A property in France can be a good investment
Whether your dream is a farm or cottage in the Dordogne, a South of France villa or a beachfront property in Provence, the question of buying or renting is always the first question to be considered. Taking down the “For Sale” sign is easy, but buying and more importantly, maintaining, property in France is not always so straightforward as the agents may want you to believe. Renting, although you may think it’s throwing money down the drain, not only gives you the potential for flexibility, it also lets you get a real taste for whether the area suits you or not.
You may want to buy an investment property, a second home, or just a somewhere to spend your holidays: you need to be very clear on this before you start. Many people dream of a place in France, but reality can be different. It’s essential to do your research first, or you’ll end up falling for a place and rationalising a purchase that will prove unsuitable in the long run; this can be an expensive lesson.
Having decided what kind of property you want, and an approximate budget, the next job is to zero in on the region of France where you want it to be. Take a holiday (at least a couple of weeks) in each area you’re considering, check out the local amenities, maybe the schools if you’ve children and are intending to move there, and get a feel for the locality. Weather and seasons can be important: don’t forget, the sun doesn’t shine all the time and tourist areas can get very busy (conversely, some places can virtually shut down during some months of the year).
OK, you’ve decided on the region, now you need to property hunt. These days it’s a bit easier, as you can check out properties and estate agents on the internet. Set up as many appointments as you can up front, but if you’re confident you’ll find that once you’re actually there local opportunities can pop up. Agents can be a lot more helpful when they can see your a serious prospect, but never forget that they’re acting for the vendors, not for you! Take all the usual precautions as to title, condition and neighbours that you would buying property anywhere, and remember that renovations are always more difficult if you’re not going to be on the spot all the time.
As a rule of thumb, knock off 20% or so of your budget for your costs, notaire’s fees, taxes etc. and then what you’ve got left must cover the purchase price plus any renovations necessary. Don’t fudge on this, that new bathroom will not miraculously cost nothing! And make sure you have any finance necessary in place before making any offer to buy. French mortgages, for example, can involve substantial red tape.
The initial sales contract is called the Compromis de vente, and the downpayment is usually 10%. It’s up to your notaire to do all the title searches etc., and there should be the usual provision for you to get the deposit back if these checks fail.
After completion, as a French property owner you’ll be liable to pay two taxes, the taxe foncière (land tax) and the taxe d’habitation (local tax). Make sure you check out how much these will be before making an offer, as they can vary quite a lot.
Just in passing, if you’re looking to buy property/land in Deux Sevres/Charente/Vienne departments and need a base, check out Josie and Dave’s large traditional Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast/Chambre d’Hotes. It’s located in the hamlet of La Scie located on the outskirts of a typical small french market town called Sauze Vaussais: http://thefarmhousechambredhotes.com