French property blog: How to convert a rustic barn into your dream home

The 'Barn Conversion' has long been a favorite of the buyer seeking a rustic home in France on shoestring budget. But there are a few things you need to bear in mind, says Mary Hawkins from Leggett Immobilier estate agents.

French property blog: How to convert a rustic barn into your dream home
Photo: Luc Coekaerts/Flickr

There are things to know in advance when undertaking such a renovation – forewarned the process is fairly straightforward and the potential rewards are enormous.

A key factor to take in to consideration is the 'Change of Use' regulations – as you may be taking an agriculturally purposed building and creating a residential property.

This is the point at which the mayoral system in France comes into play.

Approaching the local Mairie will yield all the information and advice you will need. Firstly whether the ‘Change of Use’ is acceptable to the commune and the various planning and legal ramifications you will encounter.

A good working relationship with the Mairie is clearly advantageous, even if merely buying a house in France, let alone taking on a conversion – it can make all the difference to the smooth-running of your project.

It needs to be borne in mind that any renovation or conversion involving a building over 170 Square Metres will require the involvement of a registered architect.

Additionally, changing the external dimensions of the property (a small extension for example), fitting additional windows, altering the structure or facade etc. – will again necessitate the advice of the Mairie.

They will guide you through the “Declaration Prealable” paperwork – effectively planning permission in UK terms.

Providing all your plans are sympathetic to the local environment and nearby properties this should not prove to be an issue.

Be aware that conversions have a cost – whilst you will ultimately have your dream living space – a sensible budget plan is a must.

A realistic ‘Ball Park’ is to allow €1500.00 Per Sq, Metre.

This will act as a good guide with a reasonable contingency included. Inevitably some parts of the project will come in under the guide figure, whilst the unexpected can result in drifting over. Based on current costs the above figure should not be far wrong.

In conclusion – Plan, Budget and Communicate. Then settle back and enjoy your new country home.

Three properties worth renovating

1. Three barns in the Auvergne, €36,000

Describe the property: “The barns are situated at the edge of a small hamlet, the biggest one is approximately 14.5 x 9.5 and the smaller barn is approximately 7.80 x 12.20. There is planning permission for a 4 bedroom and a 2 bedroom house. The smallest barn is perfect for storage. Water is already connected in the big barn.

“Clermont Ferrand with international airport is 60 km away and the lovely village of Crocq with all amenities needed at 19 km.”

CLICK HERE for more information

2. Stone wine barn in Hérault south western Franc, €56,000

Describe the property:  “In a lovely village with its own château, with beautiful countryside on the doorstep, this large barn of approx. 178m² could become residential, subject to planning permission. There are also possibilities for outside space.

Water and electricity connections are in place although not used at present.

CLICK HERE for more information

3. Barn in Dordogne south west France (€31,000)

Describe the property: “Large semi detached barn for renovation, set in a peaceful secluded area with garden and views to the countryside. In a beautiful, peaceful location this double height barn could be converted into a stunning home. The garden to the rear is flat and slopes down to the chemin with great views over farm and woodland.

CLICK HERE for more information


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Checklist: What you need to do if you move house in France

From the tax office to the post office, internet firms and pets - who you need to tell when you move house in France

Checklist: What you need to do if you move house in France

Whether you’re moving down the street, to the other side of town, or to a different département, the administrative scale of the task is almost as big as the physical side – and at least as stressful, unless  – on actual moving day – you lose the kettle and can’t make a cup of tea.

The job of moving house gets more difficult the closer you get to moving day, and it’s easy to forget or put off those administrative jobs you have to do. So, here’s a list of those annoying red tape jobs you need to consider in good time. 

1. Give notice to your landlord

If you’re renting your current property, you need to give either one month or three months’ notice – depending on the type and location of the property rental –  that you’re moving out, and arrange with your landlord a suitable time to carry out an état des lieux of the property, similar to the one carried out when you moved in.

2. Schools

Parents of school-age children attending state-run schools must notify the establishment if they move out of its catchment area, and find a new school for their children within eight days of moving. 

Under certain circumstances children will be able finish the school year in the establishment they attended before the change of residence.

The first step is to contact the town hall in the town you are moving to. The full rules, including those for children in private education or who are home schooled are here.

3.Tell the taxman – and other administrative bodies

The taxman needs to know you’re moving – if only to send your next tax form to the right address. 

You can inform tax officials of the fact and date of your move online, by logging into your Personal area on the website

Here, at least, there’s some additional good news. France has set up a system in which you can tell a number of administrative offices – including the tax office, EDF, Pôle emploi, and Caf – that you’re moving house with one online form. Find it here.

4. Residence permit

Anyone living in France on a residence permit – such as Britons who have a post-Brexit Carte de séjour – needs to update the address on it.

The process can be completed online.

5. Driving licence and carte grise

Sadly, for technical reasons, declarations of change of contact details to the Vehicle Registration System with an effective date after June 30, 2022, aren’t currently included in the one form, all admin system mentioned above.

So, to change the registered address of your vehicle on its carte grise, you need to go to the ANTS website

Bizarrely, there is no rush to change the address on your driver’s license.  You can leave it until you apply for a new one (for example, if you lose it, or it expires) – and there’s no dedicated ‘change of address’ option on the driver’s licence application section of the ANTS website.

6. Utilities

You need to contact your electricity and gas supplier, as well as the water company and whoever operates your telephone, TV, internet package.

Be aware, if your current internet operator is unable to supply your new home, you can request the termination of your subscription free of charge.

Don’t forget your bank, either. 

7. New GP

You may want to change your GP – especially if you’re moving some distance. You will need to find a GP able to take on new patients, and they will be able to help with the process.

8. Don’t forget your pets

In France, carnivorous pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets, must be identifiable – usually by microchip, or tattoo – so that they can be returned to their owners if they get lost. This information is kept on a national database, which must be updated when you move house. Do that here

9. Get your mail forwarded

La Poste will forward any letters to your new address for up to 12 months. Click here for more information.

10. Help with the costs of moving

You may be eligible for some help with moving costs on the day itself. Those on lower incomes may be able to access help from the fonds de solidarité pour le logement towards the cost of hiring a removals firm, for example.

Parents with three children or more, or who are expecting a third child may be eligible for a moving allowance from CAF under certain conditions. More information is available here