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For every client the level of knowledge and experience they have in terms of owning a property in France will vary considerably. Clearly an existing French resident will be au fait with the basics. We have tried to present a guide that will assist you to avoid obvious pitfalls and ensure that moving into your new home is a pleasurable stress free experience.
So you have signed your acte authentique and are the proud owners of a new property in France. So what next?
Meet the neighbours: We would recommend that once you have spent a few days in your new home, it is considered courteous to introduce yourselves to your neighbours, even in a few words of broken French. Depending upon where you live, you should also meet your mayor. The local mayor in small towns can be very influential and the Mairie is usually one of the first place you go should you have any questions about living in France.
Utilities: Your estate agent will be able to help you to change the current utility bills into your name. However, they will need a copy of your RIB (bank details) for your French bank account in order to set up a contract. It is preferable that you are present when the contract is organised as many companies ask specific questions on your predicted usage of electricity, water etc. Most of the companies will be able to set up an on-line account for you to manage your bills at distance if you are using the property as a holiday home and bills can also be sent to an overseas address. EDF also has an English speaking helpline should you need it, from overseas call 0033 562164908/in France phone 05 62 16 49 08.
Telephone/Internet: There are numerous options for obtaining a phone line/internet access in France. The most traditional route is to have an Orange/France Telecom line installed. If this is the route you chose it it best to visit an Orange shop and arrange this in person, you will need to take a RIB (bank details), copy of your passport and a copy of the certificate of ownership that your Notaire will give you upon completion. Orange also have an English speaking helpline, outside of France phone 0033 9 69 36 39 00/in France 09 69 36 39 00 (free from FT landlines). You may decide to go with one of the many companies that provide a satellite service. If you are not at the property for many weeks during the year this may be a cheaper option.
Taxes: There are two types of property taxes in France, tax habitation and tax foncière.
Tax habitation: An annual residence tax imposed on the occupier of a property each year. If the property is your second home, even though you may not physically be resident on 1st January, the tax is still payable, provided the property is capable of occupation. Basically, if your property is furnished then you will pay this tax. If you rent out the property to an annual tenant, then the tenant is liable to pay if they are resident on 1st January. Seasonal rentals do not pay this tax but if you have rented the property for a short time over the Christmas/New year period your tenant can be liable to pay.
Tax foncière: An annual ownership tax imposed, it is payable whether or not the property is actually occupied by them or rented out. The tax is payable by the person who owns the property on 1st January. The tax goes towards the funding of local services by the local, inter-communal and departmental councils. It is calculated by evaluating the notional rent that the property might be expected to achieve in the open market, taking into account the size condition and location of the property. This is then discounted by 50% to take account of running costs, eg repairs, insurance.
Insurance: Your property insurance must be in place on the date of completion. It maybe that your Notaire will ask to see a copy of the policy so take a copy with you. If you are not planning on living in the property full-time you must tell your insurance company that it is intended for use as a holiday home and similarly you must inform them if you are going to use the property for holiday rentals. These factors will effect your premium but generally house insurance in France is very reasonable.
Holiday rentals: After concluding a stress free purchase with Bordeaux & Beyond many of our satisfied buyers have subsequently asked us for recommendations on how and where to rent out their newly purchased property. Similarly, we have been asked for our insight into the best places to stay by our future buyers when they visit the area. With the increasing demand, we have taken the decision to formalise this service and establish an advertising service for seasonal rentals. Your property can be included on our own website, you will be responsible for dealing with any enquiries and the management of the changeover. Please ask your agent for more details.
In addition, if you are looking for a reputable company to entirely manage your holiday rental, our sister company Young Associates would be delighted to assist you. They offer a full management package including bookings, changeover, pool and garden maintenance and will personally welcome your clients to the property. Please consult the aftersales section of our website for more details.
Property maintenance/building works: If you intend to undertake any renovation work in France you are advised to only use French registered artisans who have a 10 year insurance (assurance decennale) for their work. If you are considering more than cosmetic works and do not have prior experience of managing builders (artisans) it would be prudent to employ a management company or an architect. These professionals are used to obtaining planning permission, competitive quotes and working with artisans. Although you may consider them ‘superfluous’ at the outset their professional help and ability to eliminate mistakes and their associated costs can be invaluable.