Thinking about selling your property in France? Here’s what you need to know

Owning a property in France can be a wonderful experience. Selling it, however, can be less so. With France’s ever-changing regulatory landscape and heavy administrative burden, doing it all on your own can be stressful and fraught with risk, even if you know the market. Using an agent could be a great option which can save you a lot of both time and money. We explain why.

Thinking about selling your property in France? Here's what you need to know

Selling a house in France can be complicated for a number of reasons, and while you may choose to sell it privately, asking for the help of an agency can make this process much easier.

Roz Collins and her husband had been running a successful business renting out their gites (holiday property) in Poitou-Charente for almost 10 years. Then they had to return to the UK and sell their French property.

But finding a buyer wasn’t that easy.

“Although our house was stunning and had beautiful views, a number of factors made the selling quite challenging,” Roz says.

“First of all, the property is a converted barn, so it’s not an ordinary holiday home property, and secondly we put it on the market just when Brexit happened and then Covid followed, and the market just died,” she says.

What’s more, the house was in a quiet, rural area, with the nearest other private property being a quarter of a mile away, and the nearest town, Angouleme, about 50 km away, so the house was not exactly in the middle of a bustling city with lots of prospective buyers passing by.

The Collins had put their house on the market privately but soon realised their chances of success were low.

Are you planning to sell your house in France? Get some help from the market specialists, Leggett Immobilier

“You’re very unlikely to find someone driving around in the country who will notice the property without any marketing, especially if it’s an outside-of-the-city property,” Joanna Leggett from the estate agent Leggett Immobilier says.

In fact, unlike just posting on one’s social media, real estate agents such as Leggett reach a much broader market and are able to get a better final price thanks to their marketing expertise.

Furthermore, using an agency is the only way to get worldwide coverage and attract international buyers who are looking to buy properties in France. “Brits, Dutch, Belgians, Germans and lots of Americans are interested in acquiring a property in France,” says Joanna.

“The best way to advertise and reach the most people is really to use an agent because we do all the marketing at no extra cost – it’s also the best way to get the best price because an agent will be a more experienced negotiator and will be more neutral,” she says.

One day, Roz got a call from Stephanie, an agent from Leggett Immobilier. “She had noticed our house was on the market, and was convinced she could sell it,” said Roz. At that time, the couple had considered other agents, but Stephanie was the only one who followed through.

“She was so tenacious, extremely professional, really thorough, followed up on questions, gave us feedback,” says Roz.

“We always said, ‘if somebody is going to sell this place, it’s going to be Stephanie’”. And that’s what happened.

Overwhelmed at the red tape involved in selling your house in France? Contact Leggett for advice

Roz Collins, right, with her husband, Derek.

Selling a house can be stressful, and usually involves a lot of red tape and administration that perhaps not every seller is aware of, especially in France.

And for the Collins, Stephanie’s help was priceless.

The Leggett agent was there to smooth out the process and conduct all the tests and reports that need to be done before a house is put on the market.

In fact, having an expert conduct a ‘Diagnostic Performance Energétique’, i.e. a diagnostic report which identifies the estimated consumption of energy of a building as well as the effectiveness of the insulation, is compulsory.

Other surveys on termites, lead paint, asbestos, the electricity supply, as well as septic tanks and numerous other issues are also mandatory.

Additionally, agencies such as Leggett take care of all the conveyancing and organise everything without the seller having to worry about a thing.

“We have the official capacity to draw up the ‘compromis de vente’ which if you were doing that yourself, you’d have to liaise with your notaire,” Joanna says.

“An agent will spot things like, ‘Is the buyer looking for planning permission for a swimming pool?’ or, ‘Are they looking to convert the barn into a house?’, and can get the compromis drawn up much quicker than would the notaire,” she says.

The agency also organises the signatures of the buyer and the seller, digitally or on paper, and then has it sent through to the notaire.

“Once the compromis de vente was signed, Stephanie went to the notaire personally on a number of occasions, she followed up, she took care of all the paperwork and she even met up with the buyers and picked up the contract herself in the UK,” Roz says.

“She was extremely helpful, particularly for us because we were in the UK, but she also helped our buyers with their visas, which was amazing,” she said.

“We couldn’t have asked for more.”

Want to sell your French house for the best price and with the minimum of fuss? Contact Leggett Immobilier

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Five things to know if you want to install solar panels on your French home

Perhaps you are looking to avoid rising energy prices or maybe you are interested in going green. Here are five things you need to know about installing solar panels in France.

Five things to know if you want to install solar panels on your French home

You can benefit from state-sponsored financial aid

If you want to add solar panels to your French home, you are likely eligible for some form of state aid. 

The first type of state aid you might consider is the “MaPrimeRenov” which is a government sponsored program to make homes more energy efficient in an effort to decrease emissions. If you are interested in this option, you must fill out the form HERE. Then, you will be contacted by a specialist from the fund that will discuss the project with you and offer some advice. If approved, you will be assigned a certified craftsmen to carry out the installation work. Keep in mind this is specifically for photovoltaic panels. 

Other options include the ‘zero rate eco-loan’ which allows you to finance energy renovation work in your home. Typically, the loan is paid out by a bank. It is interest-free and carries a maximum value of €50,000. However, keep in mind it is means-tested, so the amount would depend on your financial status. In order to qualify, you would need to prove the renovation work will improve your home’s energy performance – for which solar panels ought to be eligible. Learn more HERE.

You might also consider the “reduced VAT” – a reduction in the amount you pay on your ‘value added tax.’ You may be eligible for the reduced VAT rate of 5.5 percent, which applies to ‘energy renovation work.’ 

Finally, regional and local assistance exist for adding solar panels. You can find look into this on the website for your département. 

READ MORE: Living in France: How to cut your household energy use by 10% this winter

There are different types: photovaltaic and solar thermal panels

The most common type of solar panel in France is the “photovoltaic solar panel” or PV (Panneau solaire photovoltaïque).

These are typically fixed the roof of the home, and they operate by using photovoltaic cells to generate an electric current when hit by the sun’s rays. 

Within the PV type of solar panel, there are three sub-types in France:

“Monocrystalline silicon cells” – these solar panels are generally black. They are usually space-efficient and are quite long-lasting.

“Polycrystalline silicon cells” – these solar panels have multiple crystals, which gives them a blue colour. They are energy efficient, though they typically do not produce as much electricity as monocrystalline sillicon cells. 

“Amorphous silicon cells” – these have a lower energy yield, and they are best on flat surfaces.

You might also consider “Solar thermal panels.” Instead of producing electricity, they turn solar energy into heat. During the summer, this type of solar panel is capable of providing all the hot water needs for a home, but during winter it may be insufficient. Therefore, you would likely still need to install an auxiliary heating system for low temperatures. Oftentimes, these are less expensive than PV panels. 

READ MORE: French property: How planning permission rules change in 2022

The cost of solar panels

You will need to count on paying for the labour to install and connect your solar panels, as well as for the physical panels themselves. 

Pricing will depend on the power capacity of the panels, but as of 2022 (and without considering any government assistance), you can expect to pay approximately €9,000 to €15,000 to install solar panels in France. 

You can sell the energy produced back to the grid

As a private individual setting up solar panels, you can sell all or part of the electricity the panels produce back to EDF, the French national energy provider. 

However, your purchase rate for electricity will depend on your panels’ power output. To sell all the energy produced back to the grid, you will need to enter into a contract with EDF. Typically, for a “3 kWp” photovoltaic installation, you can expect to get back €0.1790 per kilowatt generated. 

The majority of users choose to sell their energy back via “EDF Obligation d’Achat” which offers 20-year contracts. Keep in mind that this option is only possible if the installation of your solar panels was carried out by an “RGE” qualified professional.

You can also choose to sell your surplus energy – meaning you use the solar panels for your primary needs and then sell the extra electricity produced back to EDF. In this scenario, the level of the premium also depends on how much energy your panels produce.

This has the advantages of going green and being less dependent on the electrical grid, while allowing you to generate some additional income, making your installation profitable more quickly. To qualify for this you must also have the installation done by an RGE qualified professional.

Finally, you can keep and use all of your own energy produced. In French, this is called “L’autoconsommation totale.

You should keep in mind that while this option does allow you to reduce your electricity bills and depend less on the electrical network, it is still quite difficult to be fully autonomous via solar panels, particularly during the winter months. If you go this route, you might want to look into purchasing a battery, which would allow you to store part of the energy produced and use it later. 

You need permission

Before you start installing solar panels, you need to check with several different local authorities to ensure you are doing so legally. First, you need to talk to your town hall (mairie). There may be municipal rules regarding changes you can make to the appearance of your home. This might force you to adapt your choice of solar panel (perhaps simply on the basis of colour). If you need a work permit, city hall would be the government body to give this to you.

Next, you need to speak with your copropriété or syndic, if you want to install panels in a co-owned building. The other co-owners will need to agree. 

Finally, you will need to look into your ‘local urban plan’ (PLU) to determine whether any of the rules regarding land use and the external appearances of buildings would prohibit you from adding solar panels. PLU’s might have specific constrains for installing solar panels, depending on the region. To learn more about this, you can contact your local “Direction départementale des territoires (DDT, which recently replaced the DDE).”

If you are constructing a new building, you will need to mention that you are installing solar panels in the building permit application.