Before You Buy Real Estate in France: Key things to know about French Property law
Some 330,000 Britons live in France, according to a 2014 EUobserver article, and it looks as if more may be purchasing property there soon.
Why France is attractive to investors
Even with a possible Brexit looming, the French real estate market is attractive. There are four times as many properties for sale in France as in Britain, making it more of a buyer’s market. And a recent post in the UK property guide Abode 2 noted that the fall in property prices came at the same time the “GBP/EUR exchange rate hit a seven-year high.”
If you’re thinking of investing in property in France, whether as a second home (with or without a gîte business) or purely as an investment, you’ll need advice from real estate experts. We’ve gathered 14 agencies and law firms in the UK that specialise in French property plus a few helpful resources to start you on your journey.
And when you are ready to buy, CurrencyFair will always be available to offer you the best available rates and lowest fees when you need to convert GBP to EUR.
14 UK Experts on French Law and Property
Real Estate Agents and Law Firms
A House in Normandy/Brittany
Micki and Chris Slade started their real estate business after buying a property in Brittany in 1999, and now they have two sites: A House in Normandy and A House in Brittany. From wherever they happen to be, Worthing in West Sussex or Brittany, they help fellow Britons find their own bit of northern France.
The French property specialist Sifex is a consulting company in London with 25 years experience finding investors the best property available in France. The Sifex team prides itself on providing a wide selection of possibilities that meet their clients’ requirements, informing their clients of all features, including those that might be deemed negative or nuisances.
Founded by Patrick Joseph 2004 upon his return from living in France for more than two decades, My-French-House is a family-run real estate business that helps house hunters find and buy French property. Details on the more than 4,500 listings are in English, and Joseph’s network of agents throughout France are bilingual and highly experienced.
Heslop & Platt
From offices in Leeds, Barbara Heslop and her team of specialists in French law, some of whom are French nationals, are more than able to provide advice on everything French: from inheritance law and estate planning to property law and litigation. Whether you’re purchasing or selling residential property, or simply wish to complete a transfer of ownership or power of attorney, the solicitors and paralegals at Heslop & Platt can help.
Based in Oxford, La Résidence has been helping Britons purchase real estate in France for three decades. In addition to advising on everything from which region is more budget friendly to finding a selection of suitable properties, founder Stephen Hilton and his bilingual team post articles of interest to investors, such as the latest about how a Brexit might affect British home owners in France.
CurrencyFair spoke to experts and insiders on their tips for this guide to investing in France and buying a French property.
Slater and Gordon
Founded in 1920, Slater and Gordon is one of the largest law firms in the UK. Their international property department is composed of lawyers such as Lindsay Kinnealy in the Manchester office, who leads her multilingual team and specialises principally in matters regarding French property. Her advice ranges from the real estate purchase itself to French wills and succession planning, with bilingual documentation part of the service offered.
Managing director Sharon Evans says the aim of Clé France is to provide the support and advice needed to make a purchaser’s search and purchase of French property as free of stress and enjoyable as possible. The property consultancy is a bilingual service that works in partnership with French estate agents, and its website includes a blog with informative posts including a look at what the Brexit might mean to UK citizens who own real estate in France.
The London-based law firm of Russell-Cooke has a French law and property team which knows both the French and legal systems. The team helps clients purchase and sell properties in France, from the initial contract through to tax advice. In fact, the team has created a resource site at French Property Law for British clients who either have French property or are interested in purchasing.
The Tees France legal team is ready to assist in all your French property transactions as well as French inheritance and succession matters. Led by Hervé Blatry, who is a member of the Paris Bar and is registered with the Law Society as a European lawyer, Tees France can help with everything from buying or renting property in France to general information about living and working there.
With several offices in Eastern England, the law firm of Ashton KCJ is full-service solicitors operating throughout East Anglia and the UK. Its French legal service division will help you with legal issues and contracts arising from the purchase of property in France, including French inheritance tax and other succession issues. The head of French legal services is Ashton KCJ partner Matthew Cameron, who works out of the Bury St Edmunds office.
For international legal advice — whether regarding the purchase of property abroad or some aspect of living in another country — the solicitors at Stone King can help. The range of services the law firm offers also includes inheritance law, matters related to offshore trusts and succession planning.
Founded in 2003 by Roman Carel and Nicholas Leach, Athena Advisers has has since grown into an international property sales network and advisory. It specialises in new builds and refurbished properties, serving second-home buyers and private wealth clients.
While the firm’s focus on property investments is no longer confined to Europe, its third partner, Camille Letuve, knows France well. She has advised property developers regarding locations in the French Alps, Paris and in the south of France specifically.
The London office of Knight Frank’s international residential department can help clients find real estate for sale throughout France, whether the property is to be rented out, occupied by the owner or developed by an investor. In addition to consultancy, Knight Frank’s services include property valuations and management.
Tim Swannie, director of the luxury property search company Home Hunts, believes that France will see many British buyers over the next year, citing low-interest rates for French mortgages and a favorable exchange rate.
On the Home Hunts blog, Swannie says that while he expects June’s EU referendum to have an unsettling effect on some British clients, so far the impact has been minimal. « The pound has lost a little strength compared to last year, » he explains, « but it is still comparatively high if you look at it over the past five-to-six years, so British buyers can really make the most of their budgets at the moment. »
Paris Property Group
Paris Property Group are a real estate firm assisting international clients with buying and selling property in Paris. They offer full services including sourcing properties of exceptional quality and investment value, negotiating skillfully, and connecting clients to top-quality legal, financial, architectural, design and property management services in Paris. Their blog, This Paris Life, is also a fantastic resource.
Rightmove’s France Buying Guide
Rightmove, an overseas property listing site, has a section of country guides. France is right at the top, and includes the France Buying Guide. In exchange for some information and your email address, you can download a comprehensive guide that walks you through the research stage right to settling in.
An online resource with newsletters and print magazine, FrenchEntrée is helpful to any English-speaking person interested in purchasing property in France or thinking about moving there. It has six essential articles for property buyers, including a beginner’s guide, an overview of the steps necessary when buying a house in France, and one with top tips for purchasers.
Planning to invest in property in France? Read the CurrencyFair guide to inheritance laws.