The Crazy Way to Approach Buying a House in France

September 2, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Buying A House

Buying a house in France is a serious business for anyone. Whether you’re selling up lock, stock and barrel and emigrating to France permanently, or you’re lucky enough to be searching for a French holiday home, the expense is still substantial.

So why do we notice so many folks treat buying a house in France with so little thought? It’s not a pair of shoes – you can’t take it back if it doesn’t fit right!

Yet too often we hear the same horrors. Someone who has bought a French house without thinking and is now beginning to find problems. Who are these individuals? They must be doing very well to just travel France buying French property as the fancy takes them.

The mad thing is, nothing could be further from the truth. Often – in fact more often than not – these are couples putting their life savings, their whole future, into their French dream house.

And a alarming number of them haven’t got the first idea. They’ve done very little research, they don’t speak any French and they’ve sought no professional advice.

Then when things go pear-shaped they start moaning about the system, the language, the French, the agent… just about anything and everything is to blame but themselves. They treated buying a house in France like getting a lottery ticket and now they’re complaining because their one-in-a-million gamble didn’t pay off!

Now perhaps you think I’m being a bit extreme. I’m not. I know a family who you would think of as very sensible and cautious who signed an agreement to buy a French property while on vacation. They weren’t even looking for a house when they left England but they fell in love with the house.

What they were unaware of was that by the time they got back to the UK ten days later, getting out of the contract would cost them 12,000 Euros.

I can give you another example of a couple who bought a French property to live in part and turn the rest into gites. They wildly underestimated the renovation costs (because they didn’t ask) and now live in a place that needs a new roof. They can’t finish the work so they’ve only got small pensions to live off. The house is in a bad way so they can’t afford to sell and return to England either.

It’s all very concerning, really. I hear one of these stories about every other month and it’s such a pity. Now I’m not perfect, I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself living over here and renovating an old French property, but fortunately my misjudgements have been quite minor because I’ve invariably checked and double checked the costly things.

Which is, when you strip it all back to basics, all anyone needs to do.

The French property market offers a wealth of opportunities and buying a house in France is neither particularly hard nor particularly complicated. The trouble is that unless you’re French or you’ve owned French property before it IS new to you. There will be things you haven’t met before. There will be things that don’t go quite as expected.

The essential thing is to get a degree of knowledge behind you. Search online, buy a book or two, ask questions – and don’t give up until you’re happy with the answers.

France is a great place to live but it’s not dreamland and miracles don’t happen just because you want them. If you crash around blindly in the French property market you will find trouble. Do your homework wisely and buying a house in France will be a delight – which is what it should be and what I wish for everyone who is looking.

Jeff Seems is an Englishman living in France. He is author of The French Property Buyer’s Guide which is vital reading for anyone thinking of buying a house in France.