8 Essential Questions to Ask Before Buying Real Estate in France
If you've ever bought a property, you will know what a stressful and trying process it can be. In most cases, the purchase of a home is the single biggest investment anyone will ever make, so imagine trying to negotiate the French property market without the proper help and support from experts. Contrary to popular belief, buying property in France is a safe and secure way to invest your money, but you need to go into the process with your eyes wide open to the realities involved. If you have the answers to the following questions, you should be able to make a success of your first foray into the French property market.
Should I Be Worried About Investing My Money in the French Property Market ?
In many ways, the property market in France is remarkably similar to those in the UK and the USA. The legal protections in place in France are there to protect your investment. There are two fundamental aspects involved in buying French property: transferring ownership of the property and financing the purchase. An experienced notaire with good English language skills will ensure that your investment is secure.
Do I Need to Speak French to Buy a Property in France ?
There is no need to be fluent in French provided you have bilingual legal representation. A great many notaires and property agents in the major cities of France can speak very good English. More Brits buy property in France than from any other country in the world, so good English amongst agents and lawyers is common. In some cases, you will need the advice of tax and estate planning experts, so make sure they can speak good English too.
Do I Need a French Bank Account to Buy Property in France?
In most cases, yes, you will need to open a French bank account at some point. This is not a legal requirement, but your lender and utility providers will probably require a French account from which to debit your monthly bills. The process of opening a French account is almost identical to that in the UK, but you may need to allow a little longer if your permanent address is outside France.
Can I Move My Money to France Easily ?
It is very easy to transfer money in and out of France, but be wary about doing so via your bank. Select a currency exchange company that specialises in international money movements and you could save significantly on charges and commissions.
Should I Base Myself in France Throughout the Property Transaction ?
The simple answer is not if you don't want to. If you wish to return to the UK once the wheels are in motion, you can sign over power of attorney to your notaire. You can then return to France in order to sign the necessary documents, or you could have them sent by courier if you want to remain in the UK throughout the process. Even the signing of the final deed - l'acte de vente - does not require the presence of the buyer, but most notaires will advise you to attend. However, it is always a good idea to meet your notaire in person before giving them the freedom to represent your interests in such a substantial investment.
How Long Will it Take From Putting in an Offer to Receiving my Keys ?
If you're lucky enough to be paying for a property in cash, you can expect to complete a property purchase within 60 days. However, a purchase that involves finance, estate planning or special legal arrangements will take closer to 90 days to complete.
What Does a Notaire Actually Do ?
A notaire is a specialised lawyer who deals with, amongst other things, French property law and taxation. In France, all property transactions must go through an official notaire. An official notaire is a public officer who has been appointed by decree by the minister of justice. In some cases, a notaire can act on behalf of the buyer and the vendor, however both parties are free to appoint their own as long as the chosen notaire is officially recognized in France (www.notaires.fr). The notaire will draw up the necessary paperwork and ensure taxes are paid on time. From the 'Compromis de Vente' to the signing of the final title deed, a notaire is there to ensure all monies are transferred and that all applicable laws have been adhered to. A notaire's fees will typically be around 7% of the final purchase price, and because the buyer pays those fees, you should include them in your budget.
Will There Be Any Estate Planning Issues ?
In the majority of cases, estate planning issues will never arise. However, issues of legacy and estate tax should be discussed in detail with your notaire before finalising a purchase. It is always a good idea to decide on a method of ownership during the purchasing process; such options include joint ownership, individual ownership or purchasing a property through a property investment company. To change the method of ownership after the purchase has been completed can be an expensive and complex affair. In any event, your notaire will explain your options and point you in the direction depending on your personal circumstances.
Although the process of buying property in France may appear a little costly when compared to the UK, the legal protection provided by legislation and government-appointed notaires means your purchase is protected from unscrupulous vendors and inexperienced property lawyers.