French con­struc­tion in­dices es­ti­mate ren­o­va­tion costs at €1,750-€2,150/m2

It’s easy to let your heart rule your head when it comes to ro­man­tic ru­ins in France, but if you’re set on buy­ing a ren­o­va­tion, do the sums first, ad­vises ar­chi­tect Nick Adams

French Property News - - News - Nick Adams is an ar­chi­tect who lives and works in France Tel: 0033 (0)6 78 05 48 90 adams­de­

As an ar­chi­tect with nearly 20 years of ren­o­va­tion ex­pe­ri­ence in France, I have an in-depth knowl­edge of many of the is­sues to take into ac­count when tack­ling a project here.

Many peo­ple launch them­selves straight into buy­ing their ‘dream home’ with­out con­sid­er­ing the po­ten­tial down­sides of their choice be­cause they have fallen in love with the prop­erty. My ad­vice is to stand back be­fore mak­ing fi­nal de­ci­sions and think lat­er­ally. There may be a bet­ter way.

On the money

From 2000 to 2007, ru­ral house prices soared. Since 2008, in most ru­ral ar­eas, they have barely in­creased but are not re­duc­ing. So that’s 10 years with no growth. The cur­rent move­ment in the mar­ket ap­pears to be for peo­ple buy­ing for be­tween €50,000 and €150,000 and then ren­o­vat­ing – of­ten with naive and ex­tremely op­ti­mistic ob­jec­tives and bud­gets

To save dis­ap­point­ment and/or fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, con­struc­tion costs and the stress­ful process of build­ing or ren­o­va­tion should be ex­plored fully be­fore buy­ing a prop­erty. Since 2008, the con­struc­tion in­dices which are used dog­mat­i­cally by ar­ti­sans, have gone up in all but a few quar­ters.

A typ­i­cal farm­house ren­o­va­tion, us­ing ar­ti­sans, to in­clude a new roof, services, some struc­tural open­ings, new join­ery, new in­su­la­tion, plas­ter board­ing and dec­o­ra­tion, bath­rooms, kitchen and of­ten re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing or mov­ing a stair­case, would cost (with­out fees but in­clud­ing 10% VAT): - in 2008: €1,450-€1,650/m2 - in 2018: €1,750-€2,150/m2 Th­ese are for an av­er­age spec­i­fi­ca­tion. High spec­i­fi­ca­tions need to be con­sid­ered in­di­vid­u­ally but can dou­ble the cost.

A typ­i­cal solid pool mea­sur­ing 5x10m with elec­tric cover, pump, fence, ter­race and so on could easily cost €40,000, and again, higher spec­i­fi­ca­tions will raise the price sig­nif­i­cantly.

Self-build costs, us­ing the def­i­ni­tion lit­er­ally (i.e. not some­one or­gan­is­ing other work­men), may sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the to­tal price but you need to be aware of cur­rent build­ing reg­u­la­tions.

Th­ese were made more com­pli­cated in 2012 and af­fect many de­ci­sions in­clud­ing ther­mal and seis­mic is­sues, as well as sim­ple tasks like fix­ing plas­ter­board. Post-sale ar­bi­tra­tion is gain­ing mo­men­tum in France and it is es­sen­tial to com­ply with French norms.

New-build costs are sim­i­lar but in­volve ad­di­tional stud­ies. Bud­get ap­prox­i­mately €2,000 per dossier for ther­mal and seis­mic stud­ies. If a ren­o­va­tion in­volves less than an ad­di­tional 30% in­crease in floor area, th­ese stud­ies can be avoided.

A full ar­chi­tec­tural fee for de­sign, ten­der and over­see­ing work would be ap­prox­i­mately 12-14% of the build­ing cost for mid-sized projects (€300,000€500,000), which in­cludes a 10-year pro­fes­sional guar­an­tee. Be care­ful not to use ‘ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign services’, i.e. man­agers, if you want this guar­an­tee and a reg­u­lated pro­fes­sional in­volved.


All the above takes time – say, around six to 12 months to clar­ify ideas, ob­tain quotes and gain per­mits. Ar­ti­san services may in­clude maçon­nerie (stonework), menuis­erie (car­pen­try), cou­ver­ture (roof), ter­rasse­ment (land­scap­ing), plomberie (plumb­ing), chauffage (heat­ing), élec­tric­ité (electrics) and cuisin­iste (kitchen fit­ting). Imag­ine all the dis­cus­sions!

The av­er­age pro­gramme could take 12 months. If it is also a busi­ness then al­low for two years with no in­come from said project (maybe more if it is a self-build).

Old or new?

So, based on the French con­struc­tion in­dices, a 400m2 project would equal around €700,000 to €860,000 plus fees

Con­struc­tion costs and the process of build­ing need to be ex­plored fully be­fore buy­ing a ren­o­va­tion project

plus two years. The para­dox is that you could buy a 400m2 ren­o­vated prop­erty in ru­ral ar­eas for nearer €400,000 with prac­ti­cally no loss of po­ten­tial in­come (as per the case study op­po­site).

Ac­cord­ing to your needs, there may be six months or so of adap­ta­tion works, but ba­si­cally, a ren­o­vated prop­erty in the right lo­ca­tion, meet­ing your brief, could po­ten­tially be bought for less than half the cost of ren­o­vat­ing en­tirely from a cheap wreck, while avoid­ing two years or more of stress, frus­tra­tion and hard work.

Or per­haps you re­ally want a project? If so, please ob­tain a fea­si­bil­ity re­port from an ar­chi­tect reg­is­tered in France be­fore sign­ing. Our pro­fes­sional in­dem­nity is care­fully reg­u­lated by the Or­dre des Ar­chi­tectes.

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