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The vital French terms you need to know when buying a house in France

Everyone says if you want to buy a house in France, first of all learn the language you are going to need. Here we spell out the key French terms as well as other vital information and advice for when buying and selling a house in France.

The vital French terms you need to know when buying a house in France
Buying a house can be stressful, especially in a foreign country. To help you navigate your way safely through the French property world, we've compiled a list of some essential French terms you'll come across in your search to buy the home of your dreams.
Crédit Immobilier

Buying property usually begins by asking your bank for a crédit immobilier (which translates literally as a 'property loan', but otherwise known as a mortgage). For this, you'll want to find the one with the lowest possible taux d'intérêt (interest rates).
Agent Immobilier

Once you know how much money you can borrow, the next person you'll meet is probably the agent immobilier. This is the estate agent, who will help you find some biens immobiliers (properties) to view and organise the visites(viewings). After each viewing, you will usually be asked to sign a bon de visite document, in which you commit to go through the estate agent and not the buyer directly if you want to put an offer on the property.

Buying property cannot be done in France without a notaire – a solicitor. As a buyer, you are free to appoint one of your choice, although estate agents and buyers often have their own.
Seven things to know before you buy that house in France

If you are interested in buying an apartment, it is worth checking out how much the yearly charges cost before you take the plunge. These include the shared running costs of the apartment building such as cleaning, gardening, heating and water and local taxes, which all the people living in the co-propriété (residents of the apartment building) have to pay.
Taxe d'habitation

It is also worth finding out how much this local residence property tax will cost you. The taxe d'habitation, which all tenants and landowners living in their own property have to pay, is used to finance local services and so it can vary substantially depending on where you live.
Taxe foncière

This is a property tax which all homeowners in France have to pay.
Mètres carrés 

When you browse through property ads, you'll notice that surface areas in France are measured in mètres carrés (square metres). You may also see properties described as being T1, T2, T3 or more. The number roughly refers to the amount of rooms the property has, including bedrooms and sitting-rooms, but excluding the kitchen and bathrooms.
Offre d'achat

You've just seen the property you want to call home? Then you'll want to make an offre d'achat to buy it. This offer can be made verbally or in writing and if the seller agrees to it, both forms are binding. At this stage, do not hand over any money, French law forbids it. You'll be asked to pay the caution (deposit) later.
Seven tips for selling your house in France
Promesse de Vente
This is when the vendor commits to sell the property at an agreed price with a particular buyer. The buyer then gets a certain amount of time, normally three months to decide whether to go through with the deal. But it's not all in favour of the buyer. According to France's Notaire's Association the buyer will have to hand over a certain sum, 10 percent of the house price in order to reserve the house under the promesse de vente. If the purchase goes through then the buyer just pays the remaining 90 percent but if the buyer decides not to go through with the deal then they lose the money.
The Notaires say: “This preliminary agreement constitutes a real “contract”, which entails important obligations for both parties. It allows them to specify the conditions of the future sale and marks their agreement.”
Compromis de vente

Once your offer has been accepted, you will be asked to sign a pre-sale agreement called the compromis de vente

The document must include the price and conditions of the sale. You will now have to put down a deposit of 10%, which will be refunded if you retract within 10 days.
Délai de rétraction
This is the period of time you have after the compromis de vente to pull out of the purchase. You can pull out for whatever reason and any deposit you have paid will be returned to you. Although if you do want to retract the offer you must do so via an official letter sent by recorded delivery (lettre recommandée avec avis de réception).
Conditions/clauses suspensives

Important points to look out before signing this pre-sale agreement are the conditional clauses included (and also those which may have been left out). These conditions suspensives cover circumstances under which the transaction may be cancelled, the main one being whether or not the bank has agreed to lend you the money!
Frequent mistakes made by French property buyers
Acte de Vente

If all goes to plan, around three months after signing the compromis de vente, it will be time to sign the final contract in front of the notaire, after which the acte de vente (the deed of sale) is registered at the Land Registry.
Frais de Notaire

Don't be surprised by the extra fees and taxes added onto your final bill. They comprise the solicitor's fees and stamp duty registration taxes.
Bon pour Achat

This means 'good for acquisition', and you will be asked to write it just before your signature on the final contract.
That's it, the property is now yours and it's time to crack open the champagne! Santé (cheers)!
What other key terms have we missed off this list. Email us at [email protected]

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For members


The post-Brexit tax rules on selling second-homes in France

British second-home owners in France who want to sell their properties are being warned of an extra layer of administration - and expense - in place since Brexit.

The post-Brexit tax rules on selling second-homes in France

Brits wishing to sell property in France may now need to appoint a représentant fiscal (tax representative) in France in order to properly declare the sale to French tax authorities. 


This law applies to people who own property in France but do not live here – mostly that would be second-home owners but it could also apply to, for example, anyone who has inherited property.

This requirement has always been the case for non-Europeans such as Americans, Canadians and Australians and now also applies to Britons since the end of the Brexit transition period. People who live in another EU or EEA country are exempt.

The law is based on residency, not nationality. So if, for example, you have your main residence in the UK but have an Irish passport, you would still be covered by this requirement.


As well as EU residency, there are a couple of other exemptions;

  • If you sell your property for less than €150,000
  • If you have owned the property for more than 30 years (in which case the sale is exempt from capital gains tax and social security contributions).

What is a représentant fiscal?

This is simply a representative for tax purposes in France, and the person does not need specific qualifications in law or accountancy.

The following can be appointed:

  • A company or organisation already permanently accredited by the tax authorities;
  • A bank or credit institution operating in France;
  • The buyer of your property, if they are domiciled in France for tax purposes (they do not need to be a French citizen);
  • Any other individual who is domiciled in France for tax purposes (they do not need to be a French citizen) – in this case they will need to be accredited by the local authority;
  • If the property is in Paris, the individual will need to be accredited by the Île-de-France tax authorities – département de Paris-Pôle gestion fiscale Centre-Missions foncières, 6 rue Paganini, 75020 Paris. Tel: 01 53 27 46 45

If you decide to appoint an individual rather than a company as your représentant fiscale, bear in mind that the process can be quite complicated, so it would be better to check that they are confident in dealing with the tax authorities, to ensure that you don’t end up with unfinished business with the tax office.

If you chose a company, they will naturally charge for the service. 

Whichever representative you chose, you will need to provide a dossier of documents relating to the property sale and also confirming that you are a tax resident of a country outside France (tax returns, banking information, for example).

Will you have to pay tax on the proceeds of the sale?

If your main residence is not in France, you have no other income in France and you do not complete the annual French tax declaration you will not usually have to pay tax in France on the proceeds of the sale, provided your total estate is worth less than €1.3 million.

Properties worth more than €1.3million may be liable for the impôt sur la fortune immobilière (property wealth tax).

You will of course have to declare the income from the sale in the country where you are resident and, if applicable, pay capital gains tax.

What about French property taxes?

If you have owned property in France you will have been paying the taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation.

These will cease, but bear in mind that taxe foncière is charged based on who owned the property on January 1st of the relevant tax year. So if you sold your property in February 2022, you will still get a tax bill in autumn 2022 to cover that year. Only the following year will the new owner become liable, unless the sale contract for the property included an agreement to share or split outstanding taxes.

Find more information on the Internationals section of the French tax office website HERE or pay a visit to your local tax office in France. Find your local office by searching ‘Centre des Finances publiques’ plus the name of your commune – tax offices are open to the public on a walk-in basis and the staff are usually friendly and helpful.