France is renowned the world over for its outstanding collection of historic buildings. Châteaux in particular are strategically scattered the length and breadth of the country. And, many are for sale as private homes and hotels.
What does Monument Historique mean?
Simple barns, Cistercian abbeys, ancient fortresses and fairy tale châteaux all have one thing in common; they have the potential for preservation and protection under France’s cultural heritage scheme known as Monument Historique (MH).
Monument Historique means building/object is of French historical importance, either nationally or locally and therefore needs to be preserved.
Buildings may be listed as Classé, for properties considered of national importance. Or Inscrit (ISMH) for properties of regional or local value. This includes smaller châteaux and country houses.
There are currently around 45,000 listed properties in France. Almost half of them are privately owned.
Properties may have just an element of Monument Historique classification. Fr instance a staircase, a fireplace, or garden balustrade etc, whilst the rest of the building is not listed.
Buying a Monument Historique
Jane Berry at Leggett Immobillier says “TV Shows Escape to the Chateau, and especially Escape to the Chateau DIY have had an astonishing effect on the château buying market in France. We see a huge surge in visitors to the Leggett website straight after each show ends. The programmes showing ordinary people buying and doing up extraordinary buildings in France. It really seems to have ignited our sense of romance and dreams… of preserving something important as well as living the good life and sometimes creating a successful business”.
Whilst property sites like Leggett Immobillier Prestige property department typically showcase properties that are at the top of the range, there are some amazing châteaux at incredible prices. The Leggett main property website also has many châteaux for sale including those in need of “doing up” and are typically at lower prices. You can buy a chateau at under £300k – more than you’d pay for a 1-bed flat in London.
“Remember though” advises Jane “although the price may be affordable, there’s the upkeep to consider. So, you need to go into this aware of the maintenance expenses, which will be ongoing”.
Can you use a Monument Historique as a business?
Many château owners feel their castles are too large for use simply as a family home. Jane is often asked if they can be used to create a business? Hotel or wedding venue perhaps?
Sandy Guyonnet, Leggett’s inhouse Notaire explains that all business activities are possible within an historic monument, as long as the requirements/conditions imposed by the Planning Office and the Architecte des Bâtiments de France (ABF) regarding the business (i.e health and safety requirements), are met.
“As the vendor of an historic monument” says Sandy, “you are free to sell the property whenever you wish,. You simply need to inform the Minister of Culture. A DPE (Diagnostic Performance Energy test) is not required for these properties. However all other current diagnostic reports are required for the sale contract.”
Are there advantages to buying a Monument Historique? For instance grants…
There are a number of advantages to buying a property that is listed as a Monument Historique:
- The organisation offers invaluable advice and assistance in the restoration and upkeep of historic properties.
- Under certain conditions these properties can be exempt from Inheritance tax.
- There are a number of grants available for improvement works (subject to certain conditions).
- Costs for various works, insurance, land taxes and certain interest charges on loans are currently deductible, at 50%, from your taxable income.
- However, they become 100% deductible if you open the building to the public for a set number of days a year. And, on the condition that the property is kept for at least 15 years by its owner (being an individual or SCI “de Famille”).
It’s a thriving market says Jane Berry, head of Leggett Immobillier’s Prestige Property Department. Both domestic and international buyers are keen to buy a slice of historic architecture while enjoying the joie de vie for which France is famous.