For members


Ten things to think about when buying property in France

Buying a house in France can be daunting, and even if you have the money, you might be put off from doing it. With the help of various estate agents, expert Jon Lewis who has wrote the book "How We Didn't Buy a House in Besançon", and Patrick Joseph who runs the My French House website, The Local has put together a list of ten things you need really to think about when buying in France.

Ten things to think about when buying property in France

Ask a broker:

 Instead of negotiating with the banks for the best mortgage deal you can ask a broker or “courtier” to do it for you. A courtier will have contacts at banks and be able to get you the best deal, in theory anyway. They’ll take a look at your bank statements and work out what you can get and what you need to do. It can save you a lot of hassle and most seem to think it’s worth it. A courtier’s fee normally is linked to the amount you borrow. If he/she fails you pay nothing.

Really want to renovate?:

While it may seem a great idea to buy a barn and renovate it, France is littered with stories of dashed expat dreams. Author on the subject Jon Lewis simply says: “Don’t buy anything you have to renovate because you will never find anyone to do it and if you do, they won’t be competent.” My French House's Patrick Joseph adds: “Be realistic, a country house with no neighbours and lots of land might sound idyllic but be prepared to take your car everywhere.”

Bring in interpreters: 

Even if you learn all the key words in French, if your language skills are not up to scratch then it might be worth bringing in an interpreter for your key meetings with the notaire, who is put in charge of the sale. Especially when he reads through the “compromis de vente” 'sale agreement” which you will need to understand in full. It's also wise to pay for any documents to be translated into English. In short don't take any risks with misunderstandings.

Estate Agents or not?:

This is the big question. Jon Lewis recommends buying privately, known as “Particulier a Particulier” (PAP) in France. The major bonus of doing it privately is you avoid paying agency fees but it also means you miss out on potentially helpful advice from an estate agent and unless you know the market you'll have no idea if the price for the house you are buying is accurate or not.

Beware of agents tricks:

If you do opt to go through an estate agent then it's worth knowing some of their old tricks. Agents will often advertise houses you have already viewed by using new photos and different information to try and get you to visit again. There’ll also keep key information out of the ad, so make sure you ask first if the building has a lift etc. Some will even leave their agency fees out of the asking price, to make you think it is lower than it is. Double check!


Know where to look: 

If you are going through estate agencies then each has their own website and many estate agents will also list most of the properties at But if if you want to buy a house privately then there's a few different websites, notably, and Houses will also appear on Le Boin Coin France's main classified ads site.

One notaire or two?:

The notaire has the crucial role in the sale of the house and must make sure everything is above board and in order. Some recommend just using one notaire, i.e. the sellers to save complications but others recommend a buyer should bring in their own to act in their interests. France is now full of English speaking notaires, so it might be worth seeking one out. Feel free to ask him/her questions about the house you are buying, whether the price is valid etc.

Compromis de vente:

The key moment of a sale in France is the “compromis de vente” or sales agreement. After this point you only have seven days to change your mind. Make sure you know exactly what is in the “compromis de vente” and only sign it in front a notaire. Make sure it includes clauses for any fixtures and fittings that the seller agrees to leave behind as well as the completion date. It's worth asking the notaire for a draft copy in advance to study.

Know your taxes: 

You might think that once you have worked out your monthly mortgage payments, added on the bills etc then that’s your monthly budget. But many people forget to add on the taxes they will have to pay as property owners – notably the tax fonciere, a property/land tax that is charged on the owner of every house. This varies greatly depending on where you buy in France. This tax is on top of the monthly “charges” and the taxe d'habitation that you will also have to pay.

Is the house on solid ground?:

“In France, a surveyor is a profession that doesn’t exist. The only things the notaires check for are termites, asbestos and lead,” says Jon Lewis. So it’s always a good idea to get an engineer to check the house is going to hold up. You can also check at the Town Hall to see the plans to make sure they match up with what you have been showed and you don’t find out later that your neighbour actually owns half of the garden you thought you were buying.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Tell us: Have you had problems receiving The Local France’s daily newsletter?

We understand that due to a technical problem some readers have not been receiving regular newsletters from The Local France.

Tell us: Have you had problems receiving The Local France's daily newsletter?
Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

First of all we apologise for this problem and would like to invite anyone whose regular newsletters have suddenly stopped arriving in their inboxes to get in touch with us so we can ensure you receive the emails that you signed up for.

If you previously got newsletters regularly but have not received one in the last two weeks, please email [email protected] with the subject line “Newsletter”.

And if you weren’t subscribed but think it sounds like a good idea, you can sign up here.

You get a free daily newsletter outlining the latest news, information and cultural events, put together by a member of The Local’s editorial staff.

You can also opt in to receive free emails with our French word of the Day, and you can stop both emails at any time.