Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Friday, February 13, 2009

Top tips for buying in France

I read in The Times today and also online an article on all you need to know about buying in France.

The Times give a top-ten things you should know when you buy in France.

Comparing the Times' advice against my own experiences:

1. Do your homework
Nope, I kind of went with it on a whim. We looked over an enormous area in Brittany and Normandy in an intensive week seeking 22 properties of which only two we liked.

2. Know your budget
Not really. I had an idea how much I wanted to spend and then ended up spending a bit more than that!

3. Euro mortgages
Not a worry for me as I took out a second mortgage on my UK house.

4. Keep an open mind
Sagely advice given to ignore the French interior design taste and look at the property's potential rather than the amount of furniture in the room. We definitely saw some awful houses and had a bit of this as the previous owners of our French house had crammed the living room, even putting a sofa across the fireplace so you couldn't use the open fire at all ! There was a nice taste in pink and purple paint in a couple of the bedrooms but overall we didn't have too much of a redecorating problem compared to some of the places I saw ...

5. The Right Agent
It's suggested that you should look round different agents as you can often find the same house on with different agents at different prices. I have to say the agent we used (Franck) was excellent, he spoke reasonable English and he and the rest of his agency Bretagnes Proprietes) was really helpful in guiding us through the purchase process.

6. How the sale works
The purchase process in France is quite different from that in the UK, when you sign the Compromis de Vente (agreement to buy) you are then legally obliged to buy the property at the said price (and equally the sellers are obliged to sell to you). No problems of gazumping but equally you have to make sure any suspension (get out) clauses are written into the Compromis de Vente if you can't get a mortgage for example.

7. Lost in translation
Ensure you get all documents translated or use a translater if you're if at all unsure. I have to admit I made extensive use of Google Translate to ensure I understood the contract we were signing. Probably not best advice but it worked for me!

8. Watch the extra costs
Unfortunately in France you as the purchaser pay pretty much all of the costs, legal, taxes, estate agent, etc. The only fees the seller pays are for the lead and asbestos surveys. Budget on 15% of the sale price (on top).

9. Inheritance rules
A really complex area in France. I know of property sales that have got caught up with the multiplicity of sellers descendants that have to approve the deal and equally if you're divorced, have children from a previous relationship, not married, a same-sex couple, etc you need to take specialist legal advice as the French inheritance rules apply to your French purchase and you could well end up not being able to pass your French boudoir on to your loved ones.

10. Think ahead
Property prices are not rising as much in France as in the UK so don't spend money un-necessarily on reburbishments as you might not get your money back. My strategy is to invest the rent from the Gite in enhancements each year so we end up with a better quality holiday home without significant personal outlay.
So far we've had a new patio laid, regravelled one of the drives, installed a new septic tank and second gravel driveway, and put new windows and plastering in the second house. See the Renovations postings on this blog for more details.

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