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How You Can Own A Piece Of France

The Paris Property Insider was launched six months ago. In that time
we’ve provided you with relevant information about buying property in
Paris and France. The following is a recap of that information… all
in one place. Following the summary below are links to full articles
and our archives where you can read the details of the topics we’ve

I. It Really Is A Different World

In France there is no Multiple Listing Service for property. Most
real estate agents are independent, providing access only to the
properties they represent. Consequently, you cannot walk into an
agency and ask to see what is available throughout the city or area.

Real estate transactions require the involvement of a notaire, a
legal representative of the government charged with administering the
purchase and sale of property.

The recent SRU law made several changes to real estate codes, among
them, mandating waiting periods before the transaction can move

Not the least of the differences here are the inheritance laws and
inheritance taxes. In France, you cannot leave your French property
to whom you wish, certain people are entitled to a share
automatically. Your beneficiaries will be responsible for paying
inheritance taxes, not your estate.

II. Before You Buy

There are a few things you need to be aware of and keep in mind if
you’re interested in buying property in Paris or France. First of
all, yes, you can buy property here as a foreigner. And, you can get
financing here, as a foreigner, even pre-qualification… I’ll talk
about this a little later.

Two of the most important things to consider before signing on the
dotted line are France’s inheritance laws and taxes. The type of
ownership you establish when you buy your property will determine how
you can pass it on at the time of your death.

The default provision a notaire will put in the final "acte de vent"
sets ownership as "en indision" (similar to tenancy in common, each
person owns 50% of the property). Your children will automatically be
entitled to a certain portion of your share of the property.
If you want your spouse or other co-owner to "inherit" all the
property, one option is to establish "en tontine" ownership (similar
to a joint tenancy). At the death of either person, the property is
deemed to be owned entirely by the survivor.

As mentioned earlier, here, it is the beneficiary who pays the taxes
on the property they inherit. This can be a low as 5% or as high as
60% depending on their relationship to the deceased. Children and
spouses pay the least, non-related beneficiaries the most. Even in
France, death and taxes are inevitable. At least inheritance taxes
can be ameliorated. There are a couple of options to soften or
eliminate these taxes.

And one very important caveat… if your domicile at your death is
France, your assets WORLDWIDE will be subject to French inheritance

III. Finding Property

There are a number of resources to actually find an apartment or
other property. The Internet is full of websites listing properties
for sale. Publications such as "Particulier a Particulier" are
another good source. Notaires maintain a list of properties for sale
in their area. You can make an appointment to stop in and see what
they have available.

There are, of course, real estate agencies. Somewhat like pubs in
London, they seem to be everywhere. Again, they only represent what
they have on their books, but they are a good resource for finding
property. Just be aware that if you are interested in different
areas, you will need to visit different agencies.

Another resource to consider, especially if you are not local, is
services like those offered by our Paris office who assist you in
locating the property you want.

IV. Found It, Now What?

No matter what they tell you, try to negotiate the price of the
property you want. In many instances you can get the owner to come
down. Be aware, though, that right now it is a seller’s market here.
If it is something you really want, don’t push to negotiate to hard,
there will be another buyer right behind you, probably willing to pay
the asking price.

Part of negotiating is knowing what the property is worth. Learn what
the average property prices are for the city and the particular area
of the city where the property is located. Know what the averages are
per square meter. These will give you objective measurements to start
your evaluation.

On top of that, you have to consider all the subjective elements that

make a property worth the price or not. The building, the apartment
layout, the neighborhood, etc. These are just a few of the things to

For many foreigners, the property prices here seem reasonable, even
good. When you walk into that charming pied-à-terre with wood floors,
exposed beams and stone walls, it may seem worth every over-priced
"centime" the owner wants for it. Even though the price of the
apartment you have found may seem good, comparatively, don’t pay more
than you should. Leave it up to less informed foreigners to drive up
the prices after you buy yours for less.

V. Getting The Financing

Naturally, the easiest way to finance property here is to pay cash.
If that’s not an option, there are a variety of ways to obtain a
mortgage. Unless you are a resident here and have a salary or some
type of regular income going into a French bank account, you will not
be able to get a loan from a French bank.

There are some American financial institutions that will finance
property abroad, but doing so comes at a very high premium. You will
pay exorbitant interest rates.

As a foreigner, your best bet is with either British lender Abbey
National, or former British institution Banque Patrimoine &
Immobilier (BPI, formerly Woolwhich Bank). Both operate in France and
are equipped and used to working with foreigners who need a mortgage
to buy property here. You will be able to finance up to 80% of the
purchase price of the property at very attractive interest rates.

VI. Signing On The Dotted Line

All real estate contracts are required by law to be written in
French. Even if you are fluent in the language, I encourage you to
have a native French speaker to assist you. Not only will they know
the language, they know the meaning behind it and truly understand
the documents.

As stated above, real estate transactions are all handled through a
notaire. Do not confuse a notaire with our idea of notary. They are
not the same. A notaire is a specially trained and certified
attorney. Hired by the seller and theoretically acting as an
impartial administrator of the transaction, it is advisable to hire
either your own notaire or other professional to represent your

The "promesse de vent" (promise to sell) is generally the initial
document you will sign. This is the agreement between the buyer and
seller. It outlines the various terms of the agreement, and more
importantly outlines any conditions that must be met for the deal to
go through ("clauses suspensives"). These are clauses proposed by
either party that allows them to back out of the deal, without
penalty, if they are not met. This generally includes things like
obtaining financing and property inspections. You will be expected to
pay a 10% deposit at this time.

Once the clauses have been met, either by fulfillment or time lapse,
and the notaire has completed his work, the parties will be notified
and a date set for the singing of the acte de vente. At the time of
the meeting, the notaire will read the document aloud to the parties.
The French believe you can’t sign what you don’t understand, so the
reading is to insure that the parties know what they are singing.

Once the singing is completed, you will give the notaire the check
for the balance of monies due. He will pay the owner, the agent if
there was one, the taxes, and finally himself. Et voila! You will be
given the keys.

VII. You Bought It, Now What?

Congratulations! You now own your home away from home. You can look
forward to renovating to get it just the way you want, and of course
begin to think about the taxes, utilities, and other things
homeowners are faced with… in some ways, it is not so different

I’ve touched on most of the issues we’ve covered over the last six
months. You’ll find links below to our archives and to specific
articles that discuss these in detail. In the months ahead we’ll
continue to provide information and updates on real estate here in
Paris and France. Our goal is to educate and keep you informed so
that you the knowledge and tools to buy property here easier and

A bientôt,

Schuyler Hoffman
Editor, Paris Property Insider
E-mail: mailto:[email protected]

For an archive of all newsletters, please visit (archive of
both Parler Paris and Paris Property Insider, alternately)

For specific property articles, please visit


If you weren’t able to attend our Working and Living in France
Conference in Paris last weekend, you haven’t TOTALLY missed out. See
what participants had to say about it at
/parlerparis/liveinfrance/comments.html, then purchase
either the two-hour events souvenir video (covering the special
moments) or the ten-hour multi-tape set of the entire conference. See
and hear for yourself the important real estate information provided
by the professionals speaking at the Conference, as well as the how
to’s of creating your own life here.

TO ORDER YOUR VIDEOS, you may go directly to our online secure
payment order form at

Based on the success of this conference, we have already scheduled
the next Working and Living in France Conference, in Paris, for June
2003. To be placed on a special mailing list for the conference,
please send an email to:
mailto:[email protected]?subject=JuneWorkingConference


A beautifully decorated, designer one-bedroom apartment. Located in
the popular 7th arrondissement within view of the Eiffel Tower, the
apartment contains a fully equipped office, living and dining rooms,
high ceilings, and wood floors. Situated in a prestigious building,
you’ll be within minutes to Saint Germain, Avenue Montaigne–home to
many of the chicest designer shops–and the Champs Elysees. This
outstanding flat is perfect for a professional or a couple looking to
spend a few months in Paris.

Available for a minimum of one month and up to six months, from
November 2002.

Offered at 3000 euro a month (includes a cleaning lady once a week).

For information on availability and booking, please contact:
mailto:[email protected]?subject=ghoncheh


Fully furnished and equipped one bedroom apartment. Lots of charm,
sunny, in a building with an elevator, and just minutes away from the
Bastille and the Marais. On a quiet street in a safe residential and
lively neighborhood, the building is a beautiful seven story,
renovated 19th century building with security code access. The
apartment has decorative fireplaces and ceiling fans in the living
and bed rooms, hardwood floors, and central heating. The bedroom has
a queen-sized bed and lots of closet space.

Offered at $750/week, $2,600/month, includes utilities and maid
service (one week minimum, non-smokers preferred).

Pictures and more details available at:



International Living’s very own Paris pied-à-terre in the finest
location possible. You’ll find yourself just one block from the Seine
and Pont Neuf and in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Près on a
fashionable street lined with art galleries and boutiques. The
apartment sleeps four in one bedroom and a sleeper sofa in the living
room. The bedroom is on the courtyard and quiet. The modern,
double-paned windows insure quiet and calm on the street side.

Offered at $1400 for one week, reductions for longer stays.

Pictures and more details available at:



This charming 17th Century house and lovely garden is in the
beautiful Loire Valley, only a two-hour drive southwest from Paris
and 10 kilometers from Tours, the "capital of the chateau country."
All the charm and style of a 17th Century house have been retained,
with modern accommodations added, making the home ideal for a large
family or for several couples. All rooms in the house
are large and
sunny with central heating, radiators in each room, and working
fireplaces in living room and kitchen. Furniture through
out the house
is from local antique and brocante stores in the region. Doors from
kitchen, living room, den and hallway by bedrooms all provide easy
access to the terrace and garden.

Offered at $1750 per week (sleeps 8-9) (includes services of a
caretaker, and cleaning by caretaker’s wife on departure).

Pictures and more details available at:



Many people don’t have the time nor the resources to look for their
own piece of France, especially if they’re located in the States or
other foreign country. Our office offers you assistance to do the
things you can’t do unless you are here. We have a specific service
to help you find your property. Using our personally selected
professional locators and real estate agents, we work with you to
find the property that is worth coming to France to look at. Or if
you are already here, all the better. After getting a basic idea of
what you are looking for, we will spend the next month searching for
just that. You’ll receive weekly reports with suggested possibilities
and pictures that will help to further narrow down what you want.

The fee for this service is $500. Should we find the right apartment
for you, there will be a finder’s fee of 2% on the price of the
property if you make the purchase, with a minimum of $5,000, maximum
of $20,000 (the initial $500 will be applied against the finder’s

For more details and answers to your questions contact:
mailto:[email protected]?subject=ppiFindersServi


Living in France for several years, we have accumulated valuable
information and developed valuable contacts. We are able to assist
you as much as possible and when necessary, put you in contact with
one or more of our professional associates to provide the help you

– Fee of $75 an hour with a two hour minimum, plus expenses (travel,
phone charges, etc.)

– Consultation can be arranged in person, by phone, or e-mail

For more information contact Schuyler Hoffman at
mailto:[email protected]?subject=ppiConsultation
or visit /parlerparis/services/index.html.


We can help you promote your property as well as connect you with
interested buyers we already have. Send an email to
mailto:[email protected]?subject=ppiForSale


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