April 5, 2010

Moving to France Tutorial - Part Three

Home. It has a different meaning to all of us. And finding a new one can be both an exciting and a daunting experience.

Welcome to Part Three of the Moving to France Tutorial.

This week I'll be offering some tips on finding a place to live in France, which could easily turn into a Tolstoy novel sized post, so I'm going to try to keep the information concise.

I realize I'm stating the obvious here, but the logistics of finding a home in France will change according to whether you will be renting or buying. Once you've decided where you want to put down your roots you'll need to find a real estate agent or start looking at properties online or even hire someone to help you find your dream home.

Renting an apartment in France can be tricky. Most landlords in France demand proof of income and you may have to provide the name of a guarantor, a co-signer, who will be named in the contract and who will be responsible for your rent in the event that you can't pay it. You will also need to have one month's rent as a deposit and a proof of a comprehensive household insurance certificate.
An in-depth list of the requirements is here on Anglo-Info's website.

If you don't plan on bringing all of your furniture and household goods with you, a furnished, equipped home will make your arrival and transition much easier. There are many agencies and individuals offering long term, furnished apartment rentals in big cities like Paris and Lyon, and scattered all over France are furnished vacation homes called gîtes. Gîte owners sometimes offer long term rentals over the autumn and winter months, which can be a perfect way to get to know a region and have a comfortable place to stay while looking for property to buy.

There are literally hundreds of property rental websites out there to investigate. Here are a few to get you started.
Craigslist (and how to avoid the scammers)
pap (in French)
Holidays France Rentals
Paris Attitude
Gîtes de France
123 Immo
Rent a Place in France
Rentals France
Go To France
the regional classifieds on AngloInfo

Buying a home in France is a fairly straightforward procedure.
You find the house you want, make an offer, get the inspections done and verify what belongs to the house (both inside and out), find a good notaire, sign the compromis de vente, wait for the 7 day buyer's remorse period to pass, pay your deposit and wait to sign the acte de vente. Then you take your keys and move in!
Well, there might be extra steps involved, if you require a mortgage for instance, but buying a house here isn't as daunting as many think.
Expatica France has compiled an excellent and thorough article about the entire process.

Mortgages are available to foreigners, usually requiring a 20-30% down payment. I'm unfamiliar with the exact procedure so here are some helpful links.
Finance in France
Mortgage France

An important thing to remember if you buy a house that requires any renovation work - get an estimate. Heck, get two or three. Keep in mind however, that in old houses estimates don't take into consideration those petite surprises that you sometimes find behind the walls. Unless you are planning to be there while the renovation work is going on and you speak fluent French, you will also need to find a knowledgeable person to oversee your project.

Stay tuned for Part Four of the tutorial next week.

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croquecamille said...

I have one piece of information to add, specific to rentin apartments in Paris: Do Not use Casa-Immo! They will take your 250 euros, promising private access to many listings with your specifications, and will provide you with nothing. Unless you badger them, in which case they will tell you about listings that are out of your price range, or in neighborhoods you don't want.

My advice? Craigslist. Seriously. Put up a "housing wanted" ad, and among the scams (which are pretty easy to spot) you may get a legitimate offer. This is how I have found both my long-term apartments here.

Loulou said...

Thanks for the sound advice Camille! I didn't know if Craigslist was a good recommendation because of all the scammers I've heard about, but I'll add it to the list.

Dale said...

any rental service over another for longer term lets like up to 4 mo's in S France?

Loulou said...

No, they all have their good points. Just be sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what you're paying for. Good luck!

Ken Broadhurst said...

The standard lease for an unfurnished apartment in France is for 3 years. And unfurnished means no appliances, no curtains, and sometimes no light fixtures or door knobs.

Furnished apartments by the month can be pretty expensive, relatively, and the standard lease for furnished apartments runs 12 months.

For rentals, most owners require a co-signer who is a French resident if the renter is a foreigner.

Under these conditions, it's not easy to find a place. When I was a renter in years past, I always found apartments through friends and other contacts. They were willing to take the risk of renting to a foreigner.

Loulou said...

Thanks for your input. Finding an apartment or a house to buy through an acquaintance or a friend is always the best way to go, if possible.
My friends in Paris did not have to sign a 3 year lease, which I also thought was standard. So maybe that rule has changed?

Ken Broadhurst said...

Hi Loulou,

I don't think the 3-year lease rule has changed. The tenant can however decide to terminate the lease before the three years are up, by giving three months' notice. If I were looking for an unfurnished apartment, however, I don't thing I'd tell the landlord up front that I only planned to stay for a year or less.

Loulou said...

Maybe that's what they've decided to do.
Thanks for letting me know about the rule.

Jamie said...

I just want to share this: if you want to move to France but don't have a particular place to move to, a job offer, for example, don't forget to check out L'Express magazine's list of the best places to live in France:


We chose Nantes based on this list, checking out the points that were most important to us: quality of life, schools, green, job possibilities, economy and growth, etc. It can be relied on for accurate judgement.

Chez Loulou said...

Great site, thanks so much for the link. We continue to research cities to move to, so this is a great help.

Diane said...

Nice post! We were in the Nice area in May checking out options for our coming year in France, and visited a few rental agencies. They told us what Ken reported - you have to sign a 3-year lease. But they also were quick to add that it's easy to break a lease, for example what if you get sick.

However, they got very hung up on the "not having an income" part. That just plain confused them. Having assets to show you could pay the rent didn't seem to be an option.

We ended up renting from friends of friends of friends, but we did find a couple of good options for furnished places on the vacation-rental-by-owner sites. Since we were coming in the off season they were willing to negotiate long-term pricing. I especially liked http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/

Chez Loulou said...

I've heard that the lack of proving a monthly income, even though you might have assets and no problems with paying monthly rent, can be problematic.
Glad you found somewhere in the end and must be looking forward to your move! Good luck!

Love Linda said...

I'm wondering about the proof of income portion does that mean french income or would social security from the US count?

Loulou in France said...

Love Linda
When we moved we only had proof of income from the States and some of that was US social security.

Kassandra said...

Forget Lodgis. They really messed with me when I rented an apartment in Paris for two weeks two years ago. Unbelievable irresponsibility, along with lots of "don't worry" added. They are a broker who take money and stop helping after that. Paris was still beautiful, I might add....

Loulou in France said...

I talked to Lodgis too and they weren't very helpful. The agent acted like I was some uneducated idiot and even told me, "prices in Paris aren't the same as in the rest of France."
Like I didn't know that.