Six hot tips for buying property in France
1) Spend a few days- its worth it!
If you are serious about your purchase in France then you have to spend at least a few days if not a week or more in the area in order to get a really good feel for your surroundings but also to see enough property in order to make the trip worthwhile. A longer trip will also stop you from making rash decisions about a property purchase simply because you are short on time and desperate to get your foothold in France. Viewing trips over a long weekend are often not enough and add to that that agencies are shut on Sundays are also often on Mondays and it can mean that you really won’t see enough options to be able to make a sensible decision. The best advice is to spend a good week to ten days in your chosen location with 5 or six days put aside for viewings and a further few days to do your own research if you find something suitable. These extra days will allow you to send in a local builder to check the structure of the property and to give you quotes on any work that is required. It will also give you the chance to pop into the local mayor’s office where you gather information such as any planning permission granted in the area so you can see how it might affect your property- if at all. This is especially important if you plan on asking for an extension to your property as you will need to get to know the local authorities quite well and keep them on your side. If renovating or building new these extra days can also wisely be spent with a local architect so that he can give you advice on what can and cannot be done and possible costs. All these checks are well worth doing before you return to the UK and ideally before you make an offer on the property as it will give you a much clearer idea of what you can do with the property and its value to you.
2) Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Most people are unsure whether they can negotiate in France and if so how much. The short answer to this is YES and you can normally negotiate between 5 to 10% off the price depending on the state of the market. As I write this we are seeing offers of up to 10% off being accepted by the vendor because the market in France is currently a bit slow in certain areas so now is in fact a great time to go property hunting with great deals to had. Help and advice when negotiating on price is in fact one of the many areas where Leapfrog properties can help its clients.
3) Get a survey/structural appraisal
The process of sending in a surveyor to check the structure of the property and to give you a report as you would expect in England is extremely uncommon in France. There are a few French surveyors but most are based in Paris and focus purely on commercial property. You are therefore left with 3 choices: do nothing, pick an English surveyor who has moved to France or do what the French do themselves which is ask for an appraisal of the property by the local builder or architect. The last option is most recommended as it is prudent to get a professional’s opinion before you make an offer whilst the time it takes to get one of the handful of British surveyors to see your property it could have already been sold. However if it is more a question of peace of mind as supposed to bargaining power then you can sign an initial sales contract subject to a survey being done by the surveyor of your choice. If the survey comes back reporting defects to the extent that you do not wish to go ahead with the purchase then you can withdraw with no penalty. Leapfrog properties’ consultants can arrange either type of survey to be done in the shortest time possible.
4) Don’t be afraid of signing the initial sales contract
The “compromis de vente” (initial sales contract) is designed to protect both the buyer and vendor. If you make an offer on a property and the agent very soon after asks you to sign a compromis de vente this isn’t because he/she is a pressure salesman it is simply because that is the way things are done in France. Once this document is signed by both the buyer and the vendor there is effectively no more room for negotiation and the property will be taken off the market while all the necessary checks are performed by the appointed notaire. This is in stark contrast to the process in the UK where an offer can be accepted by a vendor and then gazumped a few weeks later by someone with a better offer. In the UK you send in your surveyor after an offer has been accepted and then following the report you then have further room for negotiation up until exchange of contracts. This is not the case in France as you cannot be gazumped if both signatures are on the sales contract which is why we recommend you have a few days spare while on your viewing trip to perform any checks/appraisals. Equally if you like a property there is no point going back to the UK before you make an offer as the property is often with 4/5 other agents and could easily be sold, plus the time it takes for the paperwork and contracts to be signed by both parties if you are in another country could also allow another buyer to step in. There is a seven day cooling off period during which you can pull out of the purchase for any reason whatsoever without penalty so if it is simply a question of wanting a bit more time to decide then you are better off signing the contract to prevent losing the property and if possible get the vendor’s signature on it at the same time.
5) Get your mortgage agreed before your trip to France
If you require a mortgage your bargaining position and having a good idea what you can really afford is largely improved by getting a mortgage agreed in principle before you leave. This way when you make an offer you really know if this is over-stretching yourself or not and prevents disappointment later if your bank then decides that the risk is too great and they cannot lend you the required funds. This can not only be frustrating but also waste time for everyone involved. It is a good idea therefore to go with a company that has the system already in place to deal with arranging you a mortgage and answering your questions on finance. Leapfrog properties constantly helps its clients arrange finance and its unparalleled contacts with both French banks and mortgage brokers alike will mean that you not only get sound advice but also a good deal. Typical repayment mortgages are currently around 3.5% and finance for resale properties can easily be arranged up to 70% while finance for New build/leaseback properties can often be as high as 95% due to the high demand and ease of rental of new build properties in France.
6) Use a currency specialist
When sending money from the UK to France there is lots of money to be made or lost depending on how you do it and with whom. If you simply ask your high street bank to send your money to a French bank account in Euros they will not only charge you a transaction charge but are also likely to give you rather uncompetitive rates on exchange. You may also lose money on exchange rate fluctuations adversely affecting the strength of the pound to the Euro. To avoid any of these negative affects and charges it is best to use a currency specialist who not only offers the most competitive rates on exchange but also doesn’t charge commission on the money sent. They will also offer you the possibility to buy your currency in advance of the completion date which is often 3 months after the signing of the initial contract and much more if buying off plan. This will ensure that you know exactly how many British pounds you will be spending up to 2 years in advance instead of playing the risky currency game which could end up costing thousands. Leapfrog properties like so many of the other issues can also help you here to provide you with an established currency specialist who can advise you and execute these transactions for you which could ultimately make a substantial difference to you.