watches containing a fragment of the emperor's hair. READ  

Angry French women shame gynos on Twitter
French women shame gynecologists on Twitter. Gynaecology photo: Shutterstock

Angry French women shame gynos on Twitter

French women fed up with inappropriate comments or behaviour from gynaecologists have taken to Twitter in their thousands to vent their spleen. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Education
Is Paris really the best place in the world to be a student?
Society
The things gynecologists say that drive French women mad
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
National
A pill to make flatulence smell like roses? A Frenchman has cracked it
Culture
Rare 400-year-old Shakespeare work found in northern France
National
Paris air pollution: 'It's like being in a room with eight smokers'
National
From infidelity to sexual needs: How French women have changed in 30 years
National
Billboards to be replaced by trees - the bold move by one French city
Gallery
French government gives 10 reasons to be proud: No. 1 - The Economy
Politics
France's 'first ladies': A look back at the other halves
National
Would background music make the RER in Paris feel safer?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
National
Trierweiler to break her silence... in the UK
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Winter is coming to the French Alps
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
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
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