Buying a property is always a complex legal process, but buying property in France poses its own, unique challenges. Dealing with a foreign system of property law and the nuances of the French language can be difficult when buying property. For instance, there are a number of technical certificates that must be produced by the seller during a property transaction, including an energy performance certificate - referred to as a 'Diagnostic de Performance Energétique' (DPE) in France. Understanding exactly what a DPE covers is critical to protecting your investment in France.
What is a DPE ?
A DPE certificate is confirmation of a property's energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It gives a potential buyer a detailed and independent evaluation of a home's energy efficiency, the energy costs associated with the running of the home and the required works needed to improve the home's energy efficiency. French law changed in 2011, making it a legal requirement for a property's energy and emission rating to be advertised when it is listed for sale. This means that a DPE must be obtained by every owner who decides to list a residential property for sale. A sale without a DPE certificate, or one that has been negotiated with an expired certificate could be cancelled. It is important to check the property's certificate and the information contained within it before fully before fully committing to a purchase.
Only a professionally certified representative with recognised accreditation from the ‘Comité Francais d'accréditation’ (COFRAC) can issue a DPE certificate. COFRAC lists all registered certificates on their website, so you can check that they are genuine.
What information is included in a DPE ?
A DPE will contain a wealth of information pertaining to a specific property's energy efficiency and the carbon emissions it is responsible for. The building's general characteristics and dimensions will be included in the certificate, as well as details on relevant equipment contained within it - such as air conditioning, water boilers and heating. Every listed item of equipment will also have its energy consumption clearly stated on the certificate, as well as the estimated annual energy cost associated with its operation.
The property's energy efficiency will be denoted on a DPE certificate in a number of ways. The property's estimated annual emission of greenhouse gases will be stated in relation to total energy consumption, and the property will be graded on its overall performance - with an 'A' grade being the best and a 'G' grade being the worst.
The certificate may also detail recommendations for improving the property's energy efficiency and reducing its carbon dioxide emissions. However, if the evaluation was conducted according to the 'invoice' method, these recommendations and their associated costs may not be detailed on the DPE certificate.
Recent changes to the DPE
A number of changes to the process of evaluating properties and issuing DPE certificates were introduced in April 2013 as a result of some significant inconsistencies in the process. Among the many improvements to the system included a doubling of the testing criteria, standardised methods of calculation and the use of software validated by France's energy performance agency - ADEME.
New DPE evaluations have to be performed on all blocks of flats with collective heating or cooling systems by the end of 2017, and an energy audit is required on all apartment blocks which were originally granted planning permission before 2001.
DPE information in property listings
Current DPE results must be included in all property listings, including the property's energy class and the greenhouse emission class. In professional listings, the energy consumption must be explained with the use of a pictogram, and it should include energy consumption in kilowatt hours per square metre. Carbon emissions should be communicated in kilogrammes per square metre.
Important facts about DPE evaluations
The DPE issued for a specific property is valid for a period of ten years, and that also applies to homes which carried out the recommended energy efficiency improvement works. However, if the certificate is of the old variety (issued before April 2013), property owners can arrange for new evaluations to take improvements into account.
The property market in France is highly sensitive to DPE ratings, and a low score can have a profound effect on the price of a property. While the majority of new builds in France are likely to have an 'A' grade for energy efficiency, you should always check the DPE associated with a property before making a formal offer.
DPE certificates are mandatory in France for all apartments and houses bigger than 50 square metres. However, homes with no centralised heating system or those with open-fire chimneys are exempt from the legislation.
The DPE certificate associated with a property not only gives you an idea of a property's general state of repair, it can also demonstrate whether or not it has been valued correctly. By taking the time to fully read a DPE inspection report, you can take a large step towards protecting your property investment in France.