Problems foreigners face to buy a French property


All the foreign buyers who chose topurchase a property in France on their own will tell you that they came across some problems. You must consider these problems prior to the definition of your project. It will allow you to create a clear path to the last step of the legal process. A collaboration with a property finder in France is the best decision you can make as a foreign buyer. His experience and knowledge of the French real estate market liberate you from the problems usually encountered by foreigners. In this chapter, we will detail these problems for you. We will start with the problems occurring during the search for your ideal property. Then, we will focus on problems occurring during the legal acquisition. Finally, we will discuss the problems occurring once you become the owner of your new home.

Problems to find the ideal property in France

problems-buying-property-france-foreignersToo many search channelsWhere to start? That is one of the main problems face by foreigners during their search for a property n France. Maybe you are currently trying to answer this question as a foreign buyer. And we agree this is a very good question to ask! Too many online real estate portals, direct sales between individuals, French real estate agents’ websites. Or even adverts in specialist publications, exhibitions organised by various parties on the marketplace, auctions, direct sales through Notaries. There are too many ways to search for properties. No wonder you are not sure – a guaranteed way to bog your project down right from the beginning! Finding your ideal property in France should be fun. It should not become a time consuming and expensive ordeal!

Our solutionLet us be clear. We can sort it all out for you! In step 2 of our 10-step solution, we explore these different channels for you. We put together all the available real estate offer that match your project! This allows you, right from the start, to have a complete overview of all the properties available matching your requirements. This way, you can start your search on the right foot.

Out-of-date ads on real estate portalsImagine the excitement of seeing a great property for sale online in France that perfectly fits your needs. And at a very attractive price! Now imagine your disappointment when, having contacted the seller, you find out that this property has already been sold. Or even that the seller has changed his mind and no longer wishes to sell the property. Imagine how annoying this would feel if it happened a few times in a row! Unfortunately, some sellers forget or are too lazy to remove their ads once their property is sold. This means that you ultimately never really have access to an up-to-date offer online. All this is a waste of more of your time. It is fortunately one of the problems that you can easily get around with our help.

Our solutionStep 2 again. The properties that we present in our portfolio format are guaranteed to be up-to-date and still available. During our research, we contact the sellers to get an update from them. For example, the property availability or the base price asked by the seller. We also request additional photos. You can be assured that none of the criteria will change again, apart, of course, for the selling price. Indeed, this point can only move in your favor during the negotiations for the property.

Ads very different from realityPut yourself in the seller’s place. It is understandable for sellers to highlight the positive aspects of their properties. Indeed, many of them airbrush photos before putting them online. They obviously fail to show the flaws. In doing so, the sellers automatically increase the number of visits to their properties and increase their chances of selling their properties quicker. Of course, a good number of buyers will be disappointed when they visit the properties. A potential local buyer who has travelled 20 kilometers to view a property may be disappointed. How would you feel if it was you? You probably set aside two full days to visit a property that seemed perfect online. You travelled, spent hours on the plane to visit a property in France. And, eventually, it turns out not to be of any interest!

Our solutionStep 3 and our pre-visits of properties. During the previous step, you selected amongst all the properties available on the market those that interested you most. It is not a problem for us to travel to visit. We make an initial appraisal as we are in France! These pre-visits allow us to evaluate the properties. We also ensure that they meet your needs. In addition, the interactive report that we produce after these visits allow you to have a comprehensive overview of the property. Without having to travel! Additionally, this gives us the opportunity to establish a first face-to-face contact with the seller. So, we can gauge his credibility.

Repeated trips to France to visit propertiesThe interesting ads on the various search channels we previously mentioned will not all appear at the same time. You will probably visit one or two properties each time you travel to France. These repeated trips will lead to weariness as well as to an avoidable waste of time and money. Of course, you could be lucky. You could make a single trip and fall in love with the first property that you visit. But foreigners looking for a property in France travel on average 5 to 6 times to find the ideal property. Far too many trips! Too much money spent needlessly and time wasted. So, we have decided to put an end to this problem.

Our solutionThe previous two steps have given you access to all the properties on the market matching your requirements. You also received a detailed overview of the properties that initially seemed of interest to you. During our step 4, we accompany you for the visits of the properties of real interest to you. We group all the visits in a single trip to France. This stay can last one or several days depending on the number of properties we have to visit. We generally organise between 2 and 4 visits per day. Depending on the distance between each of the properties and their sizes. It also depends on the pace you wish to follow. We organise everything for you. The only thing you have to do is to get to the airport. 96% of our customers find their ideal property in France by making a single trip with us!

Lack of time to visitThis problem is very much linked to the previous one. Visiting properties in France when you are a foreigner requires time. Time you may not have. You need time to organise your trip, time during the actual stay in France, travel time. It is probably difficult to find a slot in your already busy schedule. Even more to visit properties that ultimately end up being disappointing.

Our solutionSteps 3 and 4. Our step 3 refers to the pre-visits that we make on your behalf. It enables you to select the properties that are of real interest to you. Step 4 allows you to group all your visits in one trip to France.

Lack of time to look for propertiesThe search for real estate in France requires a time investment. But, your professional life may probably fill most of your time. The little free time you have left at the weekend is more than likely spent with family. You may not want to spend the little precious free time you have in unsuccessful searches of properties. You may also not want to spend all this time to eventually encounter the problems previously detailed.

Our solutionSteps 2, 3 and 4. Our funnel system allows you to delegate to us the whole of the property search. So you benefit from all the advantages that we have detailed above.

Of course, you may not encounter all these problems when looking for your property in France. At least, we hope that you don’t! And, of course, you can always manage to overcome these problems on your own. Nevertheless, a collaboration with a French property finder like us would give you peace of mind. You will benefit from an access to the whole of the up-to-date French property market on offer matching your project. And, more important, you would limit the loss of time and money during the search process.

We will now turn our attention to the problems foreigners face once they have found their ideal property. They must now buy it by following the French property buying process.

Problems with the French property buying process

The property buying process in France is totally different from that of your country. Thus, many foreigners find themselves stuck in processes that they sometimes do not understand. In addition, French will be the language of all the documents relating to the sale. So their understanding can be tricky. By collaborating with French Property Connection, you will be able to bypass these problems. We will now focus on these major problems encountered by non-residents during the legal acquisition of their property.

negotiation-property-franceDifficulties to negotiateSome foreign buyers face major problems at this stage, because of misunderstandings with the seller due to the language barrier or lack of knowledge of real estate negotiation skills. The price of most of the properties you will see on the French real estate market is overvalued. But, most sellers will be open to negotiations. You need to know how to cleverly negotiate the best possible price while making sure that you do not miss out your property! Few foreign buyers know the buttons to press to bring prices down. Also, the fact that few French sellers are fluent in English makes this a difficult stage for foreign buyers.

Our solutionStep 5 of our 10-step solution. By negotiating with your consent, you will directly benefit from our negotiation skills. You will also benefit from our knowledge of the French real estate market. We obviously respect your budget and your recommendations. Also, we clearly explain the tools that we use to get the seller to review his price. Additionally, we speak the seller’s language. So we do not have any problems with language barrier. We follow a process and relatively conventional negotiation tools that we will detail later.

Null and void offers to purchaseOne of the main problems faced by foreigners through the legal process. The logical continuation of a verbal agreement with the seller on the price of a property in France is the submission of an offer to purchase. But can you write in French? Do you know the elements to include in the offer so that it is legally binding? Rest assured, it is a problem you can easily solve. Simply use our chapter dedicated to the offer to buy. Write this offer in your native language. Then, have it translated by a professional translator to French and you just have to pass it on to the seller!

Our solutionStep 6. First, we take care and include all the necessary elements to make your offer valid. Second, we draw up the offer to purchase for you in English or in your native language. Finallt, we pass it on, in French, to the seller or the real estate agent representing him.

Putting a preliminary sales contract in placeThe preliminary sales contract is used to prepare the transfer of ownership that will be carried out at the Notaire. In other words, every element included in this document will be final. So, once signed, you will not be able to pull back from the deal. Two types of preliminary contracts exist. We will detail them later in our chapter dedicated to this document. Major problem, some French sellers will not hesitate to use the fact that you are foreign. They will indeed consider that you may be unaware of the legal process. Thus, they will put in place a preliminary contract that protects them at your expenses. French will be the language of this document. Many foreign buyers sign the preliminary contract without understanding all its content. They trust the seller or the real estate agent, which can sometimes be dangerous.

Our solutionStep 8. By putting in place this preliminary sales contract with the seller, we maximise the protection of your interests. The preliminary contract will be in French. So, in order that you enjoy maximum peace of mind, we translate this document into your native language. This allows you to closely study it and understand it before you sign and commit yourself to the purchase.

Signing documents in French without understanding their full meaningAs the sale is taking place in France, all the documents (offer to buy, preliminary contract, deed of sale, French property title deed, bank documents) will be drawn up in French. While of course, you can trust some of the sellers or real estate agents, some may take advantage of the fact that you do not speak French.

Our solutionWe provide you with the translation of all the legal documents from French into your native language. You will then be able to study each key document before signing. To sign is legal and binding. It is essential that you know what you are signing!

mortgage-property-franceLooking for funding in FranceIf you wish to apply for finance, please note that this is also available to you in France. Depending on your personal situation, the French financial institutions may be reluctant to offer a mortgage to a foreigner. Additionally, there are many options available on the market for this type of product. It is not always easy for foreign buyers to study them all and find the one that suits them best, whether it be on a cost level or on the specific features of each mortgage offered.

Our solutionStep 9. Although we have a partnership with BNP Paribas International Buyers and propose their financial products designed for foreign buyers, we have access to all the finance solutions available on the market. With the help of our broker partners, we detail the features and the costs so that you can choose the most interesting offer.

Understanding the NotaireAnother issue due to the language barrier. During the signing of the deed of sale, all the parties involved in the transaction will be present. The Notaire will explain the final formalities in French.

Our solutionStep 7. You are under no obligation to choose the seller’s Notaire. You can select your own Notaire. So, depending on your country of origin, we can recommend a Notaire speaking your language. If this is not possible, we will provide live interpretation in English during this final meeting.

These are the problems encountered by foreign buyers when acquiring their property according to the purchase process. Similarly to the previous part, you probably will not encounter all of these problems. On the other hand, the translations we provide to you for all the documents are a big advantage. Indeed, they give you peace of mind before you commit. By collaborating with us, you can make sure that you do not make any mistake when setting up the documents. You also free yourself from any misunderstanding related to the language barrier. In addition, you will be assured that you will not face any discrepancies and that you will acquire your property according to the legislation in force.

Problems arising once the transaction is complete

Unfortunately, even once they have become owners of their property in France, foreign buyers can encounter problems. In all honesty, at this point, most of these problems are minor. You can quickly find a solution. Our support goes 6 years beyond the signature of the deed of sale at the Notaire. So, you still benefit from our assistance should you encounter one of these post-transaction problems.

Hidden defectsThe dreaded problem. Clearly the worst problem associated with a real estate transaction in France. A hidden defect is a non-apparent defect pre-existing the sale that you only discover later. To be considered as hidden, the defect must clearly hinder the full use of the property. And you have to prove that the seller was aware of it and that he voluntarily hid it from you. Not so easy! The solution is then to lodge a legal action against the seller. Thanks to this legal action, you will be able to assert your rights. You will be able to claim a full refund of the price you paid for the property or will get financial compensation to undertake the needed works. These actions must be carefully prepared to increase the likelihood that the judge will agree with you.

Our solutionWe accompany you step by step to assert your rights until successful. To make thing easier for you, we contact lawyers that speak your native language and who handle this type of litigation. Feel free to read the chapter of this guide dedicated to hidden defects. There you will find more information about this problem.

Setting up the utilities contracts required for the proper running of the propertyThe language barrier will once again be a stumbling block. This is one of the problems foreign buyers encounter when buying a property in France. Between the fact that you do not speak French and the large choice of offers on the market, it is difficult for you to choose and put in place the contracts best suited to your needs.

Our solutionWe collect the offers available on the market. Then, we send you a comparison in your language between each supplier for each category (insurance, electricity, etc). This allows you to quickly select the offers that best fit your needs. We also assist you with all the necessary procedures to set up the various contracts and we definitely help you settle in your new property.

Undertaking work or renovationsForeign and French buyers alike may want to modify certain aspects of the property they have just purchased. Or even carry out major renovations. It may prove more difficult for foreign owners to clearly express their wishes and get quotes from craftsmen or construction companies. Moreover, distance makes the supervision of the quality of the work difficult.

Our solutionFirst, we provide you with different quotes from professionals likely to respond to your request. Then, we act as an intermediary between the French professionals and yourself to avoid any misunderstanding.

These are the few problems that can arise once you have bought your property in France. Apart from hidden defects, which are an issue that can unfortunately lead to legal proceedings against the seller, resolving the other problems is easy.

Have you encountered problems when trying to purchase a property in France? Feel free to share your experience via the comment box below! Your feedback will certainly be useful to other foreign buyers, so they can avoid the problems you faced. Feel free to also ask us any question on the contents of this chapter. We will be delighted to assist you!

About the author

Samir Grattery is the creator of French Property Connection. Holder of a Master in Property Law from the University of Sorbonne in Paris, Samir first worked as an estate agent. He was then working on behalf of sellers and defended their interests. He then decided to solely collaborate with buyers. Working as a property finder in Paris, he accompanied non-residents throughout their purchase project and protected their interests against sellers.

In 2015, after moving to the United Kingdom, he created French Property Connection to enable non-residents wishing to buy a property in France to simplify their purchase process, particularly by avoiding the pitfalls and problems usually faced by foreign buyers.

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Comment or ask us something about problems you may encounter in France

  1. Ahmed says:

    Great job! Keep writing!

  2. Tina says:

    Brilliant post, very helpful! Thanks