Buying Property in France as a Foreigner: 2024 Guide

France enchants with its unparalleled blend of refined culture, diverse landscapes, and profound historical depth, positioning itself as a top choice for real estate investors and those wishing to make it their new home. This guide is designed to offer an extensive look into the journey, advantages, and important aspects to consider when purchasing property in France as a foreigner.

What is France like?

France is a member of the European Union, being one of its founding countries, and is also a part of the Eurozone.

It is the third-largest country in Europe and showcases some of the most varied and scenic landscapes the continent has to offer.

The nation's territories encompass:

  • The mainland, often referred to as Metropolitan France;
  • The island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea;
  • Numerous overseas departments and territories, including regions in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and South America.

France is organized into 18 administrative regions — 13 metropolitan (on the European continent) and 5 overseas. This structure highlights the country's commitment to integrating its diverse territories into one unified nation.

With a population exceeding 67 million people as of 2024, France's blend of historical depth, cultural richness, and geographic diversity makes it a captivating choice for investors, residents, and visitors from around the globe.

Why invest in France?

Investing in France is a choice that combines strategic advantage with lifestyle appeal.

With its varied landscapes from the cosmopolitan streets of Paris to the sun-drenched Riviera and the serene countryside of Provence, France provides a wide range of investment opportunities in one of the world's most sought-after property markets.

The market is known for its resilience and long-term value retention. Despite economic fluctuations, the demand for property, especially in prime locations, remains high. This stability is a significant draw for investors looking for secure and profitable opportunities.

France offers attractive tax incentives for real estate investors, including potential tax benefits for rental income and capital gains, as well as wealth tax exemptions under certain conditions.

Certain regions in France, particularly major cities and tourist hotspots, offer high rental yields due to the constant demand from tourists, expatriates, and locals.

Investing in French real estate is also a lifestyle choice. Owners can enjoy France’s renowned culture, gastronomy, healthcare system, and education, whether as a part-time residence or for holiday purposes.

Last but not least, France's legal system offers strong protection for property owners, with clear regulations on property rights, transactions, and rental agreements. This legal framework ensures that investments are secure and disputes can be resolved fairly.

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What are the current market trends in France for 2024?

In 2024, the French real estate market demonstrates resilience with growth in several regions. Despite global economic uncertainties, France's property market remains attractive due to its stability and the enduring appeal of its lifestyle and culture.

The residential real estate market in France has shown resilience, with detached home sales experiencing significant growth despite the pandemic. There's a notable increase in demand for single-detached homes, with more than 75% of people in France dreaming of living in a detached house with a garden. This has contributed to an increase in the average price for detached homes (source: Mordor Intelligence).

Sustainability is becoming a key factor in property investment decisions, with a heightened interest in energy-efficient and eco-friendly buildings. This trend reflects a broader societal move towards environmental responsibility, making such properties more appealing to a segment of the market that prioritizes green living and energy savings.

Average cost of buying property in France

The French property market in 2024 shows varied pricing across its regions, influenced by the unique characteristics and appeal of each locality to both local and international buyers.

City / AreaCost in EUR per m²Equivalent in NZD per m²
Paris€11,000NZ$17,160
Lyon€4,500NZ$7,020
Marseille€3,500NZ$5,460
Nice€4,250NZ$6,630
Bordeaux€4,000NZ$6,240

These prices reflect the current market landscape, but it's important to note that property costs in France can fluctuate greatly depending on specific location, property features, and the overall market dynamics.

You can easily track the latest trends and price evolutions on our dedicated page:

Can New Zealanders easily purchase property in France?

Yes, New Zealanders can indeed purchase property in France and the process for doing so is the same as for EU nationals and French citizens.

However, buying property does not automatically grant residency rights. For non-EU nationals looking to reside in France, a common path is obtaining a long-stay visa, which can then be converted into a residence permit.

Owning property in France can support your visa or residence application by demonstrating ties to the country, but you must also meet other requirements, such as proving sufficient financial means and having comprehensive health insurance coverage.

The French government has stated that there are no restrictions specifically aimed at non-EU nationals purchasing property in France, emphasizing that the EU has left the regulation of property ownership to individual member states.

Despite some local concerns in areas like Brittany and Provence Cote d’Azur about foreign ownership driving up prices, the vast majority of second homes in France are owned by French nationals. The government also employs measures to moderate price increases, such as taxes on vacant homes and incentives for new housebuilding.

What are the popular regions and areas to buy property in France?

France's rich geographical diversity and cultural heritage mean that you can choose from a wide array of regions and areas, each offering its own unique appeal and lifestyle.

Popular regions for investment and living

  • Paris: As the capital city of France, Paris offers a diverse real estate market with high demand for both residential and commercial properties. It is a global center for finance, culture, fashion, and tourism, making it an attractive destination for investors seeking premium real estate opportunities.
  • French Riviera (Côte d'Azur): Known for its glamorous resorts, beautiful coastline, and favorable climate, the French Riviera is a hotspot for luxury real estate investment. Cities like Nice, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez attract affluent buyers seeking waterfront properties, upscale villas, and exclusive amenities.
  • Provence: Renowned for its picturesque landscapes, charming villages, and rich cultural heritage, Provence offers a desirable lifestyle for both residents and investors. The region's vineyards, olive groves, and historic properties appeal to those seeking a tranquil yet sophisticated ambiance.
  • Bordeaux: As one of the world's major wine capitals, Bordeaux attracts investors interested in vineyard estates and wine-producing properties. The city itself is also undergoing revitalization, with growing demand for residential and commercial real estate driven by its vibrant economy and cultural scene.
  • Lyon: With its dynamic economy, renowned gastronomy, and UNESCO World Heritage sites, Lyon is a thriving metropolitan area attracting investors interested in both residential and commercial properties. Its strategic location in central France also positions it as a transportation hub and business center.
  • Alps and Pyrenees: The mountain regions of the Alps and Pyrenees offer opportunities for real estate investment, particularly in ski resorts and vacation homes. Properties in popular ski destinations like Chamonix, Courchevel, and Megève appeal to winter sports enthusiasts and holidaymakers.
  • Normandy: Known for its historic architecture, scenic coastline, and culinary delights, Normandy offers a mix of residential and commercial real estate opportunities. Coastal towns like Deauville and Honfleur attract tourists and second-home buyers seeking seaside retreats.
  • Aquitaine: Located in southwestern France, Aquitaine encompasses diverse landscapes ranging from coastal areas to wine country. Cities like Biarritz and Bayonne offer upscale real estate options, while the surrounding countryside appeals to buyers seeking rural properties and vineyard estates.

What is the step-by-step process for buying property in France?

1. Open a French bank account

While not mandatory, having a French bank account facilitates transactions and regular payments in France. Opening one might require a French address, and banks have varying requirements for non-residents.

2. Start searching for properties

Explore online listings on Properstar to find properties for sale in your area of interest. You can leverage our advanced filters and even draw your preferred area on the map.

Consider hiring a real estate agent to gain better insights into the market and assistance in finding properties that meet your criteria and budget.

3. Find the right real estate agent

The right real estate agent can provide insights into the French market, assist in finding properties that meet your criteria, and navigate the negotiation process.

Here's how to ensure you pick the best professional for your needs:

  • Local expertise: Look for agents with a deep understanding of the area you're interested in. They should be knowledgeable about local property trends, prices, and the unique aspects of the community.
  • Language skills: If you're not fluent in French, finding an agent who can communicate effectively in your language is essential. They'll act as your liaison with sellers, lawyers, and other parties involved in the process.
  • Experience and credentials: Check the agent's experience and qualifications. They should have a solid track record of assisting foreign buyers and be registered with a recognized real estate association in France.

You can utilize Properstar's agent search feature to find reputable local real estate agents. Our platform offers access to a wide network of professionals vetted for their expertise and reliability, making it easier to find someone who meets your specific needs.

Find an agent

4. Make an offer

Initially, you'll need to make an offer through the selling agent. It's crucial to account for all related fees, such as agent's and notaire's fees, before making your offer. Unlike in some countries, lowball offers can be poorly received in France, so consult with your agent on a reasonable offer.

5. Sign the Compromis de Vente

Once your offer is accepted, you'll proceed to sign the "Compromis de Vente", a preliminary contract with a notaire (a type of French lawyer specializing in property law). This contract may include conditions (clauses suspensives) that allow you to back out if certain criteria aren't met, such as failing to secure a mortgage.

6. Pay the deposit

After signing, you have a 10-day cooling-off period. After this, the contract becomes binding, and you're required to pay a deposit, typically 10% of the purchase price.

7. Build and diagnostic surveys

Though not always common in France, you can opt for building surveys or diagnostics on the property for issues like termites, lead, and asbestos. These are essential for ensuring the property's condition and are usually managed by the notaire.

8. Decide on inheritance provisions

French law determines how your property will be inherited. It's advisable to get legal advice on how to manage your property's inheritance, as this can affect your family in the future.

9. Transfer the payment and sign the acte de vente

Before the final purchase, ensure the remaining balance is transferred to the notaire's account. The final step is the signing of the "Acte de Vente", the official sale deed, at the notaire's office. This finalizes the purchase, transferring the property ownership to you.

10. Pay taxes and fees

Taxes for new properties (Vente de l'état futur d'achèvement - VEFA)

TaxPercentage
VAT (TVA)20% of the purchase price
Notary fees (reduced rate)Around 2-3% of the purchase price

Taxes for resale properties

TaxPercentage
Transfer Tax (Droits de mutation)Around 5.8% to 6% of the purchase price in most departments

Additional costs

TaxPercentage
Notary fees (existing properties)Around 7-8% of the purchase price, including transfer taxe
Land Registry feesIncluded in notary fees
Legal feesVaries, often around 1% of the purchase price

Some valuable resources for official information include:

Key resources

French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs

Service de Publicité Foncière (Land Registry in France)

  • Purpose: Responsible for the registration of property titles and real estate transactions, crucial for verifying the legal status of a property.
  • Access: Information can be accessed through local "Service de publicité foncière" offices.

Direction Générale des Finances Publiques (DGFiP)

  • Purpose: Provides detailed information on taxes related to property transactions in France.
  • Website: DGFiP

Conseil Supérieur du Notariat

  • Purpose: Offers insights into the property buying process and the role of notaries in France.
  • Website: Notaires de France

How can one get a mortgage in France?

Getting a mortgage in France as a foreigner involves several considerations, from the type of mortgage you're seeking to understanding the requirements and restrictions placed by French lenders.

Types of mortgages available in France

  • Fixed-rate mortgages: These are the most common, offering repayment terms between six to 25 years, with 20 years being typical. Fixed rates provide payment stability but might be set at a higher rate than variable options.
  • Variable-rate mortgages: Rates are tied to the Euribor rates plus a margin, offering less predictability over the long term but potentially lower rates initially.
  • Interest-only mortgages: Suitable for investors, allowing you to pay only the interest for a set period. However, these can be harder to secure for foreign buyers.
  • Capped-rate mortgages: A newer option that combines the features of fixed and variable rates, with a cap on how high your interest rate can go.

Eligibility and borrowing limits

Foreign buyers can generally borrow up to 70-80% of a property's value, though this is influenced by your income and overall debt. Your total monthly liabilities, including the mortgage, should not exceed 35% of your gross monthly household income. French banks typically require borrowers to have a deposit of 20-30% of the property's purchase price.

Application process

  • Determine affordability: Start by understanding how much you can afford and consider getting a non-binding 'Approval in Principle' to understand your borrowing capacity.
  • Gather required documents: This includes passport copies, proof of income, bank statements, and potentially additional documents if you're self-employed or planning renovations.
  • Select a mortgage: Consider consulting multiple lenders or a mortgage broker to find the best rate. The application process can take anywhere from a few weeks to three or four months, depending on the complexity of your situation and how quickly you provide required documentation.

Additional considerations

  • Life insurance: Often mandatory for supporting your loan application.
  • Notary and origination fees: Be prepared for additional costs, which can include notary fees and a mortgage arrangement fee, potentially adding 10-15% to the overall cost of purchasing a property.
  • Specialist brokers: It might be beneficial to work with a mortgage broker who specializes in assisting foreign buyers. They can navigate the complexities of the French mortgage process, including language and cultural barriers, to find the best deal for you.

What are the pitfalls of buying property in France?

Buying property in France, while often seen as a romantic venture with many long-term benefits, comes with its own set of pitfalls that prospective buyers should carefully consider.

One significant challenge is navigating the complex and often rigid French legal and bureaucratic system, which can be daunting for those not familiar with local laws and practices, especially for non-resident buyers.

Additionally, the language barrier can further complicate transactions and legal processes, making it essential to have reliable translation and legal support.

Another pitfall includes the potentially high costs associated with purchasing property, including notary fees, transfer taxes, and ongoing property taxes, which can add up to a significant amount.

Buyers might also face issues related to property inheritance laws, which are markedly different from those in many other countries, potentially affecting plans for estate distribution.

The maintenance and renovation of older properties, which are common in France, can present unforeseen challenges and expenses, necessitating a thorough inspection and budgeting process before purchase.

Frequently asked questions about property purchases in France

You can choose either to finance your property purchase in France with a French mortgage or through financing from your home country. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks. Financing through a French mortgage might offer lower interest rates and the advantage of keeping the loan in the same currency as the property purchase, thus avoiding currency exchange risk. However, securing a mortgage in France requires navigating the French banking system and might involve more stringent requirements for non-residents.

On the other hand, financing from your home country, especially if you have equity in a property there, might seem simpler, especially with a banking system you're familiar with. Yet, this could expose you to currency fluctuation risks if your income or assets are in another currency than the euro. The choice between these financing options depends on your financial situation, your comfort level with the French banking system, and your risk tolerance regarding currency exchange rates.

Non-EU citizens can buy property in France without significant restrictions. France does not differentiate much between EU and non-EU citizens in terms of the legal right to own property. However, non-EU citizens may find the process of obtaining financing slightly more complicated and might need to meet stricter criteria when applying for a mortgage. Additionally, residency rights are separate from property rights, so owning property in France does not automatically grant you the right to live there long-term. Non-EU buyers may need to apply for a long-stay visa or residency permit if they plan to stay in France for extended periods.

In France, the notaire plays a unique and crucial role in the property purchase process, different from that of solicitors or lawyers in many other countries. The notaire is a public officer appointed by the French Ministry of Justice, tasked with performing acts in the public's interest, with their main role being to ensure the property transaction is legitimate and binding. Unlike solicitors or lawyers who represent one party, the notaire acts on behalf of both the buyer and the seller, as well as the state, ensuring all legal requirements are met and taxes and fees are correctly calculated and paid. The notaire also conducts searches to confirm the property's legal status, checks for any outstanding claims or liens, and records the sale in the official French land registry. Their involvement is mandatory in property transactions in France, providing both parties with legal certainty and protection.

French property inheritance law can significantly impact your purchase, especially in how the property will be distributed upon your death. France has strict rules regarding forced heirship, meaning a portion of your estate (including real estate in France) is reserved by law for certain heirs, typically your children. This can limit your ability to freely bequeath property to anyone you choose, unlike in many common law countries where you can often leave your estate to anyone through a will.

For non-residents, this might present complications, especially if it conflicts with the inheritance laws of their home country. However, the EU Succession Regulation, which came into effect in August 2015, allows non-residents in France to opt for the inheritance law of their nationality to apply to their estate in France, rather than French law. This choice must be explicitly made in a will or similar document. It's crucial for property buyers in France to consider these inheritance law implications and seek legal advice to ensure their estate is distributed according to their wishes.

The deposit is payable when the compromis de vente is signed. It's normally 10%, but can be less; it's paid to the estate agent if the agency has financial guarantee insurance, otherwise to the notaire. If you cannot pay this amount at the moment of signing the initial contract, you will need to agree with the seller on another date. The full price needs to be in the notaire's account by the time the final contract is signed.

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