So, on to property hunting in France. I already have a house hunting page on our website which talks briefly of our property search experience and has links to various property related sites. Most useful (I hope) is a list of questions that we put together as our search progressed. By using these it helped (eventually) to prevent us wasting our time and vendors time viewing properties that were never going to be contenders. That said, I think that we must have viewed well over 20 properties (as you can tell I lost count) during four trips to France in an eight month period. On viewing trips time is precious so you don't want to find yourself standing in a property with an estate agent or vendor thinking "this is not for me!" and trying to figure out how quickly you can leave without causing offence.
The first thing I did, once we decided that we were going to visit France in June 2010, was to start researching the subject of buying property in France online and buying related books and magazines. There are a number useful websites which give a general overview of how the process works and how it differs to buying property in England. I discovered that there was a French Property Exhibition in Harrogate in a few weeks time. These exhibitions are held all over the country throughout the year normally over a weekend. During each exhibition a number of free seminars are given on various useful topics such as the buying process in France; health, pensions and tax; and cost effective foreign currency transfers. Obviously each speaker is trying to sell their services but they are also experts in their fields. Anyway, now that we had an impending trip to start "The Search" as I called it, the sensible thing seemed to be to attend it. Well I say sensible, but we live in Surrey and for those of you geographically challenged, Harrogate is in Yorkshire, a mere 230 miles away! Andy was working the weekend of the show so I decided to drive up on my own, this was too important to miss! I attended every seminar and visited all of the stalls and got lots of useful advice - it was well worth the 460 mile round trip and the cost of a B&B. You can normally find the tickets for free and I highly recommend attending one of these exhibitions if you get a chance.
The main things that you need to be aware of when buying a property in France are that that buyer has to pay the estate agent fees which can range from 4% to 10% of the purchase price. These are normally included in the advertised purchase price and this is denoted by the letters FAI (Frais d’Agence Inclus) but it is always worth checking this with the immobilier. On top of this you have to pay notaires fees or "frais de notaire". The fees are calculated on a sliding scale of 6-8% (depending on the value of the property). Check out the Buying Property in France guide on French-Property.com or my house hunting page for further information.
Next post: we're off to France to view our first properties via the Boulevard Périphérique around Paris - an experience to be avoided at all costs!