Renting rather than buying a house or apartment in France is significantly more frequent, particularly among foreigners. It is your best option if your stay is only temporary, as purchasing property can be highly expensive. However, if this is the path you want to take, this guide also includes information on how to buy a house in France.

With so many various types of houses and flats to choose from and so many factors to consider, it may be worth looking into short-term rentals until you have a better notion of what kind of housing you want and where to look. Our housing guide for France covers all of this and more to help you decide which housing option is best for you, as well as how to find apartments and houses for rent.

Renting A House Or Apartment

Buying a home may be the final objective for many expats who relocate to France permanently. However, renting is much more frequent in French cities, particularly among foreigners. This is especially true for several expats who have recently arrived in France, those who will only be in the country for a short period, or those who are still determining if France is the appropriate place to settle down. As a result, renting is an excellent option to test the waters, especially given the paperwork involved in acquiring real estate (not to mention a hefty price tag). Forty percent of French people live in rented apartments or houses.

Renting is a no-strings-attached alternative for establishing down in France, and it is frequently the more comfortable option at the outset of an expat adventure. However, there are certain things to consider before signing a lease.

Average Rent In France

If you’re wondering how much rent might be in France, you’ll quickly discover that rent costs in France vary based on where you live. Rent costs in Paris can be high, although prices outside the capital are usually much lower. Prices are also affected by factors such as whether you live in the city center or on the outskirts and the number of bedrooms. The minimum rental price for a one-bedroom residence outside the city center is 350 EUR (392 USD). However, in Paris, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center might cost more than 1,000 EUR (1,120 USD). A room outside the city center costs around 800 EUR on average (896 USD). The average monthly rent in Nantes is around 505 EUR (560 USD) in the city center and 400 EUR (447 USD) outside the city center.

The Process Of Renting An Apartment Or A House

If you are considering moving to Paris or another large city, you should allow yourself some months to find a long-term rental that meets your needs, as the market may be highly competitive. A few weeks in different parts of France may suffice.

Because many landlords and real estate agencies are on holiday in August, the best time to look for an apartment in France is between May and July. If you intend to relocate to a university town, September and October can be difficult months for house hunting because this is when students begin their new semester, return to the city, and take up the majority of available housing. During the Christmas season, the real estate market is also slow.

How To Look For An Apartment In France

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Real Estate Agent

If your budget lets you, you might hire a real estate professional to assist you. Agencies typically charge one month’s rent as a fee, but the procedure might be simpler than dealing with a landlord directly. It can be more convenient if you are in a hurry to find lodging or have difficulty finding a home on your own.

Network

Once you’ve decided where you want to live, ask other expats, coworkers, or acquaintances if they know of any open positions. Friends and family recommend many apartments; you can find a place before it even goes on the market. Of course, this strategy is much easier if you are already a part of a support network in France.

Classifieds

The classified sections of local publications and newspapers are great places to look for a property to rent in France, but remember that competition is stiff. The ideal method is to obtain a copy of the advertisements as soon as they are published and contact the landlord as soon as possible. Many landlords may not return your call, so you must be persistent. Before you contact anyone, brush up on real estate jargon: understand how to ask for the étage (floor), the number of chambres (rooms), and whether the apartment is meublé (furnished).

Online

Numerous real estate search engines and websites are also easy to use and explore. They are updated regularly and allow you to search for certain phrases or filter results, making your search much easier and faster. Scammers like to roam around and post on these sites, so be vigilant and cautious.

Furnished Or Unfurnished?

You can rent either an unfurnished or furnished apartment. A conventional contract for an unfurnished apartment usually has a lengthier minimum lease — usually three years — but the contract provides the tenant with more legal protection.

Furnished apartments must have a one-year minimum contract and include a stove, oven or microwave, fridge and freezer, cooking utensils, tables and seats, storage shelves, lights, bedding, and cleaning equipment.

If you opt to rent a furnished apartment, make certain that everything is present and in excellent working order. The landlord is responsible for replacing broken items or furnishings that are no longer in good working order.

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Different Types Of Rentals Available In France

The following are some examples of French rental properties:

  • Batside: These types of rentals are often older in France. However, some newer houses are available. They are standalone, square stone structures with flat, tiled roofs. These homes are typically seen in the countryside, especially in Provence.
  • Château: A palace or castle, but not the one found in fairytales. In truth, some of these traits are minor. If you rent this home, be aware of the maintenance and renovation expenditures.
  • Domaine: A French house (estate) with many lands, such as vineyard properties.
  • Fermette/Ferme: A rustic farmhouse in the country. The amount of land available can vary greatly.
  • Hôtel Particulier: Don’t be deceived by the name. This is not a hotel but rather a townhouse in France.
  • Longère: This long rectangular property can be anything from a barn to a one-story house.
  • Mas: This is a common rural property in France, particularly Provence.
  • Maison à colombages: A half-timbered house.
  • Maison Bourgeois or Maison de Maître: A big house with high ceilings, windows on each floor, and four large rooms.
  • Pavilion: A detached bungalow.
  • Pied-à-Terre: A small unit or apartment.
  • Villa d’architecte: This property was designed by an architect and is built in a modern style.

Requirements And Documents For Renting In France

You should keep a list of documents if your landlord requests them. The following are the essential documents:

  • university letter (if a student)
  • copy of your passport and visa
  • details of a guarantor and their pay slip
  • recent payslips or job contracts with salary details

If you are renting a housing space in France as a foreigner, you may be required to provide a guarantor. If your landlord requires a guarantor, they must be a French citizen capable of paying your rent if you do not. This can sometimes be your employer if you are a working expat. They may act as your guarantor if you have a bank account with them. For more information, speak with a bank representative.

If you cannot find a guarantor in either of these methods, it is best to seek the assistance of an agent. They will be better able to assist you in finding a landlord who does not require this. Otherwise, continue your search for a place and a landlord who does not require a guarantor, as not everyone will.

Rental Contract And Deposit

An official rental contract is essential because it explains the rental process and rules for both tenant and landlord and who is responsible for what. The first thing to remember in France is that your lease will automatically renew unless you or the landlord provide proper notice. It has to be signed before or on the date of move-in, which should be clearly stated in the tenancy agreement.

According to French law, a landlord has the right to require a tenant to obtain home insurance if a fire, water damage, explosion, or robbery occurs. A lack of coverage may be grounds for terminating a lease.

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Clearing Utilities

City taxes, utility bill payments, and maintenance should all be clearly stated in your lease, as should who is responsible for paying what. Tenants are typically responsible for paying for routine maintenance such as gardens, basic interior damages, minor repairs, and, in some cases, plumbing. However, the landlord is responsible for major repairs.

Can You Sublet in France?

Subletting is legal in France as long as the landlord approves it in writing and the rent does not go over the amount paid by the principal tenant.

Paying A Rental Deposit In France

You usually have to pay the deposit amount when you sign the contract. A landlord can request a deposit equal to one month’s rent for an unfurnished apartment. A furnished apartment, on the other hand, has no such restriction. For the deposit, it is best to use an escrow account, which effectively prevents either party from withdrawing funds, providing you with extra security for receiving your deposit back once you are ready to move out. If you must pay in cash, obtain a receipt mentioning the amount transferred under the security deposit.

If there are no damages to the property, your deposit should be returned in full when you leave the apartment. After the end of your lease, your landlord should return your deposit within two months.

Short-Term Rentals

Expats who are only in France for a couple of months or searching for a short-term rental while looking for a more permanent apartment should consider holiday rentals. In France, there is an active holiday property market, with “long-term” rentals of up to three months and monthly furnished rentals. Another vital thing to remember is that you typically cannot extend your short-term lease on a holiday rental, so you should be prepared to leave when it expires.

The deposit should be at most 20% of the total rent for vacation rent (or 25% if a third party, such as a real estate agent, is involved). If no advance payment is made, it can be requested up to six months in advance.

Other popular short-term rental options include:

  • Hotels
  • Bed and Breakfast
  • Residence (Apartment) Hotel

Hotels

You can plan to stay at a French hotel. France has a wide range of options, with average prices ranging from 20-44 EUR (21-50 USD) per night. This will depend on the type of accommodation you choose. Other low-cost hotels on the outskirts of town can be found for as little as 15 EUR (17 USD) per night.

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Bed And Breakfast

These are known as chambres d’hôtes and can be found throughout France, primarily in rural areas. Prices vary according to the establishment’s season, location, and quality. The average cost per night ranges from 40 to 70 EUR (45-78 USD).

Residence (Apartment) Hotels

Residence Hotels are a hybrid of a hotel and an apartment, and they are usually a better option than staying in a hotel for extended stays. They are a convenient option for short- to medium-term rentals. Still, anything over three months is not worth the money because they get more expensive than renting traditional housing. Linen is usually provided, and prices vary depending on how long you plan to stay. If you wish to stay at the hotel for more than a week, you can negotiate a lower price.

Buying A Property As A Foreigner

Regardless of where you settle in France, the information below will walk you through the whole process of buying a property in France as a non-resident.

The French Housing Market

Demand for home mortgages is expected to remain steady and stable, according to 85% of banks. Between February 2015 and October 2017, the real estate market rose. While the Notaires de France French property market report considers this a positive trend, buying a property is still a significant decision. Ownership can provide you with a sense of safety and assurance. However, when you consider monthly mortgage payments, taxes, and the cost of purchase, it can still be expensive.

The cost of real estate in France varies greatly depending on the kind of property and its location. Here are some price examples:

  • Paris 2-bedroom apartment 750,000 (EUR) – 840,365 (USD) 
  • Lyon 3-bedroom house 420,000 (EUR) – 470,600 (USD)
  • Lyon 2-bedroom apartment 300,000 (EUR) – 336,150 (USD)
  • Marseille 4-bedroom house 1,250,000 (EUR) – 1,400,600 (USD)
  • Marseille 2-bedroom apartment 295,000 (EUR) – 330,555 (USD)

Finding Your Dream Home

There are many resources available to assist you in locating the property of your dreams. Although online websites, newspapers, and property magazines are popular methods of finding a home, most expats prefer to work with real estate agents. This may work to your advantage, as owners may inflate the price to a potential foreign buyer, charging twice as much as they would to a French person. Using the services of a local French realtor may help you negotiate a better deal.

A professional will also have a better understanding of the market and average property prices and will be able to explain details that would otherwise be lost in translation. Some even assist with drafting the sales contract and liaising with the local notaire (translates to the notary), the official in charge of the transaction’s legalities. It is also great to ask if they can assist you with setting up utilities and locating local services. Expect them to charge up to 8% of the total cost for their services.

When searching for an agent, ensure they have certification from a registered body. These include:

  • UNPI (National Union of Real Estate Property)
  • FNAIM (Real Estate Federation)
  • CNAB (National Confederation of Property Administrators)
  • SNPI (First French Real Estate Syndicate)

What Are The Procedures And Steps For Purchasing A Home In France?

You’re ready to start buying a house in France once you’ve found your dream home.

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Step One

The seller is responsible for providing you with a current diagnostic report on the property that includes detailed information about its condition. Before making a decision, make sure you thoroughly review this document with the assistance of your agent.

Step Two

It’s now time to make a verbal offer. If the seller agrees, you will sign a preliminary agreement known as a promesse unilatérale de vente or a compromise de vente.

The notaire handles the promesse unilatérale de vente (unilateral offer to sell). When you sign this contract, you must pay a 10% deposit, after which the seller cannot sell the home to anyone else for two to three months — only to you at the agreed-upon price. However, as the buyer, you can withdraw and forfeit your deposit during this period.

The compromis de vente is also known as a purchase and sale agreement. This kind of contract also demands a 10% deposit and is referred to as a ‘final sale’ in legal terms. If one of the parties withdraws, legal action can be taken against them.

Both contracts provide a seven-day cooling-off period during which the buyer can cancel the transaction without penalty.

Step Three

Give specifics about how you intend to finance your home. If you intend to use a mortgage to finance the purchase (read below for relevant information to apply for one), a condition outlining the details of it, as well as a clause explaining that the sale can only be completed if your mortgage application is approved, must be included in the agreement.

Step Four

Your notaire will eventually schedule a signing date for the acte de vente (deed of sale). Bring a translator if necessary, as the document will be read aloud to you in French before you sign. After you’ve paid all of your taxes and fees, your name will be registered on the land, and you’ll be able to crack open a bottle of champagne to celebrate your new home.

How To Apply For A French Mortgage?

Borrowing money in France can provide significant benefits. For example, mortgage interest rates in France have been relatively low for several years. French banks are typically eager to lend money to foreigners; however, non-residents may be subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

A mortgage in France typically allows a buyer to borrow between 70% and 80% of the total property value. Some banks, however, set a 50% limit for non-EU residents.

Non-residents may be required to open a savings account with a minimum deposit of 24 mortgage payments at a French bank. Keeping a savings account with regular deposits is recommended because mortgage lenders may view it favorably. Another legal requirement for obtaining a French mortgage is a life insurance policy covering 120% of the loan amount. If you pay taxes in France, there are three main mortgage tax breaks: deductibility of mortgage interest on rental income, deductions from French inheritance tax, and relief only for those subject to the French wealth tax. A tax advisor can provide more information on each of these.

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The Application Process

Hiring a reputable mortgage broker may be a good idea unless your French is flawless and you know how to move around the French banking system. They can assist you with the mortgage application process, and most brokers have excellent working relationships with major banks. Brokers help you negotiate a good deal and find the best interest rate.

The application process is like other countries with well-developed mortgage industries.

Step One

The following documents will be required for the application:

  • Copy of your passport
  • Executed sales agreement
  • Proof of income (This will include the last three pay stubs along with the previous year’s tax returns)
  • Statement of assets
  • Self-employed individuals must provide three years of audited financials.
  • Current rental agreement
  • Bank statements for the last three months and proof of funds to cover the costs of the mortgage and down payment

Step Two

A French bank will send a conditional offer outlining the terms and conditions if the application is approved. You can only accept after ten days have passed. You will have 30 days to accept and return the signed contract.

It’s also a good idea to have a backup lender on hand, as some lenders have been known to withdraw mortgages and offer at the last minute.

Things to Keep in Mind

When budgeting for your new home, you should seriously consider purchasing costs. You may believe you’ve found your dream home until you add up all the extra costs, which quickly make your dream home unaffordable. Notaries’ fees are typically 7 to 8% of the property value (this includes 5.8% stamp duty, land registration fees, disbursements, and additional mortgage fees and other services).

When purchasing property, the French inheritance tax is to be noticed and should be considered. If you own property in France, whether you are an EU citizen or not, your heirs may be subject to French inheritance law and taxes. It can be difficult to understand, so it is best to seek professional assistance with your situation.

Utilities

When setting up gas, electricity, and water in your new home in France, there are several utility companies and providers to consider. And, as with everything else, this means a slew of paperwork and preparation — to get the lights turned on. This section will teach you everything you need to know about setting up your utility providers.

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Water

In France, there are three major providers: Véolia, Suez, and la Saur. On the other hand, water supply and sanitation are the responsibility of communes (municipalities), and the individual has no say in the matter. To find out who the provider is in your area, contact your local Mairie or communauté de communes. Bring a copy of your certificate of ownership if you own a brand-new property.

Water supplies in France are metered and read at least once a year. The charge per cubic meter will be shown on your water bill.

Electricity

France has some of the lowest electricity prices in Europe. You will need the documents mentioned below to open an electricity account:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of residence
  • Bank account details (if you opt for automatic payment each month)

The state-owned electricity supplier in France is Électricité de France (EDF), but there are also local co-operatives in rural areas. If your property does not have an electricity supply, EDF will connect you for a small fee. Request a connection quote, and you should be connected within a month if the property has the necessary planning permission to install a meter. EDF also has a dedicated English-speaking customer service line.

Voltage

In general, the domestic electricity supply in France is 230 V single phase. However, larger properties may have a three-phase, 380 V power supply. Suppose you are traveling to France from North America. In that case, your electronic devices may not function properly (North American electricity ranges from 100 V to 127 V), and you will need a converter and power adapter.

Final Words

We hope our guide has helped you find housing in France. Best of luck finding or renting a house or an apartment in France! If you are looking for a brand new house, our guide is enough to help in that regard!