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First steps to buying or selling in France.

Posted by Chez de Chez on October 13, 2014
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Buying or selling your home in France is a different process to that of the UK and can be daunting.  However, as long as you do your homework and get a good team of specialists around you, the process will be smooth and efficient.

This is the same advice whether you’re a rooky looking to buy a little bolt-hole in France, or a seasoned pro who’s selling your French home.  In fact the seasoned pros are often the ones who get a bit complacent about the complexities of the French property process.  After years of dealing with the day-to-day French bureaucracy, it’s easy to forget that buying and selling properties in France is a whole different ball game and that you really do need to plan ahead and take advice, to make sure there are no nasty surprises on completion day.

So once you’ve decided to buy or sell your French home, here are the next steps you should take:


If buying, your first thought should be to think about how you’re going to raise funds for your French home. If you need a mortgage, you should get a mortgage in principle agreed before you even start looking.  The way French mortgages are calculated is different to the UK, so you might not have as much available funds as you think from your note pad calculations.  There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a property, only to find you can’t afford it.  Most UK banks have an international arm who specialise in European mortgages.  So shop around for the one that no only offers you the best price but also in our view the best level of customer service too.  You really don’t know how good the service is until there’s a problem but most have a testimonials section these days so you should get a good idea from these.

Currency Exchange

For both buyers and sellers and the one area that so many of us either forget about, or try to pretend won’t be a problem, is currency exchange.  You’re most likely to be working between Euros and Sterling, therefore, not planning for currency fluctuations is a very dangerous thing to do .  You’ll be dealing in hundreds of thousands and just a tiny fluctuation can have a massive impact on your bottom line and may even be the difference between you being able to afford you dream home in France, or having enough funds to buy your next property back in the UK.

Here’s a simple example based on moving funds from Sterling to Euros.  Assuming you’ve worked out you can raise £200,000, at today’s’ exchange rate of 1.26, this would give you a lovely €252,000 to spend on your dream home.  However, this can change in an instant and there have been many times in the past couple of years where the rate has been around 1.14, or even lower, meaning the Sterling in your pocket would only be worth €228,000.  Thus reducing your available funds by a massive €26,000 

This works in absolutely the same way in reverse when selling.  This was thankfully something we’d sensibly thought to organise when we sold the villa, as the exchange rate we locked in meant we had £16,000 more in the bank on completion day, than if we’d just used our bank to move funds back to the UK.

Therefore, if you’ve done your sums on a rate of interest that works for you but you don’t follow this up by locking in the exchange rate, you’ve left yourself very vulnerable to the volatile currency market fluctuations.  This happens all too often and not something that should ever be left to chance.  There are many currency exchange companies out there, some better than others but using any is better than leaving it to chance.

Write a will

Another key step more specifically for buyers, is the writing of a will. This is absolutely critical for inheritance planning in France, because you can’t leave your property to whomever you chose.  In fact if you’re in a partnership but you’re not married, or you have children from a previous relationship, without a will you could be leaving your nearest and dearest extremely vulnerable.  This is a minefield and an area where you really do need a specialist to make sure you and your loved ones are protected and again this is something you absolutely must organise before you purchase your French home.

Organise Legal or translation services

Finally, if you’re not really comfortable with signing legal documents in a foreign language (even if you’ve lived in France for many years) and worry about the small print in any way, then despite the many people out there who’ve managed to do so and have lived to tell the tale, why put yourself through the worry.  Get legal advice and/or a good translation service.  In relation to the amount you’ll be spending on the property transaction, this is a tiny amount of money and well worth it for your peace of mind.

In Summary

As I mentioned earlier, buying and selling in France is just different to the UK but it doesn’t have to be any harder.  As long as you get all your ducks in line and that includes appointing a pro-active search agent or Agence Immobillier, you can sit back with your glass of wine (or two) and enjoy the ride.

If you’d like further advice on anything I’ve mentioned here or would like to discuss buying or selling your home in France with us, please feel free to pick up the phone or drop us a line, we’re here to help.

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