Learn all you need to know about buying property in France, whether you are searching for a studio apartment in Paris or a spacious house in Bordeaux.

If you’re moving to France or already living there, you may consider purchasing a home. Educating yourself on French mortgages, property renovations, and home insurance is a good idea when considering purchasing property in France. However, continue reading if you want a general overview of the French housing market and learn how to buy a house in France.

Homeownership In France

The percentage of French people who own their own homes has steadily increased in recent years, which now stands at 64%. This figure is slightly lower than the EU average of 69.7%.

First-time buyers are called accédants until they have paid off their loan, and most people (around 80%) use a mortgage to purchase a home.

Low-income households prefer to buy homes in rural and small-town areas, where prices are lower than in cities. They also frequently rely on government assistance to purchase a home. Most people buy their first homes in their 30s or later. Finally, immigrant populations in France are less likely to be homeowners. However, there are significant differences between the origin countries. For example, immigrants from the EU and Southern Asia are far more likely to be homeowners than African immigrants.

Should You Rent Or Buy Property In France?

If you are not familiar with the region you are moving to, rent first before purchasing. This step will give you plenty of time to explore the market and surrounding neighbourhoods. Furthermore, before making a major financial decision, you should always visit several properties and seek local advice.

Even if you find the home of your dreams, it will most likely take three months to receive the keys. In addition, there may be renovation or decoration work to be done before moving in.

Can Expats Buy Property In France?

Foreigners own approximately 5.8% of all property in France, the majority of whom live in France. Brits account for approximately 45% of these purchases, while Belgians account for approximately 20%.

So, in a nutshell, you can legally buy property in France as an expat. However, whether or not you can get a loan will be determined by a variety of factors. These factors are:

  • earnings
  • your country of origin
  • possibly your marital and residence status
  • and other criteria

EU And Schengen Area

There are no restrictions for citizens of the EU or the Schengen Area. If you are a resident of France, the process should be no more difficult than it is for a French citizen. The only distinction is that you may be required to translate official documents. However, if you do not live in France, banks will be more hesitant to lend to you.

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Outside The EU

If you are coming from afar, you must justify your intention to stay in France for the period of your mortgage. You can demonstrate your intent to remain by obtaining a passport, marrying a French citizen, or obtaining a long-term residence permit (titre de séjour). A bank will likely consider financing your loan if you possess a residence permit for at least four years.

However, your country of origin will impact how easily you can obtain a bank loan. Americans, for example, find it difficult to obtain loans due to strict fiscal agreements between the United States and France.

Paying Property Taxes

Furthermore, the amount of property tax you pay each year is determined by other factors. These are some examples:

  • if you are currently or have previously lived in France on a full-time basis
  • whether you pay French income taxes
  • the property’s cost, how long you’ve owned it
  • whether it’s the primary residence
  • whether you rent out the house furnished or unfurnished

Contact a local notary to determine what tax rates will apply to your situation. They accompany home buyers and are well-versed in fiscal law.

The French Property Market And Property Prices

During the 2020 Covid lockdowns, many French households increased their savings, resulting in an increase in real estate purchases in 2021. Sales increased by 14.5% over the same period in 2019. Houses have recently surpassed apartments in popularity. This has resulted in significant increases in house prices, particularly in less populated areas outside of major cities. Apartment prices have risen by 5.2% in the last six months, while house prices have risen by 9%.

The Association of French Notaries predicts similar growth in the coming year, with apartments increasing by 5% and houses increasing by 10%. Overall, French property prices are among the highest in Europe, rivalling those of the United Kingdom, Monaco, and Austria. It is worth remembering that prices per square metre vary greatly between cities and between urban and rural areas.

Check the interactive Demande de Valeur Foncière website for the most recent sale prices for properties in areas that interest you.

Buying Property In Paris

Of course, Paris is the most expensive city in France. However, depending on which arrondissement you want to live in, real estate prices in Paris can vary greatly. The city’s average price per square metre is €11,075. However, prices range from €9,475 per m2, present in the 19th arrondissement, to €15,367 per m2 in the coveted sixth arrondissement. You might also want to look into more affordable properties on Paris’s outskirts.

Paris’ housing stock is primarily made up of apartments. Only 17% of homes are actually houses. Furthermore, due to high prices, only 33% of Parisians own their homes, which is lower than the national average. On the contrary, 9% of Parisian apartments are used as second homes.

Buying Property In Nice

Nice is the most expensive city on the Côte d’Azur, with an average apartment price of €4,200 per m2. Nice’s housing stock is 91% apartments (with just under 14% new construction) and 9% houses. Finally, 47% of residents own their own homes, which compares favourably to other French cities.

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Buying Property In Marseille

The average cost of an apartment in Marseille, France’s second most populous city, is €2,810 per m2. So, it is one of the more affordable options on the Côte d’Azur. The average house price in and around Marseille/Aix-en-Provence is €379,000, a 12.5% increase since 2020. Marseille’s housing stock is made up of 13% houses and 87% apartments, with a homeownership rate of 44%.

Buying Property In Bordeaux

Bordeaux real estate prices have risen significantly as a result of a new high-speed railway line that has attracted Parisian buyers. Currently, an apartment in Bordeaux costs €5,446 per m2 and a house costs €4,304 per m2. Rising prices have an impact on homeownership, with 32% of Bordeaux residents owning their home, a rate lower than that of Paris.

Bordeaux is outperforming most other major French cities in terms of new house construction (3%). The rest is still mostly made up of old (62%) and new (18%) apartments.

Buying Property In Lyon

In terms of real estate, Lyon is one of the most expensive cities in France. Expect to pay more than €5,090 per m2 for an apartment, though, as in Paris, prices vary greatly between arrondissements. The average price of a home is €426,000. Its homeownership rate is comparable to that of Paris and is roughly half that of the national average (34%). Houses account for 11% of Lyon’s building stock, with the rest made up of old (61%) and new (28%) apartments.

Costs Of Buying A Property In France

  • Fiscal/admin fees – There is usually a fee (droits d’enregistrement) of around €125 if you sign an initial promesse de vente contract.
  • Notary fee – Frais de Notaire is a combination of local and regional taxes allocated on property purchases that amount to approximately 8% of the purchase price. This is much lower for new construction, ranging from 2 to 3%. The notary receives a small portion of this, approximately 1% of the property value. When calculating your loan, these fees must be considered because they can add a significant amount to your expenses.
  • Insurance – In France, 90% of homeowners have multi risk home insurance. A number of factors, including property type, location, and your personal profile, determine the cost. It usually starts at around €120/month, but you can compare prices using online comparison sites like LeLynx or Luko.
  • Estate agent fees – These costs are negotiated and paid for by the seller and are included in the sale price of the property.

Financing A Property Purchase In France

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Mortgages

In France, fixed mortgage rates are currently very low, hovering around 1.1%. From that standpoint, it’s a great idea to buy a home, and while variable-rate mortgages are an option, they’re rarely worth it.

The following are typical conditions for obtaining a mortgage in France:

  • Your monthly repayment cannot exceed 35% of your total income. This is true only if the fixed expenditure is deducted, for example, alimony or child support.
  • Your repayment plan does not last more than 25 years.
  • If you do not live in France full-time, you must provide proof of intent to remain in France for the loan repayment period.
  • You have an appropriate life insurance policy.
  • You put down at least 10% of the purchase price.
  • That you have a consistent income with no overdrafts or instances of nonpayment

A mortgage calculator is available on the French Service Public website. It can assist you in calculating your repayments, borrowing capacity, or the loan rate. If you’re unsure where to begin, it’s worth contacting a mortgage advisor or seeking expert advice from a platform like Pretto.

Assistance Schemes

  • First-time homebuyers in the private sector are eligible for a €10,000 purchasing grant (Prime Accession). Your total household income and the location of your intended purchase also determine the extent to which you can benefit from this scheme. You can check your eligibility and apply on the ActionLogement platform.
  • In France, banks are not the only places to get a mortgage. ActionLogement, the local town hall or department administration, and even insurance companies can provide additional low-interest loans.
  • The PAS (PrĂŞt d’accession sociale) is another type of housing loan available to low-income families for the purchase or renovation of their primary residence.
  • A loan with no interest (PrĂŞt Ă  Taux zĂ©ro, or PTZ) can be used to finance the construction or purchase your future home. It cannot be your primary loan, but you may apply for it alongside your mortgage or other housing loans. Your household income and the location of your intended purchase also determine the extent to which you can benefit from this scheme. You can check your eligibility using an online simulator.
  • You could get an Ă©co-PTZ (Éco-prĂŞt Ă  taux zĂ©ro) if you have to renovate your new home so it is more energy-efficient. This is another type of zero-interest loan ranging from €7,000 to €50,000, depending on the scope of your renovation project.

Finding A Property In France

You can find properties for sale by browsing local property magazines or visiting local realtors (agents immobiliers). Some people, however, rent and sell properties without using an agency (this process is known as particulier Ă  particulier). So, these offers are available on the pap.fr website.

It’s worth noting that almost all realtors advertise their homes on national real estate and sales platforms. The most popular are SeLoger, which specialises in real estate, ParuVendu, and LeBonCoin, which sells everything from houses to old bikes and toys. Furthermore, please feel free to peruse our directory of housing portals. It provides more niche options, such as luxury real estate, international clients, and green housing.

Property Agents

You can browse the properties available from local realtors and sign up with them to receive new offers. It’s similar to signing up for automatic updates on sites just like SeLoger.

The seller chooses whether or not to use a realtor and which one(s) to use. This is of little concern to you as a buyer. The realtor’s job is to sell the property quickly and at a reasonable price for their client. As a result, it is your choice to seek second opinions, consult with real estate professionals, and hire your own notary to conduct background checks on the property.

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Viewing A Property

When you find a property you like, make an appointment to meet with the owner or realtor as soon as possible. Properties may or may not have a video or 3D view online, but seeing it in person is essential. It’s important to remember that properties in certain areas, particularly major cities, sell like hotcakes.

It’s a seller’s market right now, and many people sign a sales agreement (also known as compromis de vente) before even seeing the property. Only some agencies accept this; others require prospective buyers to view the property first. Signing a sales agreement effectively blocks all other visits for a minimum of ten days, allowing you to visit at your leisure and withdraw your offer at no cost.

Make sure you look at the property several times. For a second opinion, consult with someone you trust or a building industry professional. When visiting a property, remember to:

  • Check for signs of building quality by touching and opening everything.
  • Examine the corners and ceilings for signs of humidity and water damage.
  • Examine the quality of the windows, which are often expensive to replace.
  • Inquire about the property’s exterior, communal areas, garage, and any storage spaces sold with it.
  • If possible, speak with neighbours or locals to learn more about the property or area.

Additional Points To Consider

If you love the look of a property, consider the following:

  • Location – what kind of area and neighbourhood it is in, whether any construction work is planned nearby, what transportation links exist and whether new ones are planned. So, you should hire your personal notary to check the contract against city plans.
  • Local taxes – If you live in and own your home, you must pay two annual taxes: the taxe d’habitation and the taxe foncière. These can vary significantly even within a city, so it’s worth checking before you buy.
  • Condition – Check to see when the building was constructed or renovated. What are the realtor’s renovation cost estimates? Keep in mind that their estimate will most likely be lower than reality. The seller must also provide a recent diagnostic detailing everything from local risks of pollution or flooding to energy performance. This will provide you with a good estimate of your energy bills.
  • Co-ownership and planned work – If you purchase an apartment, you will almost certainly be required to join the building’s syndicate. Make sure you are aware of their annual fees. In addition, request to read the co-ownership agreement (règlement de co-propriĂ©tĂ©) and meeting minutes from the previous few years. This way, you can learn about upcoming construction projects, past issues, or disputes between neighbours. It will also show you what you are allowed to do without the permission of the building owners.

The Procedure For Purchasing A Home In France

It takes about three months to get the keys to your property after signing an initial sales agreement. This can be two months if you buy cash and sign quickly when you factor in the time to guarantee bank loans and triple-check contracts with notaries. This timeframe approaches four months.

Making An Offer

If you are buying a home in a seller’s market, the owners are unlikely to accept an offer below their asking price. However, if the property has been on the market for months, needs extensive renovation, or has other flaws, you can use it to negotiate a few percentage points less than the asking price.

The property prices are negotiated down rather than up, so owners will typically ask for a higher price unless they are in a hurry to sell. There is no bidding system; they must sell for the first price they accept via signing the initial sales agreement.

Hiring A Notary

Almost always, the seller has a notary who is capable of representing both parties. You should hire your notary to conduct the research and double-check the extensive paperwork for you. They should be able to identify any problems or discrepancies.

In the official French notaries online directory, look for a local notary who specialises in property (immobilier). They are local property price experts who can research, negotiate, draught contracts, and advise you. They also notify the local town hall, which has two months (droit de préemption) to respond if they intend to block the sale and acquire the whole property.

Signing A Purchase Agreement

If your offer is accepted, you will enter into a contract with the seller, known as a promesse de vente or compromis de vente. A real estate agent or notary public can draught this and set the terms of your agreement (templates and examples are also available online). You have ten days to withdraw your offer without explanation. This allows you and your notary to go over the Dossier de diagnostic technique. This includes all the technical files relating to the property. A recent technical survey, which the sellers must organise and pay for prior to the sale, must be included.

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Paying The Deposit

After signing the agreement, you must pay a deposit of 5-10% of the property price to the seller’s notary. If the purchase goes through, this amount will be applied to it. If you withdraw your offer within ten days or are unable to obtain a bank loan, you will receive your deposit back within 21 days.

A clause in the contract requires the buyer to pay damages if they withdraw their offer without justification after the deadline has passed. The court is where disputes are resolved.

The Final Contract

The seller’s notary draughts the deed of sale (also known as the acte de vente, titre de propriété or acte authentique), which your notary then reviews and amends as needed. This step can be completed once you have obtained a bank loan or shown proof of cash assets for the purchase. The funds must be transferred from your bank to the notary on or before the signature date.

The deed of sale serves as proof of ownership and contains detailed information on the following:

  • the land registry extracts
  • both parties and the property to the contract
  • the sales price and payment methods
  • previous property owners, going back 30 years
  • all fees, taxes, stamp duties, and related conditions
  • Co-ownership if the property is an apartment

Completing The Sale

You sign the deed of sale (or have someone sign on your behalf) at the seller’s notary’s office. You will also receive the keys to your property at this time. If you are present but do not speak French, you should hire an interpreter because you will be asked to confirm several points in the contract before signing.

Be aware that most documents are now signed electronically. So, the notary must first transfer it to the service of financial publicity. The notary will forward it to you once it has been stamped and validated by this administration. Keep in mind that this can take months. On the other hand, the notary’s office saves an official copy of the document in case you lose yours.

Moving Into Your French Property

Now that you’ve purchased your home, there are only a few details to finalise before you can move in.

Insurance

If you purchase a property, usually an apartment, belonging to a copropriété, you must purchase assurance habitation. At the very least, you must have liability insurance (responsabilité civile). Additional multirisk insurance is highly recommended because it protects you against events such as water damage, break-ins, fire, and so on.

Before signing the final deed of sale, you must obtain basic liability insurance. If you get a loan from a bank in France, they will often include liability or full home insurance. Your mortgage provider can even require a multirisk insurance policy. Before purchasing, you can compare offers from different insurance companies in France.

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Utilities And Telecommunications

Once you have received the keys to your new home, you will need to quickly connect your utilities, phone, internet, and television. EDF and ENGIE are the two largest gas and electricity providers in France. Other niche options that provide services, such as greener energy sources, are also available.

You can get your landline, mobile phone, TV, and internet service from the same company. SFR, Bouygues, and Free are among the major companies.

Renovation Work

There are several types of funding available if you want to do building work on your home, particularly to improve its energy efficiency:

  • from the Agence nationale de l’habitat (Anah) related to old property
  • From Habiter Facile if you require to improve accessibility.
  • Support linked to insulation work if you live near an airport
  • a Ă©co-PTZ (zero-interest loan) to improve energy efficiency
  • MaPrimeRĂ©nov is a tax credit for investments that improve your property’s energy efficiency.
  • aid for adapting homes for pensioners’ needs

Contractors can often be found online with a quick search or through a platform like TaskRabbit. However, keep in mind that some jobs require specialised training, so make sure you check suitability before hiring help.

Useful Resources

  • Service-Public – It is a government-run portal providing detailed information about housing in France
  • Demarches Interieur – It is a section of the Interior Ministry’s platform outlining procedures, including purchasing property
  • Calculateur de crĂ©dit immobilier – It is a government simulator for estimating loan capacity
  • Ministry of the Economy – It is an online platform offering fiscal information for homeowners.
  • Particulier Ă  Particulier – It is useful for property sales that bypass agencies
  • SeLoger – It is a popular website acting as a hub for most agency ads
  • SeLoger Construire – It is a platform with guidance on building your own home
  • Etalab – It is an interactive inventory of all recent property sales in France
  • Notaires.fr – It is the official website of French notaries, including directory
  • ANIL – It is the national organisation for housing information and support
  • CLCV – It is the national association for the defence of consumers
  • AAMOI – It is an association supporting individual home builders

ADIM – It is an association providing guidance and support for buying a new build