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Buying Guides >> Property in Switzerland | Property in France

Buying Experts for Luxury Property in the French Alps

A guide to buying property in France

There are no restrictions on EU citizens buying property for sale in the French Alps and the process typically takes 3-4 months. The property purchase becomes binding at a much earlier stage than in the UK.
The information below is an overview of the considerations for buying property in France intended for reference only. It is not legally binding. Alpine Specialist is able to provide more detail on the property purchase process and introduce buyers to any French property advisors required.

Essential facts for buying property in France

Purchase process
To acquire property in France buyers must instruct a French notary (Notaire) who will ensure all legal formalities are dealt with and register the property purchase. The appointed notary also represents the property seller and oversees the property sale and purchase. Buyers may also need advice from a French tax advisor on French tax implications and a French property lawyer on any legal implications. Purchases become binding 7 days after both parties have signed and received a copy of the compromis de vente, which sets out the main terms of the agreement between the buyer and the seller. The buyer can withdraw from the sale at any time during the 7 day 'cooling-off' period. The compromis de vente can contain clauses suspensives which allows the buyer to withdraw from the purchase under certain specified circumstances. The seller can not withdraw from the property sale.

Property type and location
Properties in ski resorts in France fall into two main types: new builds and re-sales.

New build properties in French ski resorts are often sold as leaseback properties. Under this scheme the buyer purchases the property freehold and leases it back immediately to the developer for a defined number of years. The buyer is entitled to use the property during specified weeks each year, and receives a small rent. The buyer can also recover the VAT (or "TVA") on the purchase price, a saving of 19.6%. The only restriction on further sale of the property is that the new purchaser must accept the terms of the lease. The owner cannot amend the interior whilst the ski property is in the leaseback scheme and this is maintained by the developer.

Re-sale apartments are sold by private owners or estate agents. The buyer purchases the property freehold and is free to use, rent, renovate or sell the property.

Property deposit
The deposit amount required depends upon the type of property that the buyer is purchasing. It is usually 10% of the net purchase price and is payable 7 days after signing the compromis de vente. The buyer loses the full amount of the deposit if he later withdraws from the sale. The remainder of the purchase price is payable on the signing of the final contract.

The buyer is not legally required to carry out a survey in France. It is compulsory for the seller to provide the buyer with lead poisoning and asbestos surveys, and he must also provide area measurements according to the type of property and location.

There is no restriction on re-sale, though capital gains tax and VAT may be payable.

French inheritance laws apply to all property purchases in France even if the buyer/owner is resident elsewhere. French inheritance law differs greatly from UK law and it is essential to take legal advice.

VAT of 19.6% is payable on the purchase of a new property being sold for the first time or re-sold within the first 5 years, and is usually included in the purchase price. Local property taxes (taxe d'habitation and taxes foncières) based on the size of the property are payable at a rate set by the région, département and commune.
Rental income must be declared in the country of residency (so a UK resident must declare rental income in the UK) each year. Credit may be claimed for any French tax paid against any liability in your own country.

Mortgage interest rates are reasonably low in France. Typically, French banks will lend up to 80% of the purchase price over 20 years and at an interest rate of around 4%.

Other purchase costs
Property purchase costs include notary fees, which are usually between 2% and 3% of the purchase price for a property that is under 5 years old and subject to VAT. Properties over 5 years old attract notary fees of between 6% and 7%. A purchase tax is also payable when an individual buys a plot of land to build a property for personal use.

Buyers of an apartment in a co-owned building must also contribute to annual running costs of the whole building. Costs differ from property to property and are generally divided up between the owners in proportion to their apartment size. Payable yearly, half-yearly or quarter-yearly they cover outgoings such as administration and expenses, a caretaker, insurance, garden and pathway maintenance, utilities and building maintenance costs.

View guides on Ski Resorts in France