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Finding a suitable place in France can be exhausting and time-consuming, especially in Paris. The typical research can take between 2 – 3 weeks, but in Paris, it can be even more. Usually, the best time to start looking for a house in France is May to July while September and October are absolutely the worst months because people return from vacation, and students start a new year.
If your intention is to rent a decent apartment at the right price before your arrival in France, well maybe you should reconsider your option. Landlords strongly prefer to meet tenants in person before signing a contract. Moreover, it is not advisable to commit to renting a flat ‘unseen’. In order to help those who are not living in France yet to rent a property, it is recommended to be in touch with an apartment rental service in order to organize your living arrangements before you arrive.
On the other hand, buying a property in France is not a very difficult process per se but requires a lot of paperwork and due diligence, especially if you are a non-resident. Although there are no restrictions for foreigners who want to buy a house, France does not have a ‘Golden Visa’ or another investment scheme for property purchases. This means that non-EU citizen buyers need to go through the same process as any other non-EU citizen to obtain a visa.
Renting in France as a foreigner
Usually, apartments in Paris tend to be very small and high in price. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Paris city center can be around €1068 ($1238) per month, excluding utilities. However, the price for the same place, but outside of the center, can drop to €798 ($925).
In other French cities, you can more or less half your rental bill compared to living in the capital. Renting a one-bed city center apartment will be just over €600 ($695) a month in Bordeaux or Lyon, falling to an even lower price of just over €500 ($579) a month in Nantes, for example. Although most rentals are usually handled by an estate agent, some landlords prefer to not involve estate agents to save money on the fees. The deposit required for the tenants can be close to one month’s rent.
Furnished or unfurnished apartments?
Rental apartments or houses can be both rented furnished or unfurnished. However, the legislation involves different obligations for tenants.
- Unfurnished: the contract must last at least three years after which it is renewed automatically. This option gives you more rights as a tenant especially if the unfurnished place you found is your main residence.
- Furnished: for one-year minimum. Also in this case it is automatically renewed. Tenant rights, in this case, are slightly less protected because furnished houses tend to be used as holiday homes.
Before you start renting your place, you should find a guarantor on the tenancy. Finding someone who could help with this is fundamental since it’s a common request from landlords who prefer to have as a guarantor someone with a French name. Usually, your employer or bank can help you if you are a young professional.
Requirements and documents to rent
If you are looking to rent an apartment or house in France you should be aware of the documents required. For instance, as a professional, you will be asked to provide a copy of your personal documents, proof of your last tax declaration, proof of income which should be three times higher than the rent, and your residence permit.
Rental process and rules
Once you have found something interesting on the market, it is time to book an agent and a visit to your potential future place. This step should be done with a French speaker since it will make the whole process much smoother.
Once in your apartment or house check everything very carefully. In case you are renting a house in the countryside, your water might come from a nearby well. If so, the landlord must get the water analyzed once a year by the DDASS (abbreviation for the Departmental health and social affairs office).
There are different forms of kitchens:
- Cuisine aménagée
- Cuisine équipée
- Cuisine means the room used as a kitchen is without electric units. Unless specified otherwise, the kitchen room will be just an empty room with only a faucet out of the wall
- Cuisine aménagée, in this case, the room is equipped with cupboards but still without electric units
- Cuisine équipée, this type of kitchen has cupboards as well as some electric units
Rental contract and deposit
The maximum amount that a landlord can ask you for a deposit against damage or default in an unfurnished property is two months’ rent. However, there is no legal cap concerning furnished properties.
Buying a property as a foreigner
If you are considering buying a house in France as a foreigner there is good news for you. It has been estimated that around 64% of French people own property. This means that potentially the market offers wide opportunities. The process of purchasing a property is usually very well-regulated and the process becomes binding very quickly. However, you should bear in mind that there are high fees concerning buying a house. Moreover, you should be in contact with an agent who speaks both English and French to make the whole process smoother.
Requirements to buy a property in France
Foreigners can buy properties in France with no restrictions. However, as a non-resident, you might experience the purchasing process as more difficult. In other words, you will be subjected to extra paperwork. An estate agent can help you deal with the French bureaucracy more efficient and to speed up all the necessary steps. Nonetheless, even in this case, it is highly recommended to read carefully about what taxes you need to pay and what type of visa is required to own, in order to live in your new French property once you bought it.
House prices in France
Prices for property vary significantly across the country. However, it has been estimated that the real estate market will experience a +3.5% increase due to Covid, as the French economy has started to recover from the pandemic.
Average house prices in the largest cities in France located in the city center (calculated per sq meter):
- Paris: €13.852 ($16.049)
- Nice: € 6.325 ($ 7.328)
- Lyon: € 5.100 ($ 5908)
- Marseille: € 3.200 ($ 3707)
Get a mortgage in France
In general, a buyer is eligible to borrow up to 70–80% of a property’s value. However, it is your income that determines how much you can borrow for a mortgage. Furthermore, if your credits are 33% greater than your household income French banks will not be able to further credit you.
It’s always a good idea to get an overall understanding of the different fees that might be involved in a mortgage agreement. For example, notary fees are mostly fixed by law.
Process and steps to buy a house in France
Once you have found your desired french property it becomes crucial to make an offer to the agent as soon as possible. After this first step, the agent will be in contact with the vendor on your behalf and agree on the price that you have set. Until the pre-contract is signed, you will not be bound to any obligation.
The next step is to sign the ‘Compromis de Vente’. In this phase, the contract is signed by both the vendor and purchaser to seal the deal and outline the French property-purchase process.
Shortly after signing the compromis you will be required to pay a deposit to the Notaire and finally, you can sign the Final Contract.
It takes between 6 to 12 weeks to complete all the necessary paperwork for a property purchase.
Guide to additional expenses when buying a home in France
Additional expenses can be between 10 and 15% of the price of the house, in addition to the purchase. These are:
- 1% origination/arrangement fee
- Notary fees, which are fixed by law for the most part, and can be between 6–8% for used property, or 3–5% for properties for a new-build/ off-plan
- A 10% deposit to secure your desired property
Utility companies: Electricity and gas
The price of electricity is relatively low in France compared to the rest of the EU, and this is in part because the country has a developed nuclear power network. For gas and propane, you will find that prices are fairly similar to elsewhere in the EU.
Some of these companies are:
- TotalEnergies (electricity & gas)
- Planete OUI (electricity)
- EDF (electricity)
- Happ-e (gas)
- ENGIE (gas)
The level of water charges in France varies by the municipality as the cost of running the service will depend on many factors. Whilst water and sewerage charges in France remain modest, the costs have risen more noticeably in recent years.
Some water companies:
- EAU de Paris
- The SIAAP
What you need to know
- The provision of the water and drainage service is provided through the local councils
- When you have completed your house purchase you should visit the offices of the local Syndicat, which are normally located in the mairie. Many can also be contacted online.
- Your water supply is metered, so your bill comprises a fixed standing charge (abonnement) and a variable consumption charge.
- Testing of the drinking water supply that takes place in France indicates that there is almost 100% compliance with EU standards.