France is unquestionably a beautiful country with many hidden gems to explore, great wines to taste and delicious food to savour. After a relaxing holiday enjoying all the French lifestyle has to offer, it can be very tempting to consider buying a property in France.
Why buy a property in France?
Owning a second home in France is simply a different experience. It’s a home-from-home for trips to Europe and a way to gather friends and family in one place where everyone feels as though they are on holiday. It needn’t cost much to run — it’s easy to rent out the right property and this can more than cover running costs. Internet rental sites now make it much easier and more predictable to let holiday homes and local agents will manage the day-to-day running of it for you.
Where and what to buy?
Location, location, location. As with buying a property anywhere, location is key to making a sound financial investment. Your property will generally hold its value even in a market downturn if it offers something unique and is well situated. Cheap properties often are for a reason!
Look for unique selling points. All-year-round interest, good airport access, a beautiful view, outdoor space in a town centre, a good quality neighbourhood, shops within walking distance, and a building of character will all make your property more desirable.
Don’t compromise on anything that could be a risk to resale.
How do you find the right property?
The internet is a good starting point. SeLoger.com and Explorimmo.com are the leading property sites and can give you a good feel but the sheer volume of properties for sale, French language and typically slow responses from estate agents can make it frustrating. So, when buying from overseas, using a property finder to act as your agent is highly recommended.
Property finders specialise in specific areas of France and know them intimately. They also have access to private sales and are often contacted first when new properties come onto the market. Most importantly, they pre-screen properties for you to make your viewing trip effective and their local knowledge allows them to drive a harder bargain on price.
How do you ensure you get the best price?
The good news is that the French property price index launched last September provides real-time price information. You can access average sale price data per metre square by region, town, neighbourhood and even main streets. But prices still vary depending on location and quality, and starting prices tend to be set very differently, so knowledge of the local market is essential to your negotiation.
Is the purchase process complicated?
Property purchase in France is a regulated, legal process and the steps are well defined. As a first-time buyer you should still take advice from someone with previous experience. Ask for a recommendation for a good, English-speaking notaire to act for you in the transaction and get assistance with translation of the documents if you are not bilingual.
Now is a good time to buy in France — property prices have flattened while French mortgages remain accessible to Australians and are at record lows (and well below Australian rates). It’s a buyer’s market and good deals can be negotiated. Take advice first and remember this is not a short-term investment and is, first of all, a lifestyle choice.