Buying property in France

According to recent reports around 150,000 British people live full time in France, with something in the region of another 90,000 UK citizens owning a second home there.

As one of our nearest neighbours - blessed with great weather, wine and a more relaxed lifestyle - France might be an obvious place to buy a home. If you’re thinking of buying property in France, read on for all the information you need, including:

  • Can a foreigner buy a property in France?

  • How long can you stay in France if you own property post-Brexit?

  • What are the rules for buying a property in France?

  • Why is property in France so cheap - and how can I get a good deal?

  • Where is the best place to live in France?

Can UK citizens buy property in France after Brexit?

UK citizens can still buy property in France after Brexit. Your nationality doesn’t make any difference to your right to buy a property in France, for yourself, as a holiday let, or as an investment.

However, as the UK is no longer in the EU UK citizens are no longer able to stay indefinitely in the EU without applying for a visa. These days, you’ll be able to stay in France for 90 days in a 180 day period visa free, but for longer stays you’ll need to get permission. If you’re planning on being in France on a temporary basis - but for longer than 90 days, you may need a long term temporary stay visa - Visa de Long Séjour Temporaire. And if you’re moving permanently you’ll probably need to investigate a residence permit - a Carte de Séjour.

When transferring money between the UK and France, specialist transfer providers like Wise (read review) can help you save money through lower transfer fees and better exchange rates compared to banks. For high value purchases - like buying a property - you could cut your costs overall by thousands of pounds. At Exiap we compare providers to help you find the best one for your needs.

What are the requirements to buy a house in France?

There are no legal restrictions based on your nationality, when it comes to buying a property in France. The process is likely to feel familiar if you’ve ever bought a property in the UK, but as always with such a high value purchase, getting the right help in place can make the experience easier, safer, and less stressful. 

Choosing a great estate agent can mean you get all the advice you need about navigating the French property purchase process, so you’ll be off to a good start in your property hunt.

How to buy a home in France step by step

Some of the specifics of the process to buy property in France can vary based on local custom and the value of the property you’re buying. Your estate agent in France will be able to fill you in on any important details you need to be aware of before you get started. 

In most cases the step by step process to buy a home in France is similar - here are the basic steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Set a budget for buying your new French home, and get a mortgage offer in principal if required

  2. Decide on the French city or region where you want to buy a property

  3. Find a local French estate agent - look for agents immobiliers online when you’re choosing - and start to view properties

  4. Choose your perfect French property and make an offer

  5. Once you have agreed a price you’ll need to sign a preliminary contract - usually called a compromis de vente

  6. Pay a deposit - usually 10% of the agreed price

  7. Choose a notaire - a local lawyer to help with the legal aspects of your purchase

  8. Your lawyer will complete due diligence checks including searches and surveys as required 

  9. Sign the sales contract - acte de vente - in front of a notary

  10. Pay the remaining purchase costs, taxes and legal fees

French property prices

The costs of buying a property in France vary enormously. Buying a chic Paris apartment, or indeed a city pad in Marseille, Lyon or Bordeaux, will set you back a huge amount. However, France is a large country, with many more rural areas where house prices are far cheaper than the equivalent regions of the UK. There’s simply more space to build.

When you look at averages between the 2 countries, properties in France are overall cheaper. An average home in France will cost about 160,000 euros - while in the UK you’d pay an equivalent of 230,000 euros for the same place. That’s a difference of 70,000 euros or about 60,000 pounds - which means your money can go quite a bit further in France if you want it to.

Of course, French property prices vary widely between regions and property types - we’ll take a look at some of the best places to buy property in France next.

Best places to buy property in France

The best place to buy property in France will depend on a range of factors, including whether or not you’re looking for a permanent residence, holiday home or investment property.

There are large numbers of Brits already living in France - and tens of thousands more UK citizens who own second properties there - with expat communities spread throughout the country. Interestingly, Brits in France tend to favour rural locations where the cost of buying property is far lower than larger towns and cities.

Popular regions include northerly Brittany, Normandy and areas of the Loire Valley - an easy drive from ferry ports with beautiful local towns and villages. Other large hubs of British expats include in the regions further south surrounding cities like Bordeaux, Bergerac, Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand. Finally, for those who love to ski and get outdoors, locations on the east of France which give easy access to the Alps are also popular.

Cheapest places to buy property in France

In general finding a cheap property in France is far easier in more rural locations - where you’ll also get beautiful countryside and vibrant communities. There’s a good choice to be had, depending on where you’d like to be based - including great cheap coastal properties in France and some cheaper French Alps locations, too. Stick to smaller towns and villages to get the best available deals.

As a few examples to start your search:

  • In Normandy and Brittany average house prices are in the region of 100,000 euros - and in central brittany locations like Callac you’ll find even lower prices

  • Considering the Bordeaux region? Affordable areas still exist around Saint Emilion, or if you’d like to be close to the sea, check out Bay of Arcachon

  • Outdoor lovers flock to the Alps and while prices can be high, you may find a bargain around Strasbourg, Colmar and the wine producing villages within Alsace

Getting a multi-currency account can help you manage your money across different currencies more easily, and save on fees. You can use the account to receive, hold, and transfer different currencies, as well as to spend on a debit card. Wise (read review) and Revolut (read review) are some of the most popular providers.

Is buying a house as an investment in France a good idea?

Get high quality, professional investment advice before investing in French property. It can be a great option for some people - but whether it is right for you depends on your investment timescale and what you’re hoping to achieve. 

There are a couple of key costs to consider if you’re thinking of buying a home in France purely as an investment. Firstly, if you are planning to let out your French property you’ll have to pay tax on rental income, which can vary based on the value of the rent, whether your property is furnished or unfurnished, and whether you're a tax resident in France or not. This may mean you pay around 10% of rental income in tax. Then there is also a capital gains tax of a pretty huge 33% for non EU citizens which you may be liable for upon selling the property. 

If you’re renting your French property it’s also worth knowing that French property law is resolutely pro-tenant. Landlords face restrictions on how often and how much they can increase rent prices.

Make sure you’ve considered all the possible advantages and disadvantages before you buy a property in France as an investment.

What’s the property market like in France?

As with many countries, French property prices fell significantly during the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, before rebounding sharply and then stumbling again a few years later. However, from around 2016 French house prices started to rise again, with significant growth overall in the past few years.

It’s worth noting that the recent changes in the French property prices are very dependent on location. In fact, in 2021 growth was lowest in central France, with even key cities like Paris struggling. Some commentators have suggested that this is as a result of the global pandemic and the high costs of city living causing many people to relocate out of cities into more rural and coastal areas.

How much does it cost to buy property in France?

Here’s a look at average prices per square metre for some major French cities to help build a picture of the costs of buying property in France.

French city

Price per square metre - city centre (GBP)

Price per square metre - outside of city centre (GBP)

Paris

10,685.04

7,722.87

Rennes

3,445.84

2,185.16

Lyon 

5,837.33

4,003.26

Montpellier

4,029.14

3,049.72

  • Data taken from Numbeo.com; correct at time of writing, 17 March 2021

On top of the property cost don’t forget you’ll also need to pay additional fees and taxes at the point of purchase. These can include: 

  • Registration fee of 0.6% - 4.89% of the property value

  • Notary fee of 3% - 10% of the property value (+20% VAT) 

  • Land registry costs of 0.10% of the property value

  • Estate agent fee of 1.5% - 5% of the property value (+20% VAT) 

Financing a property purchase in France

There are a few common ways to finance a property purchase in France:

  • Buy in cash using savings

  • Get a mortgage in France through a bank or broker

  • Get a mortgage or loan in the UK 

  • Refinance your UK property and use the cash to buy in France

Get professional advice to help you decide which option might suit you. If you choose to get a mortgage in France you may even be able to access better deals by engaging a professional financial advisor or mortgage broker who is experienced with dealing with expat and non-resident purchases. That may ultimately mean that you cut your costs. 

Getting a French mortgage

Compared to some countries, French banks are relatively open to the idea of giving mortgages to foreigners and non-residents. However, the chances are that the terms you can access - especially if you’re not planning on moving to France full time - are not as those offered to a French or EU citizen. 

In most cases foreigners need to provide a higher deposit to bring down the loan to value ratio. That can mean you have to find 30% of the value of your property up front to access a mortgage.

Paying property tax in France

Taxes on your French property will include some costs paid at the point of purchase, which we ran through earlier - and some ongoing costs. Ongoing taxes are set at a local level and can include:

  • Housing tax - taxe d´habitation

  • Taxe foncière - which covers building tax - taxe foncière bâtie - and land tax - taxe foncière non bâtie

Usually your tenant will pay these costs if you rent out your place in France - but don’t forget that in this case you’re likely to be liable for tax on the rental income you make. 

How easy is buying property in France for foreigners?

You might be wondering: is it complicated to buy a house in France? The good news is that it’s not such a complex process - however if you’re buying a property in France as a foreigner it’s important to avoid some common pitfalls. Here’s how to avoid some common problems:

  • Make sure you have an adequate budget covering additional costs, taxes, renovation and maintenance of the property

  • Consider getting independent advice before you buy - often the notaire will work for both the buyer and seller, but you can also engage your own advisors as you choose

  • Never send money direct to the sellers - your lawyer can help make sure all payments are processed properly and legally

  • Make sure your lawyer does full due diligence checks and the property has all the documents needed to show it’s been legally built and sold

  • Many Brits buy older properties - make sure you don’t cut corners with your  building survey - construction issues are often expensive to fix

Probably the most important tip of all - get local support and advice to help you navigate the process and make sure everything goes through smoothly!

How to find a French property

Get your search for a perfect home in France off to a good start by browsing websites which aggregate property adverts and have good search functions - some English language options are highlighted below. This can help you get a feel for the likely costs in the locations you’re interested in. 

Once you’ve got a sense of the place and property you’ll be interested in you can then engage a local agent to help you search. You might also be able to find a place through your own network or simply by asking around in the area if you’re already in France.

French property websites

Here are a few popular French property websites to get your search started:

Conclusion

A property in France might be a full time home, a holiday bolt-hole, a rental place or a long term investment. With beautiful countryside, vibrant cities and an easy journey from the UK, it’s not hard to see why France is popular for many British citizens looking to buy a property abroad.

Before you buy your French property invest some time in researching the options, understanding the ins and outs of the property purchase process in France, and getting a great local agent on side. That can make it far easier - and less stressful - to buy your perfect home in France. Good luck - or as the French say, Bonne Chance!

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated 12 April 2022