ASK THE EXPERTS
Whether you’re planning your move to France, or are already living out there, our panel of professionals aims to keep you fully informed with the best advice for every eventuality
Our experts answer your questions, including buying a mobile home and long-term rentals
QI’m considering buying a property in France and would like to know what the advantages of buying a mobile home would be over a traditional bricks-and-mortar property? Lucy Hawthorne
AIt all really depends on what it is you are looking for and your reasons for buying. I would always start by saying that a mobile home is never a financial investment as its value won’t increase and make you a big profit like some traditional property can. If that is what you are looking for, a mobile home is not for you.
However, there are many advantages to mobile homes and if you are looking for a fast, easy way to get a slice of the French lifestyle, a mobile home is definitely an option worth thinking about.
Variables to consider include whether to buy a new or used mobile home, a single unit or twin and whether you want to rent or purchase the plot.
Many people are attracted to the instant community that often comes with buying a mobile home and the likeminded people they will inevitably meet at campsite parks where on-site facilities can also be a draw. Mobile homes can also be bought at a fraction of the cost of a house without the hassle of involving estate agents and lawyers.
Maintenance and running costs are another great benefit as mobile homes are very cheap and easy to maintain. Many parks include your water and electricity within the pitch rental fee and if you have a meter and just pay the park directly, there is no dealing with energy suppliers and local government.
There are great options when it comes to what park you want to stay at. If you want a small and quiet retreat you can get a plot on a park for a couple of thousand euros, sometimes less. If you have children or grandchildren, a little more can get you a five-star park with all the fun and activities they could possibly need.
The other great thing is that if you see a park and area you like, you can always go and try it out. Get yourself out to France and hire a mobile home on the style of park you would like and see if it is for you. KELVIN BREMNER
QMy partner and I have decided to buy a house in France and part of our annual trip this summer will be spent viewing properties for sale. We’ve done some preliminary research into the buying process and would like to have a better understanding of the options available in terms of structuring the purchase. What is the difference between en indivision, en tontine and buying through an SCI, and would one be more suitable for us? Jonathan Lister
AA purchase en indivision means that on your death, your share in the property will pass to your relatives, in the absence of a will. French inheritance tax will be payable by each of your heirs and the applicable rate will depend on who inherits. In the absence of children, you can make a will giving your share to whomever you choose, but if you give it to your partner (assuming that you are not in a civil partnership), he/she will be liable for 60% French inheritance tax. If you have children, they will receive part of your share in the property as they are reserved heirs to your estate.
In order to purchase en tontine, a special clause must be inserted in the acte de vente (transfer deed). The tontine cannot be adopted after completion of your purchase. It can, however, be cancelled if both owners agree that it is no longer appropriate to their personal circumstances. The effect of the tontine
is that on the first death, the surviving partner will become the sole owner of the property, to the exclusion of the deceased partner’s children or relatives. The surviving partner must also pay 60% French inheritance tax. While a purchase en indivision can be regarded as the equivalent of a tenancy in common, a purchase en tontine is similar to a joint tenancy. On the second death, the property will pass either to the children or relatives of the surviving partner.
A purchase through an SCI (Société Civile Immobilière) allows you to avoid the French forced heirship rules, provided that you are domiciled in the UK when you die. The SCI will own the property and you will own shares in the company. The shares being moveable assets, they will pass under English law if you are domiciled in England and you will therefore have the freedom to give them to the beneficiaries of your choice in your will. Please note, however, that French inheritance tax will remain payable in France so if you give your shares to your partner, he/she will pay 60% inheritance tax as explained above.
In addition to the above, I would stress that the new EU Succession Regulation that came into effect on 17 August 2015 should be taken into account before deciding which structure is most suitable to you. This would be the topic of another discussion. ANNIE DIGBY
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
QI am a regular reader of Living France and note a number of articles that suggest not buying a property in France initially, but to consider renting. This is something I would like to consider. I understand the minimum period of a French lease is three years, but I also heard that, as a retired person, I would probably have to pay all the rent upfront. Can you please advise. Trish Smith
AIn France it is customary to rent rather than own property, renting from a professional landlord whose business is letting properties to people as their permanent and only place of abode. Their tenure is governed by strict rules so landlords are very careful when taking on a tenant as it is very difficult to evict them for any reason and certainly not between November and March. These secure tenancies are based on terms of three, six or nine years and the properties are let unfurnished. The normal criteria required assume that you are a salaried person with a regular income and even then, a guarantor may be required. Many people think that is the only way they can rent a property in
France. However, there is an alternative, often called ‘long term’ but for our purposes, it covers places to rent for longer than a holiday, though shorter than a permanent let.
You need to find somewhere that advertises properties for seasonal lets, and the majority of these will be offered for let furnished; location saisonnière (one to four months) or location meublée (four to 12 months). They will be up to one year because a longer stay or unfurnished let could, by default, become a standard French tenancy.
With one of these contracts, you will be asked to sign a specific tenancy agreement that states the property is not the tenant’s primary residence. The rent is paid monthly in advance and a deposit is usually required. This usually equates to one month’s rent.
There are not many places to look, though there are websites advertising them as ‘long-term rentals’. Often you’ll find that French estate agencies do not have dedicated letting departments, and when asked about rental property they usually assume you want a three-year lease. It isn’t easy to find a great deal of choice without staying in the area, so perhaps taking a holiday let while you look around might be the answer. ANNE CUNNINGHAM-DAVIS