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Should you buy a new or an old property in France?

When starting your search for a property in France you may not immediately consider this question, however it is a very important one to answer as depending on what you plan to do with your property the two types can offer very different benefits. In this article we will go through the pros and cons of buying a new property versus an old property in relation to what it will be used for: investment, holiday home or a permanent residence.

Notaire and agency fees (buying costs)

The notaire fees on new build versus older property (more than 5 years old) are quite different. On new build properties the typical notaire fees are 2.5% compared to 7 to 8% for old property. So for a typical property value of 300,000 Euros buying new means a saving of around 15,000 Euros. In addition when buying from a developer (even if an agent is involved) there are no agency fees to add if buying a new property. As agency fees are typically 6% to 10% this means a saving of at least 18,000 Euros on a property worth 300,000 Euros so collectively with the notaire fees, buying new will save you approximately 11% of the property price which is money that can be spent on buying a better property.

Repair costs, maintenance and security

New properties come with a 10 year build guarantee which ensures that if there are any defects in the property whatsoever they are covered by a 10 year insurance so you are sure that you are not going to have any nasty repair bills in that time. When buying an old property there are no such guarantees and being significantly older they are in fact much more likely to need repair and renovation, if not immediately then certainly within 5 to 10 years of ownership. This is an important factor to reflect on as aside from the repair and renovation costs of a property which can be significant you also have to bear in mind that if you do not live there then you will have to manage French builders from a long way away which is no easy task! The same goes for general maintenance as well as if you are not there and if there is say a leak in the house then you may not spot it until the next time you are there which could be a few months by which time enormous amounts of damage could have been done. Just buying new doesn’t mitigate these risks of course although it does reduce the chance of them happening which is why a new build within a managed gated residence is actually the best option for people who do not live in the property especially if your French language skills are not quite up to scratch.

 By buying an apartment or villa within a gated residence with an onsite management company you can be sure that they perform regular checks of the properties (usually at least once a week) and if there are any leaks or damage of some other kind that the management company will take care of it for you without the need for you to phone around and try and organise a local French tradesman to come in and fix and where you can’t even check to see if he has done it because you are not there. The same goes for the maintenance of your garden or swimming pool which is very hard to manage from hundreds of miles away and is a hassle that you don’t really need and if you do manage to find someone who you can trust and who can do it, the cost of hiring such people is also quite high in comparison to a residence of multiple properties where you can get economies of scale.

Lastly security is also an issue for properties which are left empty for weeks or months on end if not within a gated residence as there is no-one to stop thieves or squatters from entering the property. By being in a secure, gated community with someone always on site and other owners never too far away the chance of having a break in are very minimal. All in all when you take into account maintenance, repairs and security if you live abroad then both in terms of hassle and costs it makes sense to buy in a new, managed and gated residence where all that hassle is taken care of for you. The residence featured here “La Foret d’Armotte” near Saint-Palais-Sur-Mer is such an example.

Rental income

If you are looking to earn a rental income from your property then of course you can rent out both new and old property. It is important to remember however that renting out a stone cottage in a pretty rural area of France will require a lot of work and will require finding someone who is capable of doing the changeovers, cleaning and linen provision as most people who rent their property do not live there. You will also have to put the property on a number of different holiday lettings websites and hope for the best. If it is in a rural setting you have the additional challenge of having very little footfall in the area so a smaller amount of tourists than would normally go to the seaside resorts or the Alps in the winter. A new build property in a residence with a management company onsite can take care of all of this for you and have the additional benefit of being able to do deals with tour operators (as they will have a number of properties to rent out) to ensure a good and steady occupancy rate and therefore rental income for the owners and if they are a large experienced company also have a very large customer base to attract to the residence themselves. If a residence has an onsite management company it usually also has some onsite facilities like swimming pools, tennis courts and golf which further help attract holiday makers. All these factors result in a significantly higher rental income than that which would be obtained by trying to do it yourself and will require a lot less effort. 

We can conclude from this analysis then that if buying for an investment or as a holiday home buying a new property certainly makes more sense than buying old especially given the fact that the French mainly prefer to buy something modern so your resale market is much larger. In addition if you plan to rent it out to earn a rental income then a new property also makes more sense as it is the least hassle in terms of maintenance and running costs and is also what the rental market in France prefers, both in terms of short and long term rental so you are likely to rent it out for more weeks. For owners that do not live in the property, especially if they live abroad the additional benefit of having an onsite management company to take care of the maintenance and security which you would only be able to find in a gated residence is a very important point. The situation where an older property makes sense however is when you don’t want to wait for it to be built (if it is off-plan) and you don’t depend on any rental income from it and you live there in which case if your heart is after that old stone cottage in the countryside then that is what you should go for.