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The costs of living and working in France

Posted by Chez de Chez on October 22, 2014
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Back in 2000 when we first started our plan to move to France, it was around 25% cheaper to live in France than in the UK and when fuel was around 70 cents a litre!!! Sadly this is no longer the case.  The high costs of running businesses in France means that those in business need to charge more for goods and services than we’re used to seeing here in the UK.

The information you’ll need if you’re planning to live and work in France, would be enough to fill a book.  In fact there’s a fantastic one already written that I’d recommend you read.  It’s called Living & Working in France.  David writes brilliantly and gives a detailed account of all aspects of living and working in France, in often a very tongue in cheek way.

David covers all costs implications of living and working in France in far more detail than I can do justice to, but here’s some of the main costs you’ll need to think about to get you started:

Furnishing and property maintenance

At this stage you may not know if you’ll have any major maintenance, or even renovation costs but you will almost certainly need furniture and some level of basic decoration.  Therefore, you’ll need to allocate funds for this too.  This will need to be a higher amount if you’re considering letting out your property for an income.  Even just bedding (with enough to cover changeovers) can add up.  Over the years I’ve pulled together an inventory of the basics needed to furnish a holiday let.  I’ve also turned it into a PDF document that you’re welcome to download.

My list, however, only covers the furnishings.  Even if your property only needs a coat of paint, you’ll need to think about who will be doing it and how much this is going to cost?

Furnishing a property is impossible to give a cost estimate on, as there are too many variables but you should find that by using the inventory list and allocating costs to each of the items, you’ll soon have a far clearer idea as to how much money you’ll need to allocate.

One other point I’d like to mention here is about Brocantes. Most Brits go all dream like at the thought of furnishing their French home from Brocantes.  However, whilst these can be good sources of some quirky items (finishing touches), it will end up being a long process finding everything you’d need to furnish your home.  What’s also most surprising is that this is also an expensive way to furnish your home.  Brocantes are not cheap, in fact I’d go so far as to say they’re very expensive and your well honed negotiation skills will fall flat.  We’ve even tried the old walking away routine, fully expecting to be called back…but non!  Not a chance.  They are fabulous places to visit when you’ve got time on your side and you’re not looking for a bargain but not if you’re up against the clock and need to furnish pretty much a whole house in a week.

Running costs of your French home:

As a rule of thumb, work on between 2% and 3% of the cost of the property as your annual running costs (more if you have a mortgage).  However, I’ve broken this down into specific sections for you:

Utilities and property running costs

The French equivalent of council tax forms two parts; taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière, including a TV licence (now added automatically to your taxe d’habitation ). Then there are your utilities and buildings and contents insurance.  In addition if you intend to let your property you’ll also need to allocate costs for cleaning and maintenance costs and possibly caretaker or management fees.

Please also note that if you intend to let out your property you’ll need a different level of household insurance than if you intend to live there or use it as your own holiday home.  You will most certainly want and need liability insurance.  We always found the prices for this quite reasonable and certainly no more than what you’d pay for a similar property in the UK.

House and pool cleaners

I’ve built maintenance costs in as part of your property total running costs above but here’s more information about these particular services which you might find useful, especially if you intend to let out your property.

As a guide a cleaner will charge you around €120.00 for a 2-3 hour clean per week (including bedding changeover).

For your swimming pool you’ll need to allocate around £1,000 per season to cover your pool guy’s weekly visits, plus the cost of chemicals and dealing with the odd issue through the season for you.

You might at first glance think these costs are quite high but as your cleaner or pool guy will often be required to visit your property on your changeover day (often a Saturday) and only for a few key weeks of the year, they’ll be limited by how many properties or pools they can maintain and will therefore need to charge a higher rate to cover this limited period.  To find good ones is always the difficult part but once you do, be prepared to pay a fair rate to keep them – they’re like gold-dust!

Here’s a summary of all the main costs you’ll need to budget for when living and working in France

  • Costs of goods, v’s the UK.  Some items can be quite shockingly different.  As they’re published from various sources, I’ll re-post them on this site for your reference.
  • Taxes and damn taxes.  Oh how the French love them.  Or rather love to avoid them and because of this, the French tax authorities appear to apply a heavy weighting to taxes they do manage to collect (or so we’ve been informed by many very reliable sources and from our own painful experience of running businesses in France!!).  Make sure if you intend to run a business in France that the very first thing you do is get an exceptionally good accountant who can guide your carefully through this minefield.
  • Service charges and utilities
  • Mortgage costs.  Watch out for the hidden costs in the small print.
  • Insurance – for your home and car.  Remember you’ll need different insurance if renting out your property.
  • TV, phone and Internet connection – these contracts can be horrendous to negotiate out of once you’ve signed on the dotted line, so do your homework and don’t sign anything until you’re absolutely sure it’ll work for you.
  • Property maintenance
  • Car/ transport costs
  • health/medical fees
  • The cost of food and drink
  • Eating out – this is often overlooked but when thinking about your potential change in lifestyle, do you plan to enjoy the wonderful French cuisine and if so, you’ll need to budget for this.

This is quite a lot to think about but it doesn’t need to be hard.  There are a whole raft of specialist companies out there who can help you and in most circumstances the initial costs involved will more than pay for themselves in the long run.

For so many Brits, moving to France is about a complete lifestyle change – to kick back and relax.  However, don’t make the mistake of kicking back too early.  Have a plan of action, surround yourself with good quality professionals and get organised.  The more organised and prepared you are, the more likely you will be of not only turning your dream into a reality but in being able to enjoy it for many years to come.

And finally, to keep yourself amused whilst you plan your escape to the sunny south of France, you might want to buy this wonderful book by George East  –  Home and Dry in France, or, A Year in Purgatory. Whilst George writes about moving to and living in the North of France, we absolutely love his passion for all things French and especially his comedic ability to find humour in even the worst of situations.  This was his first book and he’s since written a whole series, so you’ll have plenty of material to keep a smile on your face, as you embark on your very own French adventure.


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