We all love to look at pictures of chateaux and grand mansion houses for sale in France and dream we are the owners with huge gardens and private beaches. The reality though is that the great majority of us simply can’t afford such luxurious properties – the price tag is just as impressive as the home.
There are though, ways to make your money go further and realise your dream of owning a home in France on a budget.
Here are our 5 top tips for finding cheap properties in France:
1. Cheap properties in France
Property prices vary from region to region, department to department, town to town – just like anywhere else. Even expensive areas can offer zones where the properties are more affordable. If you have an area in mind, ask local immobiliers (estate agents) in the area where to look for cheaper properties. The Limousin area in the middle of France is an area of outstanding natural beauty but it is where you’ll find many a cheap property. It is the least populated region in France, villages can be a bit remote and that has attracted a lot of foreigners to buy up fantastic property bargains. Spend time on the internet researching areas where property is cheap, email agents in the area you are interested to buy in and tell them that you’re on the lookout for a cheap property.
2. Make friends with the estate agents
Contact immobiliers and notaires (they conduct the legal work but may also act as an agent for selling property) in the area you are interested in, be clear about your budget and indicate if you are willing to take on a property that needs renovation. Be specific about what sort of renovation you are willing to take on – a makeover is much cheaper than a reconstruction. You’re after a bargain, not more than you bargained for. You may need to factor in the cost of heating, a bathroom or much more and then that bargain renovation may seem less attractive.
3. Cut the costs of house hunting by house sitting
When you’re searching for your property you might consider house sitting in the area instead of renting a gite or hotel. It’s a great way to get to know the local area and the house owners are usually very knowledgeable about properties for sale, the local facilities and the community. You will not only save money by house sitting, you might get some great tips too. Ask the person you are house sitting for if there is a bar where the expats gather so you can go and introduce yourself and find out more about the area and ask if they know of any bargains. We know of a house that sold in Pas de Calais for 5000 Euros in 2013, it undoubtedly needed a lot of work but even with that cost, it was a huge bargain, and was found after a tip off in a bar…
4. Make an offer
Don’t just accept the price that’s advertised, make the seller an offer and be prepared to negotiate. In France, the buyer pays the estate agent fees and they are usually agreed up front with the seller. For instance, a seller may want 100,000 Euros for a property and the estate agent chosen to help sell it will require a fee. In France this ranges from 4% to more than 10%. The estate agent may want 10,000 Euros as the fee for selling the 100,000 Euro property. So the price will be advertised at 110,000 Euros. When you negotiate you may need both the seller and the estate agent to take a cut so don’t hesitate to discuss with the estate agent if he or she will consider a drop in the fee (remember, you are paying it if you are the buyer).
The notaire also charges a fee for the legal work required to buy your property and he collects a property buying tax that is due to the Government. Factor this into the total cost – ask if you are not sure it will be.
Remember that the notaire’s job is not to draw your attention to any problems with the property or to give you advice – their role is to simply draw up the paperwork and deal with the money collection and dispersal.
Have a thorough look at the property. In France it is not common to have a full survey when buying a property but you can have it done independently. Be aware of the property’s “faults” – does it need re-wiring or re-plumbing, does the roof need attention? Use issues as points for negotiation on the price with the seller and the estate agent.
5. Build it yourself
For the daring wannabe home owner in France or those keen to make their mark on their French home, self-build is an option. Estate agents and notaires regularly advertise plots of land for sale. The plots are more expensive if they come with permission to build already granted but a safe option is often best. You will need to submit plans and drawings to an official planning deparment although some plots come with outline planning and drawings. You must obtain permits to build, pick the right home builder, sort out utilities. It can be a great adventure, it can also be very stressful. However, do it right, and you may find you save a packet on the costs.
Five essential tips for buying a house in France
French Estate Agents Terms Explained – a fun look at house buying jargon
Three things you should know about buying a property in France