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What You Need to Know About Relocate to France

In France, many find it easier to rent rather than buying properties as there are various types of renting options existing all over the country. There are furnished as well as unfurnished apartments available, though unfurnished ones provide a better protection legally and a longer minimum lease period. The rent, like in many places, will depend on the region, city, size of space, etc. Looking for a place to rent should be done around May to July as the holiday season and new semesters thereafter can slow down the process or lessen the options available. While looking for the suitable home, you can stay at one of the houses that have short term rentals of up to 3 months. An advantage about the renting process is that France has strict tenant protection laws that make it almost impossible for landlords to simply evict tenants. The selection process is quite strict so you have to get your documentation (proof of identity, a home or liability insurance certificate, a guarantor in some cases, proof of employment, financial resources, etc.) sorted before going to sign the agreement. Your costs to buy or rent would depend on various factors but you would have to consider a separate budget for utilities like gas, water, electricity and internet services.

Housing

Renting

Foreigners find renting the best option as buying can be quite expensive. Renting is also apt when you are unsure about settling down or plan to stay for a short period of time.

Before signing a rental agreement or lease, it is important to be aware of the rules and regulations for the same.

Average prices

Rent prices depend completely on the area you choose to live in. For example, Paris, being the capital as well as the popular touristic spot, has higher rents than the areas outside it. On an average, the price for a one-bedroom house outside of the city center starts from EUR 350. In Paris, the price for a one-bedroom apartment can even go up to EUR 1000/-.

Process

On the whole, it would take you a few weeks to find a rental apartment for yourself in areas outside the capital. In Paris and other big cities, you would require a few months to sort out long-term rentals as per your requirements.

To speed up the process of finding a house to rent, you could either use the services of a real estate agent or find a suitable agency to help you. They will usually charge a fee but it will help with dealing with the landlord and sorting out the documentation process.

Whether you are searching for a house yourself or hired an agent to help you with it, you should be aware of local pricing, infrastructure and types of houses available. Building a network is a good option as available rentals are mostly communicated through word of mouth much before they are put up on the market list.

It is good to know the basic questions like which étage (floor), number of chambres (rooms), and whether the apartment is meublé (furnished). You can find many options in the classifieds section of local magazines and newspapers, real estate search engines and websites. Be aware of scammers who post fake accommodations.

Types of Houses

Basically, there are two types of houses; furnished and unfurnished.

Usually, a contract for unfurnished apartments has a longer lease period (minimum 3 years) and offers good legal protection to the tenants.

A contract for furnished apartments is usually for one year. They must consist of necessities and housekeeping equipment like a stove, an oven or microwave, a fridge cum freezer, kitchen utensils, tables and chairs, storage shelves, lighting and basic bedroom furniture. In case anything is broken or not working, do contact the landlord to fix the same.

The different types of houses are as follows:

  • Domaine – A property in France with a vineyard attached. These were previously owned by the government.
  • Bastide – Originally, these were walled towns, around a market place where houses were built in a grid style. The walls were made to protect those living there. You can still find bastide type of housing in southern France.
  • Château – These are old castle type housing, some of which are quite small. The upkeep and renovation of this type of housing is quite a huge task and can be a costly affair.
  • Fermette/Ferme – a small farmhouse in the country which resembles the English cottages. They are mostly built with stone.
  • Hôtel Particulier – These are townhouses in France and present in many of the big cities.
  • Longère – These are rural houses with slated and thatched roofs. They could be in the form of barns or one-story houses.
  • Mas These are traditional and rural farmhouses and mostly found in the south of France.
  • Maison à colombages – These are houses made of half-timber with a wooden framework.
  • Maison Bourgeois/Maison de Maître – These are big houses with high ceilings and huge windows and mostly have four large rooms on each floor.
  • Pavilion – A bungalow lightly sitting on the land.
  • Pied-à-terre – Smaller units in an apartment or condominium.
  • Villa d’architecte – These houses are designed by architects in a more modern or contemporary style.

Requirements and Documents

Below is the basic documentation required for any rental accommodation:

  • Passport and visa (copies)
  • Recent pay slips or job contract with salary details
  • Details of a guarantor and their pay slip
  • University letter (if a student)

As mentioned above, you would be required to get someone to stand as your guarantor, usually a French citizen ready to settle your rents in case you cannot. Your guarantor can be your employer or a bank you have an account with. In case you are unable to get a guarantor, it is advisable to get help from an agent so they can help find you a landlord who does not require you to fulfil this condition.

Contract

A rental contract is an agreement between the landlord and the tenant. It is an elaborate list of process and rules indicating responsibilities of both parties. Your lease will auto-renew unless a notice is given by either party with regards to its conclusion but this should be stated in the agreement. In some cases, you may have to take a home insurance in case of disasters like fire, water damage, robbery or explosions, failing which the lease can be terminated.

The contract should also state who is responsible for payment of the various utilities. The landlord is responsible for major repairs while the tenant would be required to pay for minor fixes and regular maintenance.

Sub-letting by paying principle rent to tenant is allowed if approved by landlord.

Deposit

Deposits have to be paid while signing your contract. A month’s rent is usually paid for an unfurnished apartment but there is no limit for a furnished one.

Mostly, foreigners prefer being in escrow as it is a pledged prearrangement which protects the interest of both parties. The payment to either depends on the conditions stated in the contract. The amount should be settled within a month of exit.

Short-Term Rentals

Holiday rentals are another option. You can opt for this short-term rental type while you look for a permanent one. But you will have to move out after 3 months as you cannot extend these agreements, unless stated otherwise.

You can refer to this website for more information on deposits

Hotels

In case you want to avoid landlords and agreements, hotels is a good option for you. Budget hotels on the outskirts of the cities can cost as low as EUR 15/- while star hotels can cost you a minimum of EUR 20/- per night.

Bed and Breakfast

Mostly based in rural areas, chambres d’hôte can be found all over the country. Prices vary depending on the time of year, its location and the quality of the establishment but, per night, on an average it should cost you a minimum of EUR 40/-.

Residence (Apartment) Hotels

Residence Hotels or service apartments make you feel at home while also in a hotel. It is apt for staying for 3 months and less, otherwise it becomes more expensive than traditional rentals. Some places are negotiable so you can try that for an extended period of stay.

BUYING

This section will help if you are planning to buy a property as a non-resident. The French Housing Market Ownership does give one a sense of security but it is still a costly affair (including taxes, costs, etc.) to buy in France. While you are at it, do check out this website to know more about buying a property as a non-resident. Prices vary depending on location and type but here are averages that can help give you a gist of it:

City

Property Type

Price (EUR)

Marseille

4-bedroom house

1,200,000

Paris

2-bedroom apartment

650,000

Lyon

3-bedroom house

450,000

Lyon

2-bedroom apartment

350,000

Marseille

2-bedroom apartment

300,000

Buying the ideal Home Like rentals, there are various ways you can look in case you plan to buy a property in France. There are websites, newspapers, magazines and French realtors who can help you get good prices or help with negotiation. It is advisable to check with the realtor about what exactly he would be taking care of and what his charges (usually 8% of the total cost) are for the same. It is better if the agents are listed on CNAB (Confédération Nationale des Administrateurs de Biens), FNAIM (Fédération de l’Immobilier), SNPI (Premier Syndicat Français de l’Immobilier), or UNPI (Union Nationale de la Propriété Immobilière). Processes and Steps After selection, follow these steps to get an idea of how the process goes:

  • You should be given an updated and detailed report of the property by the seller or his agent. It is advisable to check this document thoroughly.

     

  • Make an offer verbally and sign the agreement if you are in sync with what is mentioned. This document can either be a promesse unilatérale de vente or compromis de vente.

(The promesse unilatérale de vente (unilateral offer to sell)) is a guarantee that is given by the seller that the house cannot be sold to anyone within 3 months. As a buyer, you can withdraw and lose your deposit. This document is handled by a notary but will be valid only once you pay the 10% deposit. It does have a 7 day cooling period when either party can withdraw. The compromis de vente is an agreement to buy and sell. This is the final agreement where neither party can withdraw. The document is valid once you pay the 10% advance deposit though can be withdrawn within 7 days without any penalty.)

3. You would be required to give a detailed plan of how you will be paying for your property. If a mortgage is involved, the same should be mentioned on the document submitted.

 

  • Once you have a date set by the notaire, it would be a good gesture to get a translator while you sign the acte de vente (deed of sale). Afteer paying the taxes and fees, you will be the proud owner of a house in France.

Mortgage in France Mortgage interest rates are quite low. As a foreigner, it will be easier to get money from a bank than if you are a non-resident. While some banks allow a mortgage value of 80%, few have a limit of only 50%. At some banks, non-residents would have to open a bank account with a deposit equal to 2 years of mortgage payments. You would also be asked to get a life insurance policy equal to 120% of your mortgage value. The 3 main tax reliefs are:

  • Deductibility on mortgage interest on rental income.
  • Deductions against French inheritance tax.
  • Relief only to those subject to the French wealth tax.

A tax advisor would be able to provide more details on the above. It would be advisable to hire a reputed French speaking mortgage broker to help you with the banking system, negotiate prices, inform you about tax benefits and assist you with the main mortgage applications. Basically, the process would be as follows:

  • Documentation required would be:
  • Current rental agreement
  • Executed sales agreement
  • Copy of your passport
  • Statement of assets
  • Proof of income (3 months and previous year’s tax returns)
  • Self-employed workers would be required to show a set of audited financials of the past 3 years
  • Bank statements for the last three months and proof of funds to cover the costs of the mortgage and down payment
  • The French bank will send an offre préalable (conditional offer) stating the terms and conditions. You have a total of 30 days to accept and return the signed agreement to the bank.

Additional Information

Before buying a new property, it is advisable to consider all the possible costs of purchasing, including the notary fees, stamp duty, land registration fees, mortgage fees and disbursements. In case of French inheritance tax (in case of inherited property in France), it is recommended to hire professional help to ease the process as it could be quite complicated.

UTILITIES

Many companies offer utilities like gas, electricity and water. Our section will help you on how to go about them in general though you would have to check with the respective company for exact documentation required.

Electricity
Electricity costs are quite low in France compared to the rest of Europe. Documentation required to open an account for electricity are:

  • Identity proof
  • Residence proof
  • Bank account details to auto- pay

Assuming you have the required permission to install meters if required, you can get your electricity in a month. Mostly, people prefer opening an account at Électricité de France (EDF) which is a state-owned supplier of domestic electricity because they have an English speaking helpline. There are other local co-operatives in rural areas too that can help with electricity connections.

It is advisable to carry with you a converter and power adaptor, just in case, so that your electronic devices work well. Voltage and connection types may vary depending on where you stay.

You will get your bill in 2 or 3 months which will include the abonnement (standing charge), units of electricity used and local taxes. You can pay through direct debits, credit cards or mailing them a cheque.

Water

The municipalities or communes are responsible for the water supply and sanitation though one of the 3 main companies (Véolia, Suez or la Saur) will provide the connection depending on the area you live in.

Your certificate of ownership would be required to open an account for water.

You will get your bill once a year and will include sanitation charges, per cubic meter consumption, tap water, sewage services and taxes. In case you have an independent tank, there will be a periodic inspection by the sanitation regulator every four years. This regulator is called Le Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif (SPANC).

Gas
You can check this website for a list of suppliers, depending on your location, gas usage and other requirements. You can get your connection in 2 weeks with the following documentation:

  • Identity proof
  • Address proof
  • Residence proof
  • Contact information (name, e-mail, phone number, address)
  • Previous occupant name
  • French bank account number

Usually, you can choose one of the suppliers of gas (gaz de ville from Gaz Réseau Distribution France (GrDF) or Gaz de France (GDF, part of EDF)) to open an account. Propane is common as it is better for external storage than butane. Both are bottled gas but have different valve systems, so they are not interchangeable. And as many stores carry only one type, it is advisable to keep a spare bottle at all times.

GrDF generally reads the meters every 6 months and responds to technical issues. The gas bill will include the following:

  • Fixed subscription charge varies depending on supplier, consumption, rate, and plan.
  • Consumption charge (kWh) bills you for the amount of gas you consume.
  • State-regulated tariff set by the government changes every month.

In case you get an offer for joint plans, it may be worth the cost.

There are no penalties to cancel as long as you inform your supplier and settle the final bill before leaving the apartment. You can cancel through a phone call, online and sending them a letter with all the details.

Garbage Collection

In the big cities, garbage collection is done daily by the local authorities. They have set regulations on how to dispose different items from your home. In rural areas, you will have to take your garbage to the nearest collection point.

Electronic equipment can either be given back to the electronic shops or taken to the local waste collection center.

Medicines can be disposed at any pharmacy by presenting the following documents:

  • Identity proof
  • Residence proof
  • Car registration documents

INTERNET AND MOBILE PHONES

This section helps with getting a mobile phone, phone number, internet connection and other entertainment services.

Internet

In most countries throughout Europe, access to internet is quite easy. Also, free WiFi is available at hotspots, airports, cafés, hotels and parks. To get internet connection at home, you can choose between optical fiber and ADSL though the former is not available all over France. Internet provides offer packages for internet, television, landline and mobile.

There are plenty of internet providers to choose from and each of them has various plans. Check out this website to get information on updated plans.

Documentation required will be as follows:

  • Full address
  • Contact information (name, email address, and telephone number)
  • Banking information

Phone Number

There are several phone networks to choose from. Nationally, it is Orange but many other providers have various packages that you can benefit from depending on your usage. Some offer combined packages with television channels too. Orange and SFR are the only providers who offer landlines on their own and the documentation is as follows:

  • Proof of address
  • Proof of identity (birth certificate, passport, etc.)
  • Proof of address (recent utilities or tax bill, or rent receipt)

For more information on phone number plans, visit this website

Mobiles services

Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom are the main mobile service providers in France. There are mobile service plans that start from EUR 5/-.

Contract plans are more generous with what they provide and good for 2 or 3 years. Contract-free plans are good if your duration of stay is short. They are known for their freedom, flexibility and price. You would usually get a combination of phone call minutes, data for the internet and text messages.

If you already have a phone, make sure it is unlocked for France as unlocking charges can go up to EUR 100/-.

Documentation required for a mobile service plan would be:

  • Contact information (name and e-mail address)
  • Full address
  • Banking information

To know more on mobile service plans and the providers, visit this website

Television

An mere existence of a television set in a household would cost you a license fee of EUR 125/-. If your television set was bought in France, you will be charged the la redevance audiovisuelle tax along with your housing tax. If it was bought outside of France, you would have to declare ityou’re your local agent failing which you would be fined.

Public television is free and you can choose from any of the stations; TF1, France 2, France 3, France 5, and M6. Cable television is generally purchased along with internet plans and has a wide variety of channels.

For digital television, you would require a decoder from any electronic shop while services can be provided by Télévision Numérique Terrestre (TNT).

While many packages are in French, there are some television/internet packages that offer English channels such as BBC, CNN and other channels.

For more details on television and English channels, visit this website

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