This week we invited Followers on our Facebook Page to ask us any questions that they may have, concerning purchasing a property, here in France. This was also posted on our YouTube Channel in case you missed it.
You will also find all the relevant links at the bottom of this page and included in this article.
So without further ado, detailed below are the questions that were posed to Suzanne.
David asked “Can I buy from a distance?”
Yes absolutely. Because of the Pandemic, Notaires had to change the way in which they operated, for example, Power of Attorney and Electronic Signatures. In fact, quite a few of the properties that we sell are never viewed by the purchaser before buying. There are surveyors that can look at the property on their behalf. All our properties have a virtual tour, photos, detailed descriptions and you can also see the exact location by using Google Maps. So, yes, it is absolutely possible and is not unusual to do so. The buyer can be sent all the relevant documents to sign (translated via the Power of Attorney document) without the need to leave their own country/travel within France.
“Can I buy if I am not a resident?”
This is a big question for a lot of people and the simple answer is yes you can. You could always buy a French property without being a resident (pre Brexit). You can buy and use the Schengen Agreement and be here for 90 days out of every 180 days. If you are from America, Australia and Britain you will need to use this rule. If you are an EU citizen eg Dutch, Germany or from another European Country you can come and go as you please. You do not have to be resident to enjoy your property as a holiday home.
“What are the VISA requirements if you are a non-EU national?”
Specifically for our British Clients (and American, Australian etc) you can come over on your 90 days and then you will have to return. By the way, this is for any European Country, so you cannot just come to your French holiday home for 90 days and then onward to, for example, your Spanish holiday home.
You will have to return back to your home country eg United Kingdom for 90 days. You can apply for a long term visitor Visa which will give you 180 days and that does not affect your Schengen entitlement. So, you can actually be here and taylor your stays to when you want, rather than be governed by the 90 day rule. Outside of that you can apply for different Visas. There is a link at the end of this post for you to explore all other options.
We would like to advise that we cannot give any advice on individual circumstances as, which we are sure you can appreciate, everyone’s circumstances are unique to them. In the link below you will see the different types of Visas available – with different conditions such as a working visa for employed/self employed, retired visa or not working for the 1st year whilst you apply for your Carte de Séjour and get all your paperwork together. This will also depend on which country you are leaving from to live in France.
“I’d like to know about the grants and financial aid for improving a house’s insulation or heating – who is eligible, what can be covered, and are there any restrictions on how long you need to stay in a house to avoid financial penalty?”
The main government driven grant system comes under the heading of MA Prime Renov and that has all the renovation grants which has been extended to 2023. For example, insulation works eg roofing, heating systems, windows and creating less pollution. In most cases it does have to be your full-time main residence.
If you are renting a property through the French rental system you can also apply for grants. If you re-sell your property within 10 years (with certain grants such as ANAH) you will have to pay it back. The grants are still there – usually it is done through a Tax Credit system. Do make sure you really do your research on the products being offered to make sure they comply. You will have to use a registered installer, otherwise it won’t be taken into consideration and you will not get your grant. Unfortunately there are some scams around as well so, just be very vigilant before you sign up to anything.
Lynn also asked
“Is there an equivalent of the building survey in France? What sort of tests can you carry out before buying to find out whether there are any major structural problems?”
The french sellers are obliged to give you a package of diagnostics reports when you are buying a property. At which time they will pay for an asbestos test. They’ll look for lead in the paint work, the electrical installation test is covered and any fixed gas installation is looked into as well. And, of course, there is also drainage – individual drainage or a septic tank is required to be inspected. Mains drainage is, in most cases, also required to be inspected.
If you, as a buyer at that time wanted to ask for an Etat Parasitaire, for example, which looks at woodworm and dry rot – anything affecting the wood in your property – you could ask for that and you would have to pay for it. There are also several RCS Chartered English Surveyors over here in this area and, certainly, I could put you in touch with them and they could do a report for you.
“I’m puzzled as to how the equivalent of council tax works in France. Do rules change depending on region and how/where could we find more information on annual tax fees for a holiday home in France?”
It is regional and is decided by the Mairie and some of the areas became regrouped so that Sourdeval, for example, has now six or seven other communes who are reliant on Sourdeval. So what they did, at the time of the amalgamation, they looked at the range of Tax Foncière within that area and they tried to even them out. Some saw a slight reduction, some increased to bring them more onto a level. The Tax Foncière is on the property and land itself. The Tax Habitation is applicable if you are buying a second home but it is now exempt (2023). Occasionally, where there is a shortage of housing in major cities eg Paris there is also another tax which is on second homes.
“Is there a retirement Visa for France?”
Yes there is. It comes under one of the Visas that you can apply for to come over here as a retired person. You need to prove a certain level of income when you come over to make sure that you can sustain your life in France. You also need to have Private Health Cover for the first year. Once you are here, you can then start to apply for the Carte de Séjour which would secure your stay in France.
“What are the rules for purchasing an additional plot (for horses). Does it make a difference if the plot is not adjacent to the original plot? Is there a maximum for private individuals?”
My advice would be to always find a property that has the land that you can buy at the same time as buying the property. It is not unheard of that you can buy land afterwards. It does not matter if it is attached or not attached but the French Farmers here – the SAFER – the rural organisation make sure that the farmers have the first right of pre-emption on land. They are far more likely to intervene and want to buy a parcel of land, than they would be, if it was a house with the land attached. You may well find that it is more difficult than you would think- to buy land separately after purchasing your initial property with a bit of land.
Ideally, look for all of that at the same time and there is no maximum for a private individual. Although there are ‘abondomment’ fees to pay to the MSA which is the rural Agricultural Society if you are exploiting your land whether you are British (any nationality) or French.
Süzz also asked
“Is it possible for you to guide the whole process including the formalities, the purchase, the inspections, the solicitor etc. Are you also a buying agent?”
A buying agent is someone that goes out and looks at other people’s properties and unfortunately I do not do that. I do not have time. I am focused on selling the properties that I have on the market myself. Yes, I do everything from start to finish. It is a proper hand holding service. You have access to the information at all times. You can call and get updates. I deal with the notaire for you and then feed back to you with anything that you need to be doing. You are not left wondering what is happening and we do our best to make sure everything goes through very smoothly for you. In fact, a lot of customers say it is easier than the buyer process in the UK.
We hope you have found this to be useful. You will find below, some of the links we would recommend you use, to further your own research regarding your individual circumstances to facilitate your move to France.