• 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
Saudi princess 'told guard to kill Paris decorator'
Photo: Eurovizion/Flickr

"You have to kill this dog, he doesn't deserve to live," the princess allegedly said.

Paying for sex in France: Has the new law been effective?

Around 40 sex buyers are caught each month across the whole of France. Does that sound like much?

Only in France: 'Drive slowly - grape juice on the roads'
Photo: Rexness/Flickr

You know you're in France when...

France gives lift off to tough new drone laws
Photo: AFP

Time to crack down on drones, say French lawmakers.

Bienvenue en France: France cuts red tape for UK firms
Photo: AFP

France is ready to roll out the red carpet for UK firms quitting Britain because of Brexit fears.

VIDEO: Is life on a French café terrace really this bad?
Photo: Canal Plus

Bird poo, bums and butts: Is life on les terraces really as bad as this?

'Five terror plots thwarted' on Riviera since Nice attack
A police boat patrols the waters off the beach in Nice during the summer. Photo: AFP

Authorities in Nice say five potentially deadly terror plots on the French Riviera have been foiled since the Bastille Day truck attack in the resort.

IN PICTURES
French firefighters calendar to provoke global palpitations
Photo: Fred Goudon

Warning: Some readers may suffer palpitations, sweats or other side-effects when reading this story.

Why Paris beach festival could be sand-free in future
Photo: AFP

Is a beach with no sand still a beach?

Lost without translation: The struggles of Calais migrants
Communication problems in the Calais jungle camp. Photo: AFP

So many languages are spoken in the Calais jungle migrant camp but French is rarely heard.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Culture
The crazy French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
National
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
2,733
jobs available