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Feature: Wouldn’t it be Nice – the art of buying property in France


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Dreaming of retiring in France? Attracted by the weather, the food, the lifestyle and cheap flights, many of us will have dreamt of buying a house across the Channel. William Power, partner at Bevans solicitors, takes a look at buying property in France.

What happens if you find, like half a million other Britons, a perfect home there? Conveyancing can be neatly divided into two types of transaction: the purchase of an existing property and the purchase off-plan.

For an existing property, the buyer is asked to move quickly to a binding contract either called a compromise or a promesse de vente. It usually contains conditions – conditions suspensives – relating to planning, finance and title manners. A 10% deposit is payable but there is a seven-day cooling-off period giving the buyer the right to withdraw. When the contract is sent to the notaire, appropriate searches are made with important consumer clauses inserted relating to the presence or absence of termites, asbestos or lead in the property. When the conveyance is signed, an original is sent to the land charges registry and an official copy (expedition) is sent to the buyer.

For an off-plan purchase, there are three stages:

  • the option contract (contract de reservation)
  • the conveyance (acte authentique de vente)

  • the handover (remise des clefs)

Stage 1 includes the payment of a 5% deposit; the price is fixed and will be inclusive of TVA (VAT) at 19.6%. Title passes under Stage 2. The third stage happens when the building is complete. A thorough inspection should be given before the property is accepted.

To take out a French mortgage can take time. Crédit Agricole, Barclays Bank and Abbey National are among the lenders in the market. French law does not allow French banks to offer mortgages where repayments are more than 30 per cent of your net income. Many French lenders have now made their lending criteria more stringent. When applying for a mortgage, proof of income and outgoings will be needed, including the production of payslips and tax returns.

The costs of purchasing in France are higher than in the UK. For properties more than five years old these can amount to a stamp duty of 5%. For newer properties, the percentage is about 1.2%. For both, there will be the land registry fees of 0.75%, notaire fees of 1.3% and probably a mortgage arrangement fee of about 1%. And watch for the estate agent’s commission.

French inheritance law is a minefield. Doing nothing is not a good option and may lead to minors inheriting part of the property and seriously affecting the saleability of the property until they come of age. Also, French capital gains tax and wealth tax on more expensive properties needs to be considered.

Buying a property in France should be pleasurable but make sure you do your homework before you start.

For further information please contact Business Development Manager, Adrienne Halladay ( or Marketing Assistant, Vanessa Kilcoyne ( Alternatively you can telephone on 0117 923 7249 or visit

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