Many people get to a stage in life where they think it may be nice to move overseas or have a holiday home in another country. France is a popular location for many people – it’s not too far to travel if it’s a holiday home and if you are thinking of buying property in France it’s not too far away from your family and friends with a wide choice of ferries, flights and even the channel tunnel.
Of course there can be problems if you want to buy a home in France, for example do you speak enough French to be able to converse with people? and are you aware of the different French property law?
When you find a home in France that you like the process involves a “Compromis de Vent” which is the first formal and legally binding stage in the process of buying a property in France. It is basically a written contract of sale agreement which legally binds both the vendor and purchaser of the property. You should also be prepared to pay a 10% deposit of the total agreed for the house (excluding any agents commission) and this will normally be expected to be in the form of cleared funds into the notaires bank account before the document is signed. Remember that this can take several days to arrange with your bank and to get the money transferred in the notaires account.
You should also remember that French inheritance law always applies to French property and your English will or trust does not apply. This rule applies even if your permanent home is in England and you spend only a few weeks in France every year. French law is very different to English law when it comes to inheriting property. The two main problems are that, without careful estate planning, you cannot leave all your French estate to your surviving spouse or unmarried partner if you have children, grandchildren or parents who have ‘entrenched rights’ in your French estate; and you cannot usually exclude those individuals with entrenched rights unless they and their descendants formally renounce their rights to your French estate when you die.
Fortunately, there are specialists in property in France based in the UK (for example La residence) who are able to provide guidance both when you start looking and throughout the whole process of buying a house in France.