Having made the decision to move to France, your priority will be finding somewhere to live. Whether you plan to buy or rent, the process of home-hunting can be daunting given that you are searching in a market you're not completely familiar with. As well as having to deal with the various terminology used by French real estate agents, you will need to know that the properties that interest you are suitable for your needs. Particularly if you are buying a property, some basic knowledge of property types in France should help you protect your investment.
The different styles of houses available
Bastide. A detached property built with stone and found in France's Medieval towns and villages. They are generally square with flat roofs and detailed archways.
Charentaise. Charentaise-style houses are similar to Bastide properties, but they don't usually have archways, and they're found in the Charente region of France.
Domaine. A domaine is the English equivalent of a country estate, and it will include a large area of land and several buildings in what is predominantly a residential complex.
Fermette. This is the equivalent of a farmhouse in the UK. They are usually built from stone and feature several outhouses as part of one large development.
Longère. If you're in search of the quintessential French country home, the Longère could be the best option. Mainly rectangular in shape, they are typically one-floor homes with converted attics. They are common in Brittany and Normandy in particular.
Mas. This is a term that is sometimes used loosely to describe medium and large homes in the south of France.
Maison à colombages. This style of house has a timber frame which is filled with stylish brickwork. They are often compared to English Tudor-style houses.
Pavillon. This is the term given to relatively new, semi-detached homes with a cellar, garage and mansard. They are particularly popular in the northern regions of France.
Villa d'architecte. This is a term used by French developers to describe almost any villa built within the last 50 years or so. They often combine classic architecture with modern design features.
Common phraseology used by real estate agents in France
Walking into a French real estate agent's offices for the very first time can be an intimidating experience. Even if your French language skills are good, you may not be familiar with some of the language and terminology used in property descriptions. You can save yourself the time and effort of viewing properties that don't match your criteria by knowing exactly what to look for when you're searching property listings.
When you first make contact with an estate agent in France, you should be looking for properties that suit your requirements. If you wish to buy, 'à vendre' denotes properties that are for sale. If you wish to rent, 'à louer' will denote properties to let. Once you have found a selection of properties that meet your needs, you need to be certain that they are exactly what you're looking for before you book a viewing.
One of the first aspects of a property detailed in a listing will be how many rooms the property has; rooms will be stated as 'pièces'. Unlike the properties listed with UK agencies, French listings refer to the total number of reception rooms and bedrooms as one figure. Therefore, if you see a property listed as a 'maison 4 pièces', this will rarely mean that it is a house with four individual bedrooms. It could mean the property has two bedrooms, a living room and a dining room, or it could mean it has one living room and three bedrooms. Kitchens, utility rooms and bathrooms will usually be referred to separately.
Occasionally, French real estate agents will use some simple codes to differentiate their properties. For example, a one-bedroomed apartment could be described as: T2 (appartement deux-pièces). The 'T' usually denotes that the property is an apartment, and the '2' will denote the number of rooms the property has. In this case, the apartment has one bedroom and one living room. In most cases, 'F' is used to describe a house. For example, you might come across a property listing that states: F2 (maison deux-pièces). If there is only one room in the apartment, it is likely to be listed as a 'studio'.
Moving to France and taking on a property for the first time are very big steps, so you should be completely confident that the house or apartment you are committing to is exactly what you want. Brush up on the most commonly used terms to describe housing in France, and you should be able to find a property that can truly become a home.