Buying real estate in France as a foreigner?

We've created a guide to help you avoid pitfalls, save time, and make the best long-term investment possible.

Buying property in France as a foreigner: a full guide

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buying property foreigner France

Everything you need to know is included in our France Property Pack

France, with its beautiful countryside, rich history, and friendly locals, is a popular destination for foreign real estate investors.

However, understanding the legal and regulatory framework of purchasing property in a foreign country can be a complex process.

That's why this guide is here to help! We'll explain how the property market works in France in an easy-to-follow manner, covering all the information you need to know.

Also, for a more in-depth analysis, you can check our property pack for France.

Can you purchase and own a property in France as a foreigner?

If you are American, we have a dedicated blog post regarding the property buying and owning process in France for US citizens.

In France, foreigners have the opportunity to purchase real estate, much like local citizens.

This includes the ability to own both property and land. There are no distinct legal differences between the rights of foreigners and locals in this regard. However, the process and certain requirements can vary slightly based on your nationality.

If you're a citizen of a European Union (EU) country, the process is generally more straightforward. EU citizens face fewer bureaucratic hurdles compared to non-EU citizens, mainly due to the free movement and settlement policies within the EU.

For non-EU citizens, there are no explicit restrictions on buying property, but the process can be more complex. You do not need to be a resident of France to purchase property there.

However, if you plan to live in France for more than a few months a year, you may need to apply for a long-term visa or a residence permit, depending on your nationality.

Regarding visas and permits, buying property in France does not automatically grant you the right to reside there (more on that below). If you intend to live in France, you must follow the standard visa and immigration procedures applicable to your nationality. Owning property can be a favorable point in your application, but it is not a decisive factor.

There is no specific government authorization required solely for the act of buying property as a foreigner.

The purchase process generally involves finding a property, making an offer, signing a pre-sale agreement (compromis de vente), and then signing the final deed of sale (acte de vente) in the presence of a notary. This process is quite regulated and standardized.

There is no legally defined minimum investment for buying property in France. The investment depends on the property's location, size, condition, and market value. Properties in rural areas are generally cheaper than in cities like Paris, where real estate prices are among the highest.

One additional point to consider is taxation. France has property taxes and potential capital gains taxes, which apply to both locals and foreigners.

Can you become a resident in France by owning a property?

France does not offer a direct residency-by-investment program specifically linked to real estate purchases, unlike some other countries.

This means that simply buying a property in France does not automatically entitle you to residency. However, there are pathways to residency that can be facilitated by owning property, though they involve more than just the property investment.

For non-EU citizens, the most common route to obtaining residency in France is through a long-stay visa, which then can be converted into a residence permit.

This process is independent of real estate investment but owning property in France can be an advantageous factor in your application. It demonstrates your ties to the country and your commitment to staying there, which can be beneficial when applying for a visa or residence permit.

The long-stay visa requires applicants to fulfill certain conditions, such as proving they have sufficient financial resources to support themselves without needing to work in France, and having comprehensive health insurance coverage.

This visa typically needs to be applied for from your country of residence, at the French consulate or embassy.

Once you have a long-stay visa, you can enter France and then apply for a residence permit. The initial residence permit is often valid for one year and can be renewed. After living in France for a continuous period (usually five years), you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency. The residency status allows you to live, and in some cases, work in France.

Regarding citizenship, holding a residency does offer a pathway to French citizenship, but it requires continuous and lawful residence in France for at least five years, among other requirements like language proficiency and integration into French society.

The exact number of people who have used property ownership as a means to facilitate their residency application is not readily available. However, it is a common practice for non-EU nationals looking to move to France.

How is the property market in France?

Market metrics

You can find fresh and updated data in our pack of documents related to the real estate market in France.

Based on the the the GDP per capita indicator, it is apparent that French people have become 1.7% richer over the last 5 years.

If the population's wealth grows, it can lead to a heightened demand for real estate, potentially resulting in price increases in the future.

Looking at the data reported by Numbeo, we can see that rental properties in France offer gross rental yields between 1.5% and 4.2%.

You might know it already but when rental yields are minimal, investors might face challenges in covering expenses related to property ownership, such as mortgage payments, maintenance costs, property taxes, and insurance.

To know more, you can also read our dedicated article: is it a good time to buy a property in France?

The daily life of an expat in France

Living as an expat in France can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

The country is filled with beautiful landscapes, fascinating culture, and delicious cuisine. There are also plenty of opportunities to get involved in the local community and make new friends.

The cost of living in France is relatively low compared to other European countries, making it an attractive option for expats.

The public transportation system is reliable and efficient, making it easy to get around the country. Expats will also find a wide range of activities to enjoy, from skiing in the Alps to exploring the country's many historic sites.

Overall, expats in France can enjoy a high quality of life and a unique cultural experience.

What are the best places to buy a property in France?

This table summarizes some of the best places to buy a property in France.

City / Region Population Average Price per sqm (EUR) Strengths
Paris ≈ 2.2 million 8,000 - 15,000 Capital city, cultural and fashion capital, historical landmarks
French Riviera (Côte d'Azur) ≈ 1.6 million 6,000 - 12,000 Stunning coastal region, luxury resorts, Mediterranean lifestyle
Provence ≈ 5 million 4,000 - 8,000 Scenic landscapes, vineyards, charming villages, gastronomy
Alsace ≈ 1.9 million 2,500 - 5,000 Rich history, vineyards, half-timbered houses, Christmas markets
Normandy ≈ 3.3 million 2,500 - 5,000 Historical sites, coastal beauty, culinary delights, D-Day beaches
Bordeaux ≈ 250,000 4,000 - 8,000 Wine capital, renowned vineyards, charming city center
Lyon ≈ 500,000 3,500 - 7,000 Cultural city, UNESCO World Heritage Site, gastronomy, silk industry

Do you need a lawyer to buy a property in France?

When you purchase a property in France, a local lawyer can help you by guiding you through the legal process and ensuring that everything is done correctly.

For instance, they can help you draw up a compromis de vente, which is a legally binding document between the buyer and seller that outlines the terms of the sale.

The French lawyer can also help you with the actual notarization of the sale, which is the official recognition of the transfer of the property from the seller to the buyer.

They will make sure that all taxes and fees related to the purchase are paid correctly. Furthermore, the lawyer can help you understand the various French laws and regulations related to the purchase of property, ensuring that everything is done in accordance with the law.

What are the risks when buying real estate in France?

We've got an article dedicated to the risks associated with purchasing property in France.

1. Leaseback Scheme Risks

France offers a leaseback scheme where buyers can invest in furnished properties and receive rental income through a management company.

However, there are risks associated with this scheme, including potential changes in tax laws, management company reliability, and limitations on personal usage of the property. Research and understand the specific terms and conditions of the leaseback scheme before making a decision.

2. Local Property Market Conditions

France has a diverse property market with variations in supply, demand, and pricing across different regions. It's essential to thoroughly research and understand the local property market conditions in the specific area where you intend to buy. Factors such as market trends, property appreciation rates, and rental demand can impact your investment's long-term viability.

3. Renovation and Restoration Challenges

France is known for its historic properties, and renovating or restoring such properties can come with unique challenges. Be prepared for potential difficulties related to obtaining permits, adhering to strict regulations, and managing renovation costs. Engaging professionals experienced in French restoration projects can help navigate these challenges more effectively.

4. French Inheritance Laws

France has specific inheritance laws that can affect property ownership and succession planning. These laws determine how assets are distributed upon death, and they may not align with your home country's laws. Consider consulting with legal experts familiar with French inheritance laws to ensure your property interests align with your long-term plans.

5. Residence Permits and Visa Requirements

If you're considering purchasing property in France as a non-European Union (EU) citizen, be aware of the residence permits and visa requirements. These regulations can vary based on factors such as property value, intended usage, and duration of stay. Familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and consult immigration experts to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations.

6. Property Taxes and Additional Costs

France has various property taxes and additional costs that buyers should consider. These include property transfer taxes, annual property taxes (taxe foncière), residence taxes (taxe d'habitation), and charges associated with co-ownership properties (copropriété). Evaluate these costs in your budgeting process to accurately assess the financial implications of owning a property in France.

7. Cultural and Language Differences

Moving to France involves adapting to a new culture and potentially a different language if you are not already fluent in French. Familiarize yourself with the local customs, laws, and social norms to facilitate a smoother transition and avoid misunderstandings or potential conflicts in the future.

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Everything you need to know is included in our France Property Pack

What are the required documents for a real estate transaction in France?

When buying a property in France, the following documents are typically required:

- Proof of identity (passport or national identity card)

- Proof of address (utility bill or bank statement)

- Proof of financial means (bank statements, proof of income, etc.)

- Sales contract (promise of sale or deed of sale)

- Power of attorney (if applicable)

- Property tax return (taxe foncière)

- Building inspection report (rapport de vérification technique)

- Energy performance certificate (diagnostic de performance énergétique)

We review each of these documents and tell you how to use them in our property pack for France.

How should you negotiate effectively with people from France?

When negotiating the purchase of a property in France, understanding and respecting the specific cultural nuances can significantly impact your negotiation success.

Prioritize building a strong personal relationship with the seller or their representative. In French culture, trust and rapport are highly valued. Take the time to engage in conversations beyond just the property itself, showing a genuine interest in the seller's background or any shared interests.

French negotiations are often characterized by a slower pace. Be patient and avoid rushing the process. Allow for multiple rounds of discussions and give the seller time to consider your offer. Demonstrating patience and a willingness to invest in the negotiation process can help foster a more positive and cooperative environment.

In France, it is customary to present a reasoned and well-researched offer. Provide supporting documentation and facts to justify your proposed price. Demonstrating your understanding of the local property market and presenting a fair offer based on comparable sales will earn respect and increase the likelihood of a successful negotiation.

While maintaining politeness and professionalism throughout the negotiation, don't be afraid to engage in a lively discussion. Passionate debates and differing opinions are not uncommon in French negotiations. Embrace the exchange of ideas, but always ensure that the dialogue remains respectful and constructive.

Lastly, involving a local real estate agent or notary can be highly beneficial. They have a deep understanding of the French property market, legal requirements, and can act as a mediator during negotiations. Their expertise can help bridge any cultural gaps and facilitate a smoother negotiation process.

Are mortgages available to foreign nationals in France?

Yes, foreigners can obtain property loans in France. The French banking system allows non-residents to apply for property loans, subject to certain conditions and requirements.

Foreigners looking to obtain a property loan in France generally need a valid residence permit, proof of income or employment, and must meet the specific criteria set by the lending institutions in the country.

Some banks in France that can grant mortgages to foreigners include BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, and Société Générale.

Additionally, in France, mortgage rates for a 20-year term range between 0% and 4%, offering borrowers attractive financing options.

What are the taxes related to a property transaction in France?

Here is a breakdown of taxes related to a property transaction in France.

Tax Description Calculation Who pays
Rental Income Tax Tax on rental income generated from the property for non-resident 20% for up to €26,070 and 30% above this threshold Owner
Residential Tax Tax on potential rental income generated by the property Ranges from 1.2% to 1.7% depending on the property value, exemption for main residences Owner
Wealth Tax (IFI) Tax on the net worth of individuals Progressive rates ranging from 0% to 1.5% of an individual's net worth Owner
Transfer Tax Tax on the transfer of property ownership 5.09 or 5.81% of the property sale price, depending on the type and location of the property Buyer
Capital Gains Tax Tax on the capital gain from the sale of a property 19% on the net capital gain (the difference between sale price and acquisition cost) Seller
Value Added Tax (VAT) Tax on the sale of new residential properties 20% VAT for new properties, exemption for existing properties Buyer

What fees are involved in a property transaction in France?

Below is a simple breakdown of fees for a property transaction in France.

Fee Description Calculation Who pays
Registration Fee Fee for registering the property transfer with the Land Registry Around 0.10% of the property value Buyer
Real Estate Agent Fee Fee charged by real estate agents for their services Between 3% to 10% of the property sale price (split between the seller and buyer) Seller and Buyer
Notary Fee Fee for notarizing the property transfer documents Varies from 0,799% and 3,870% depending on the property value Buyer

Buying real estate in France can be risky

An increasing number of foreign investors are showing interest in France. However, 90% of them will make mistakes. Avoid the pitfalls with our comprehensive guide.

buying property foreigner France