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Making a home

You've decided on a region, secured a job and are learning the language and are almost ready to take the exciting leap to emigrate.

But what’s the best way to go about buying property in France?

Property Prices

Contrary to the trend in the UK, older properties tend to be cheaper in France than new builds. Though you may want to discover that perfect old farmhouse in need of renovation, often the locals prefer new builds, and will happily sell their family home to foreign buyers to purchase one. If you are selling a house in the UK, due to lower property taxes in France, you may find that as well as funding your new property in France you have ample funds left over to renovate it.

The Notaires de France reported in 2017 that house prices outside of the Ile-de-France rose by an average of 2.4% and inside by 3.3%.

Housing and rental prices increase during COVID-19 pandemic

In our 2020 Global Housing Market Trends report, we revealed how housing markets across the globe have been affected by COVID-19 by analysing rental and purchase data from 2015 to mid-2020. The metrics we used were:

  • Price-to-rent ratio — the average cost of ownership divided by estimated rental cost. Higher values suggest that it is better to rent rather than buy
  • Price-to-income — a ratio of apartment prices to average disposable income. Lower values mean more affordable housing
  • Mortgage as a percentage of income — a ratio of mortgage costs to take-home family income. Lower values mean more affordable housing.

Despite seeing COVID-19 spikes in France during the second half of 2020, France has seen increases in the metrics for both rental and purchase markets since mid-2019 to mid-2020 according to our. The price-to-rent ratio outside the city centres has seen a much larger increase, over 13.1% year-on-year.


The tax you pay on your property — la taxe foncière — is dictated by the area in which you live. It’s a good idea to contact estate agents local to the area, or the mairie (town hall), to confirm the amount as it will vary and you want to avoid any nasty financial surprises.

Finding a Property

Looking online at French property websites will give you an idea of what you can expect to get for your money in each region. There is such a diversity of locations, house type and prices that it's a good idea to have in mind the kind of property you are looking for before you begin. Consider taking a few trips to different areas which pique your interest before deciding on your desired location. It's wise to do this out of season (spring, autumn or winter), as you're more likely to benefit from the undivided attention of the estate agent. You'll also be able to experience the area in its less flattering months, without the rose-tinted view that summer so readily offers. You want to know the area — and the property — ‘warts and all' before making the decision to live there. Also, you're more likely to snare a bargain during off-peak months.

Remember that although certainly in more rural areas you are likely to get more for your money than you would at home if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. You don't want to be spending your hard-earned money on a rustic sprawling farmhouse only for it to be succumbing to subsidence, or for a new development to be popping up right next door.

A good grasp on average property prices in your desired area will ensure that you can spot an actual bargain, or tell if something is overpriced. Only around half of the French use an estate agent, instead liaising directly with a Notaire. Many sales occur directly between buyer and seller, so speak to locals and look out for any hand-painted ‘For Sale’ signs! Be prepared though to be offered a higher price than if you were a local. 

Types of Property

It can be easy to get carried away with the dream of buying acres of land and renovating an old barn in the French countryside, especially since your budget for such things is likely to go further in France than it would at home, but do consider the type of property which suits your needs and lifestyle.

Are you willing and able to commit the necessary time and finances to a renovation project, even if the purchase price is low? Can you budget accordingly to avoid spending more on the project than you will be able to make when you sell it on? Do you have the time and equipment to maintain two acres of land? If you are planning to let the property during months that you are elsewhere, bear in mind that this may only be possible during peak season for a few weeks of the year.

If you are looking to buy in the city, find an area you like and look for local agents. In large cities like Paris, there are not many new builds, so it's likely you will be buying an old apartment. Most do not come with kitchens, just plumbing, so you need to factor in the cost of installing a kitchen. Many are small (a 3-bed apartment is frequently less than 1000 square feet) and do not have parking. The higher up the building the apartment, the more expensive it is likely to be. Remember that the French adhere to European convention as counting the first floor as the ground floor. If you buy an apartment, bear in mind that you become co-owner of the building and have joint rights and responsibilities to maintain it.

Before you buy

Make sure you have a precise brief describing your desired property type and your budget — and whether the latter is inclusive of fees. Communicate this to your estate agent to avoid wasting their time and yours.

Ensure the estate agent you are using is licensed and has a Carte Professionelle. Many advertise the same properties across multiple agencies with a different fee so keep your eye out.

Don't rush into anything, as the process can become legally binding quickly, but if and when you decide you do want to go ahead, do act fast to avoid being gazumped. If you are getting a French mortgage, it’s a good idea to get this approved in advance so don’t have to delay.

notaire (i.e., lawyer) handles the conveyancing process in France. The seller and buyer hire a single notaire  to undertake the transaction. Their fee is between 2-8% of the property price.

There aren’t formal surveying companies in France like in the UK, but you can ask a local builder or find English freelance surveyors to check out the condition of the property or to give you an estimate for renovations. Ask to see plans cadastre from local maire or prefecture to check plans and boundaries. Also, familiarise yourself with French inheritance law.

Stages of purchase

  • Verbal offer accepted
  • Compromis de vente including clauses suspensives — This is the preliminary contract but is legally binding. Clauses are conditions that are to be fulfilled before purchase; if they are not carried out, you are released from the agreement
  • Seven days cooling off period during which time the buyer can retract but the seller cannot
  • Reports and searches carried out by the notaire
  • Sign the final act de vente about 12 weeks later and take possession. It’s recommended that you or your lawyer see the property on the day you sign as there is a ‘sold as seen on signing date’ clause.
  • Vices caches – if any problems with property come to light that the seller must have known about you have protection under French law.
  • When you have the keys and the documents are signed, move in and enjoy your new home.

There are few things in life as important as finding somewhere secure and comfortable to live. Your well-being is also important, so don’t leave health care to chance. Talk to our friendly team today about arranging the right level of insurance for you and your family.

Aetna International Global Housing Market Trends Graphic for France between mid-2019 and mid-2020 Aetna International Global Housing Market Trends Graphic for France between mid-2019 and mid-2020

One long-term rental agency even revealed that their rental reservations increased by around 25% in 2020. The cost of rental properties outside city centres in France has increased by 4.43 times the yearly rent cost in the given 12-month period, the second-largest increase recorded. Relatively speaking, these figures show that renting in locations outside city centres is currently a more attractive option than buying.

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