Become a homeowner in France in 6 steps
Have you been fantasizing about getting on the property ladder and becoming a homeowner in France like many renters? Here are the 6 steps for finding and buying the home-sweet-home of your dreams.
7 min read
Have you been fantasizing about getting on the property ladder and becoming a homeowner in France like many renters? Here are the 6 steps for finding and buying the home-sweet-home of your dreams—while also avoiding some classic pitfalls.
Step 1: Define your budget
The first step towards buying a house or an apartment in France is to define your budget. Unless you can pay the property’s full price in cash, you’ll probably have to take out a mortgage. You can calculate the amount you could borrow based on factors like your income and how much you have available for a down payment. Our article on how to get the best home loan might help you with this step. Keep in mind that your debt ratio—the portion of your income spent on loan repayments—generally shouldn’t exceed 35%.
Step 2: Define the criteria for your property search
Once your budget’s set, you can start thinking about what matters to you when creating your dream home—undoubtedly, one of the most fun parts of this journey. Make a list of your non-negotiables—what your new home definitely needs to have. If you’re buying as a couple or a group, this is also the time to discuss and compromise on priorities. Here are some things you might want to consider:
- The location: Set a search perimeter according to your priorities. Consider things like commute times, transport links and whether you want a residential or a lively neighborhood.
- The property type: Consider whether you want a house or an apartment, something old or new, with or without an elevator, and on the ground level or a higher floor.
- Size and number of rooms: How many rooms do you have in mind? Is closet space important to you?
- Orientation of the rooms: Fancy a south-facing living room? Bedrooms at the back?
- Whether you want an outside space—garden, terrace or balcony.
- The work you’re willing to take on, if necessary—including renovations and extensions.
Once you’ve established the ideal features of your future house or apartment, it’s a good idea to rank them in order of priority. What are the 3 things you won’t budge on? Try to answer as honestly as possible and base your search on them.
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Step 3: Become familiar with real estate market prices
Now that you’ve calculated your budget and the features of your ideal home, it’s time to face the reality of the real estate market. Can you afford the house or apartment of your dreams on your budget? Here are a few ways of finding how much your ideal property in France might cost:
- Consult the General Directorate of Public Finance database for “Land value queries”
- Use the Patrim tool, which allows you to browse selling prices of properties that are similar to the one you want.
- Ask a firm of notaries or consult the site of the French notary association.
Finally, consider consulting real estate agencies directly, or simply check listings on real estate websites.
You can also check out our article about how to estimate the costs of buying a house.
Step 4: Browse and visit properties
With your budget and wishlist in hand, it’s time to find real estate listings that match your search criteria. For an efficient search, try one (or all) of the following:
- Use a local real estate agency. This can be especially reassuring if you’re buying a property for the first time. They’ll give you access to a network often inaccessible to the general public and help you evaluate market prices and the quality of the properties on offer. Keep in mind that agencies usually charge a commission of 3 to 6% of the property’s selling price.
- Contact owners directly via online ads on websites such as Le Bon Coin or PAP. This is usually a good option for people who have time on their hands and a good knowledge of the real estate market.
- Consult online auctions.
Found something you like and got a viewing planned? Hooray! Here are some important points to help you make the most of it and decide if this might actually be your future home:
- If possible, before the viewing, ask for information on the context of the sale. Has the property been on the market for a long time? Are the owners in a hurry to sell? Are there a lot of viewings booked? All of this will give you an idea of how much leeway for negotiation you have.
- Check the real estate diagnostics—a kind of technical inspection of a home. They provide valuable information about the condition of the property and possible co-ownership regulations.
- On site, check the condition of the property—roof, walls, ceiling and floors, electrics, plumbing, and heating.
- Find out about the amount of property tax, residence tax, and co-ownership fees for the property.
Our tip: To make sure that the property you’re considering isn’t concealing unpleasant surprises, you might want to call in an architect. Usually charging between €100 and €1,000 for the service, they’ll be able to assess the property’s condition in detail—an investment that can save you a lot of time and money down the road.
Step 5: Make an offer and sign the preliminary sale agreement
Once you’ve fallen in love with an apartment or a house and decided you want it, it’s time to make an offer. It’s up to you to define the amount you want to offer, according to market prices you’ve researched and the condition of the property. If you have a real estate agent supporting you, they can also help you come up with a reasonable figure. It’s this offer—also called a purchase proposal— that will allow you to block the property and start the purchase process.
Once the seller accepts the offer, a notary will gather all the documents necessary for the signing of a pre-contractual agreement between the owner and you. This can be a promise of sale (a contract in which a seller promises to reserve the property at a fixed price to the buyer for a certain period of time) or a preliminary sales agreement (a contract in which the seller and buyer agree to complete the sale). You still have a right of withdrawal for 10 days after this agreement is signed. After this 10-day cooling off period is over, however, if you change your mind and decide to cancel the purchase, you might lose the holding fee paid to the owner of the property.
There’s generally a period of about three months between signing the preliminary sales agreement and the deed of sale—which we’ll discuss in the next step. In this time, you’ll have to get approval for the bank loan, sign the loan offer and wait for the release of the funds to the notary’s account before signing the deed of sale.
Step 6: It’s closing time—sign the deed of sale!
It’s time to finalize the deal. The deed of sale is the legal document that will seal the transfer of ownership from the seller to you and allow you to formally become the property’s owner.
The signing of this deal takes place before a notary, who’s also responsible for drawing up that deed. The process begins with the notary reading the document in full to the seller and the buyer. Then both parties sign the deed, followed by the notary—the whole transaction takes about two hours. Keep in mind that if either of the parties cannot attend, they can appoint a representative using a signed power of attorney.
Once the deed is signed and you’ve paid the price of the property, the seller officially hands over the keys to you. It’s been a long process that requires patience and determination, but you are now officially a homeowner in France—Congratulations!
Now might be a good time to find out how much it costs to remodel your home.
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