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Buying a home in France can be a complex process. From finding your dream home to relocating to France there are many hurdles to overcome before you can relax and enjoy the lifestyle and beautiful environment that France is renowned for. In Part 1 of this series, Oliver Phillips of PFS France (http://www.propertyforsalefrance.co.uk/) walks you through the process of finding and making an offer on your dream home in France.
Finding your new French property is the first hurdle. Assuming you have an idea what you want, in which location and how much you can afford, the easiest route to searching for properties is often via the Internet using a reputable French property website. The advantages are obvious; a good website will not only offer a large database of properties currently for sale, they will offer multiple photos of the property's exterior, interior and grounds together with comprehensive narrative about the property itself. Also it will often have a search facility through which you can view properties that match your specific criteria, and often offer additional benefits such as email notification of new properties, newsletters and other information to help you in your search. Of course the big advantage is that you can build a shortlist of potential properties without having to visit France, saving you money from the start. Whether you use the Internet or not, when considering a property, make sure you get photos and information before you view the property. You can cut down on wasted trips and expense this way.
When buying a property in France, unlike in the UK, it is often normal for the Buyer to pay all the fees. These comprise the estate agent fee and the notary fee (who perform the conveyance). Fees can be around 15% of the purchase cost of the property, which on a €150,000 purchase represents an additional €22,500 in fees. If you can deal direct with the owner, and not buy through an estate agent, you could save around 6% or €9000 on the same €150,000 property. This is an increasingly popular option and is possible since sellers are not tied in to a single agent. Again you are likely to find properties advertised for sale by owner on a French property website such as PFS France.
If you are looking for good value for money, consider looking for property in areas that you haven't previously visited and are not familiar with. Certain areas command premiums only because they are widely known and popular. You can often get an equivalent property in another region for much less.
You should also consider getting to know the area before you buy. Talk to people who have already purchased their home, holiday in the area, or even rent for a period and meet the neighbours before you finalise your decision. As with any property purchase, your neighbours will be a part of your life once you've bought your new home.
Try to negotiate. Contact a local valuer to get an impartial opinion. This will cost money, but will provide you with a neutral view of the properties value, and possibly a stronger bargaining position so may pay for itself many times over.
Most importantly, consider taking independent legal advice, through another notary or a UK based specialist. The vendor instructs the notary who acts in the sale of the property. They are acting in the conveyance of the title only and not for either side. You would be well advised to appoint a specialist to act specifically in your interest, and finally, just as in the UK get the property inspected by a qualified buildings surveyor. Unexpected bills could take the shine off your dream home very quickly.
Oliver Phillips works for PFS France (http://www.propertyforsalefrance.co.uk/) a business that helps French property owners advertise and sell, and potential buyers find, some of the finest and best cared for traditional French properties available.