For members


Frequent mistakes made by French property buyers

An expert from English-language housing site ESREA shares with The Local some tips to help you avoid making the worst mistakes when buying a home in France.

Frequent mistakes made by French property buyers
A house of sale in La-Faute-sur-Mer (Vendée). Photo: Frank Perry/AFP
If you are buying a French property make sure you avoid doing the following:
One: Not keeping in contact with your notary
Buying French real estate is complicated for you and for your notary. In fact, the signing of the ‘compromis de vente’ is just the beginning of a marathon of collecting and organizing paperwork for the notary.
This process takes months and when it is delayed the period between the signing of the ‘compromis de vente’ and the ‘acte authentique’ can end up being longer than the average three months.
To help make the process go smoothly you need to make sure your notary has all the documents needed from you as quick as possible.
The best way to make sure your notary has all they need is to keep in contact with them, in fact don't hesitate to contact them every couple of weeks to touch base. 
Do not expect the notary to contact you since they will likely be working on many transactions.
Two: Not keeping in regular contact with your bank or mortgage broker
If you are buying a French property with a mortgage you need to keep in regular contact with your bank or mortgage broker to make sure they have all the details they need from you to process your request.
There is a long list of documents the mortgage supplier needs from you and sometimes as time passes the validity of some documents expires and the bank or mortgage broker needs an up-to-date version.
You will also need insurance on your French mortgage and this is also a process that involves lots of paperwork and approvals and often a recent blood test of the borrower.
Be sure the bank has all the documents they need by contacting the bank approximately every ten days just so they know you are available if and when needed.
Three: Not knowing that the final signing date can change
The final date of the signing of ‘acte authentique’ (the legal document that transfers the title from the owner to you) can be changed from the date stated in the ‘compromis de vente’. So make sure you make flexible plans around the date noted in the ‘compromis de vente’.
You don't want to plan a vacation or important business trip and have to cancel them since the final signing date was moved.
You also don't want to plan your move until you know exactly when it is.
Four: Not reviewing the key points
When you are buying a French property it is typically in ‘as is’ condition so it is very important to understand all the details in the ‘compromis de vente’ about the property include the declarations made by the seller, the conditional clauses made by the buyer and all the details on the price and additional costs involved in the purchase of the property.
In addition, details on the title of the property need to be completely understood. Make sure you have an English speaking notary to explain to you all the details you need to know.
To learn more about buying and selling French real estate visit ESREA France where you can also learn of more mistakes made by French Property Buyers and Sellers.
David Hennessey, the founder and director of ESREA France

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For members


Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

Plumbing ermergencies are common in France, so here's our guide to what to do, who to call and the phrases you will need if water starts gushing in unexpected areas.

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

How do I find a reliable plumber and avoid getting scammed?

First, try to stick with word-of-mouth if you can. Contact trusted individuals or resources, like your neighbours and friends, or foreigner-oriented Facebook groups for your area (ex. “American Expats in Paris”). This will help you find a more reliable plumber. If this is not an option for you, try “Pages Jaunes” (France’s ‘Yellow Pages’) to see reviews and plumbers (plomberie) in your area. 

Next, educate yourself on standard rates. If the situation is not an emergency, try to compare multiple plumbers to make sure the prices are in the correct range. 

Finally, always Google the name of the plumber you’ll be working with – this will help inform you as to whether anyone else has had a particularly positive (or negative) experience with them – and check that the company has a SIRET number.

This number should be on the work estimate (devis). You can also check them out online at If you want to be extra careful you can also ask to see their carte artisan BTP (craftsman card). 

READ MORE: What is a SIRET number and why is it crucial when hiring French tradesmen?

Who is responsible for paying for work?

If you own the property, you are typically the one who is responsible for financing the plumbing expenses.

However if you’re in a shared building, you must determine the cause and location of the leak. If you cannot find the origin of the leak, you may need a plumber to come and locate it and provide you with an estimate. You can use this estimate when communicating with insurance, should the necessity arise. 

If you are a renter, the situation is a bit more complicated. Most of the time, water damage should be the landlord’s responsibility, but there are exceptions.

The landlord is obliged to carry out major repairs (ex. Natural disaster, serious plumbing issues) that are necessary for the maintenance and normal upkeep of the rented premises (as per, Article 6C of the law of July 6, 1989). The tenant, however, is expected to carry out routine maintenance, and minor repairs are also to be paid by the tenant. If the problem is the result of the tenant failing to maintain the property, then it will be the tenant’s responsibility to cover the cost of the repair.

Legally speaking, it is also the tenant’s responsibility to get the boiler serviced once a year, as well as to maintain the faucets and joints, and to avoid clogging the pipes.

READ MORE: Assurance habitation: How to get home insurance in France

If you end up in dispute with your landlord over costs, you can always reach out to ADIL, the national Housing Association which offers free legal advice for housing issues in France. 

What happens if the leak is coming from my neighbour’s property?

Both you and your neighbour should contact your respective housing insurance companies and file the ‘sinistre’ (damage) with them.

If you both agree on the facts you can file an amiable (in a friendly fashion), then matters are much more simple and you will not have to go through the back-and-forth of determining fault.

If having a friendly process is not possible, be sure to get an expert to assert where the leak is coming from and file this with your insurance company.

As always, keep evidence (lists and photographs) of the damage. Keep in mind that many insurance providers have a limited number of days after the start of the damage that you can file. Better to do it sooner than later, partially because, as with most administrative processes in France, it might take a bit of time.


Plumbing has its own technical vocabulary so here are some words and phrases that you’re likely to need;

Hello, I have a leak in my home. I would like to request that a plumber come to give me an estimate of the damage and cost for repairs – Bonjour, j’ai une fuite chez moi. Je voudrais demander qu’un plombier vienne me donner une estimation des dégâts et du coût de la réparation. 

It is an emergency: C’est une urgence

I have no hot water: Je n’ai pas d’eau chaude

The boiler has stopped working: La chaudière ne fonctionne plus.

I cannot turn my tap off: Je ne peux pas arrêter le robinet.

The toilet is leaking: Mes toilettes fuient.

The toilet won’t flush/ is clogged: Mes toilettes sont bouchées

There is a bad smell coming from my septic tank: Il y a un mauvaise odeur provenant de ma fosse septique

I would like to get my electricity / boiler safety checked: Je souhaiterais une vérification de la sécurité de mon installation électrique / de ma chaudière

I can smell gas: Ca sent le gaz

My washing machine has broken: Ma machine a laver est cassée

Can you come immediately? Est-ce que vous pouvez venir tout de suite?

When can you come? Quand est-ce que vous pouvez venir?

How long will it take? Combien de temps cela prendra-t-il ?

How much do you charge? Quels sont vos prix? / Comment cela va-t-il coûter?

How can I pay you? Comment je peux vous payer ? 

Here are the key French vocabulary words for all things plumbing-related:

Dishwasher – Lave vaisselle

Bath – Baignoire

Shower – Douche

Kitchen Sink – Évier

Cupboard – Placard

Water meter – Compteur d’eau

The Septic Tank – La fosse septique

A leak – Une fuite

Bathroom sink – Le lavabo

The toilet – La toilette

Clogged – Bouché

To overflow – Déborder

A bad smell – Une mauvaise odeur

The flexible rotating tool used to unclog a pipe (and also the word for ferret in French) – Furet 

Water damage – Dégât des eaux

The damage – Le sinistre

And finally, do you know the French phrase Sourire du plombier? No, it’s not a cheerful plumber, it’s the phrase used in French for when a man bends down and his trouser waistband falls down, revealing either his underwear or the top of his buttocks. In Ebglish it’s builder’s bum, in French ‘plumber’s smile’.