Here are 10 points to consider if buying property in France is at the top of your to-do list. Buying the perfect holiday home in France is more complex than it may seem at first glance!
You need to make some important decisions before you actually take the step!
Thinking carefully about what you want and what you do not want is the key to a real estate investment in France that is truly fulfilling and enjoyable.
Table of Contents
- 1 French holiday homes – Dream come true
- 2 Buying property in France? First make the following 10 choices
- 2.1 Flexibility in availability
- 2.2 Lifestyle – Reality check
- 2.3 Determine the ideal property
- 2.4 Renovation of property in France
- 2.5 Location, location, location!
- 2.6 Safety and security
- 2.7 Buying property in France with swimming pool or not
- 2.8 Buying property in France with a garden
- 2.9 Alternative purchase options – Buying property in France
- 2.9.1 French holiday home for private use and rental – A more profitable alternative?
- 2.9.2 Shared ownership – A cheaper alternative?
- 2.9.3 Buying property in France with a group of friends/relatives
- 2.10 Taxes on & financing of French property
- 3 Conclusion – Buying property in France
- 4 Other information about France
French holiday homes – Dream come true
France has long been the favourite place for holidaymakers, and rightly so!
France is, after all, easily accessible geographically thanks to good connections with the rest of the world.
But France also has very diverse and beautiful countryside, a generally sunnier climate, historic cities and a breathtaking coast. Not to mention the French cuisine…
Many people have chosen to buy their own holiday home (or second home) in France.
This is instead of constantly staying in hotels, camping or renting accommodation from strangers via Airbnb, for example, and so on. And this too is more than justified!
Owners of French property such as holiday homes eventually get to know the area and make friends with the locals.
They also get to know other foreigners who also own property there and look forward every year to their trip to their French country home.
Buying property in France? First make the following 10 choices
As with any real estate investment, there are important choices to make before jumping in at the deep end.
The following ten points of interest stipulate what you should think about if you are considering buying property in France.
These concerns actually apply to all kinds of different types of French property.
Examples are buy-to-let properties for mixed use (private use + rental) or second homes for purely private use (for yourself, your family and close friends).
Flexibility in availability
If flexibility is very important to you, it is crucial to keep your property to yourself and block it.
A last-minute opportunity to travel to the country house (by car, train, helicopter or plane) can always arise unexpectedly.
Think, for example, of situations in which you suddenly get time off work or when you suddenly win the lottery.
Or do you always have a lot of holiday days left that you still have to take? In such a case, flexibility can also be important.
You can then impulsively take a few days to enjoy the place in France in all peace and privacy.
If you keep your property free especially for yourself, you can count on the flexibility you desire.
And do you like playing Santa Claus or the Good Samaritan?
Then you can also use this flexibility to let friends and family stay in your French country house at times when you are not using it yourself!
Exception: Carefree outdoor accommodation for mixed use
Are you rather interested in a worry-free solution with top yield? In which you can spend a limited number of weeks per year, freely planned?
In other words, do you prioritise returns and private use is welcome but may come second?
Then it would be better to choose a French holiday home for private use and rental (see further down this page), in the beautiful, unspoilt Limousin region.
Lifestyle – Reality check
Another thing to consider when buying property in France is your lifestyle.
For example, are you extremely neat and clean?
Then it is very likely that you will find it necessary to leave your country house in France neat and tidy for tenants, family or friends.
If you are of that mindset, you may very well get very upset if your guests do not share the same vision of order and cleanliness.
On the other hand, if you like living in a little chaos…
Do you have the time or the inclination to remove all the evidence of your existence in your own holiday home before letting guests in?
If you keep your foreign property purely for yourself, you are most likely to be happy with the state it is in.
And not to be underestimated: it also saves you from possible grief and frustration.
Determine the ideal property
Make a list of the most important factors for you: location, purchase price, size of the house, number of rooms in the house, swimming pool, sauna, terrace, view, proximity to shops, and so on.
Ask yourself what you are really looking for in French property and what you really want to experience. Do you also want a basement? Is a garage important?
Do you prefer a garden, a terrace, a Jacuzzi or a balcony?
Would you like to live in a bustling village or rather in the countryside?
These are all questions that will help you on the right path to selecting the perfect property in France.
Renovation of property in France
By buying a second home (for private use), you can start thinking about long-term renovation projects.
Your money will last longer if you are happy to buy property in need of renovation, especially if you take the time to carry out the renovation work yourself.
In a house that is purely for you and your family, you can enjoy the do-it-yourself satisfaction.
The feeling that comes over you when you sit down to enjoy the completely renovated building, is indescribable.
The whole process of systematically bringing the plans for your dream home to life can also be extremely lucky.
That is, if you are a handy do-it-yourselfer and if you have a lot of time.
It may be necessary to “camp out” while renovating. By “camping” we mean that you stay in a tent or caravan on the premises during the renovation.
For many, this experience is what makes renovating fun and makes you enjoy the finished property even more when it has been completely renovated.
Turnkey buy-to-let properties as a counterbalance
Don’t feel like investing time, energy and money in renovating French property? No problem, there are suitable alternatives for you, too.
Then consider a turnkey buy-to-let property without worries.
Read more about this in the section on French holiday homes for mixed use (private use + rental).
Location, location, location!
Location, in French localisation and not location (meaning rent), is the key to a good investment decision for French property.
Perhaps one of the most important choices you will make is the location of your second home in France.
It must be in a region that is reasonably easy to reach, as you do not want to waste a lot of your holiday time and money travelling to your dream home in France.
If you are going to buy property in France and invest a significant amount of your capital in it, you cannot afford to make a mistake with the choice of location.
Take your time to look around in the chosen environment.
Stay objective, even if it seems that you have found your dream property.
Also look at what your life will really be like when you come to the village, town or rural area in question on holiday.
Consider all factors carefully
Some coastal villages can be lively and fun in the summer (or too noisy and full of tourists, depending on your perspective), but become very empty and barren in the winter.
This may be because the nice bars, restaurants and shops that used to attract you so much are closed during the low season (October to April/May) or run on winter schedule.
The countryside can be beautiful and peaceful, but you should beware that it may not be too desolate either…
Of course, you may overlook a few other points of interest on this page, but this location factor is worth paying close attention to.
It is a very good idea to visit the region in question a few times, during the different seasons.
Try to spend the night there too to see what kind of noise it makes, both on weekends and during the week.
And do you prefer a turnkey mixed-use buy-to-let property? In such a case, too, you should go for an inspection.
A transparent provider and promoter will welcome you with open arms on location for an inspection day or even an inspection weekend.
An example of such top-quality French property where an extensive inspection weekend is possible is the Wyndham Halcyon Retreat Golf & Spa Resort.
In this luxury resort, buying a second home in France (studios, flats and tree houses) is possible with fantastic financial and private benefits.
Safety and security
On the one hand, there are lucky people who can stay in their holiday home for most of the year and enjoy “La Belle France”.
On the other hand, there are many more people who can only stay in France for a short time during occasional holidays and extended weekends.
If the latter scenario is also the case for you, you should therefore also consider how well you can leave your future holiday home.
This includes being able to close the shutters, lock the doors and be absent for long periods of time.
Is there an alarm system installed and can you count on a neighbourhood watch to keep an eye on things?
Flats can be a good solution
Buying a flat in France as a second home in a complex can be the best choice in certain cases.
Those who move to France permanently will be happy with a large, luxurious house that requires a lot of attention.
But if you are only staying in France for short periods, smaller houses, flats or studios are a good solution.
Flats in well-maintained flat blocks can be a real asset and virtue under these circumstances.
You can count on a maintenance service that will maintain the exterior of your property and the common areas, and possibly even the interior, depending on the promoter.
On top of that, such a service allows you to deal with problems such as storm damage, water leaks and burglaries more quickly.
Yes, you pay a little more for these services, but the added peace of mind makes it worth the little extra money.
An example of such fully serviced buy-to-let properties are the following luxury flats for sale in France.
More specifically in the Limousin region in the beautiful Wyndham Halcyon Retreat Golf & Spa Resort.
Buying property in France with swimming pool or not
You might be wondering whether you want to buy a country house in France with or without a swimming pool…
Or perhaps you should build a swimming pool yourself if you have a property in mind where there is no swimming pool yet.
For many, a swimming pool is part of staying and holidaying in a sunny climate such as France.
Buy a 2nd home in France with/without a pool?
This question becomes increasingly important the further south you go.
The temperature in the south of France often hits the 30-degree mark and life here can often get very hot and sticky if you have no way to cool down.
Is the pool more of a problem than a pleasure?
A swimming pool is indeed a great place to relax and enjoy your summer holidays.
But this same pool can end up being more of a problem than a gift.
Large, permanently built swimming pools require a lot of maintenance on a regular basis.
It is therefore advisable to hire a professional swimming pool specialist and cleaner.
He can then visit regularly for maintenance. They can maintain and clean your pool, even when you are not there.
This reduces the chance of your pool becoming one big, green, soggy mess during your absence.
Not to mention the waste of time and energy to correct such a skewed situation.
It would easily take half a holiday before your pool is ready for swimming again.
Maintenance + preparation for the high season
If you consider buying property in France with a full-sized real swimming pool, whether in the ground or above ground, calculate the costs first.
Good budgeting is necessary and getting a good idea of the annual maintenance costs is important.
It is also advisable to hire someone in advance to carry out the periodic maintenance and to do the preparation for your visit (so that you can splash out immediately if desired).
Alternative 1 – An inflatable or mobile pool
An alternative, and one that probably suits holiday homes that are only visited occasionally, is some kind of inflatable or dismountable pool that you can easily build up and tear down.
These pools can be surprisingly large (big enough to swim a few laps), cheap and much easier to maintain.
Of course, you won’t be able to swim seriously in these pools, but they are great for cooling off and having fun with the family.
Chances are also high that your holiday home in France is located close to the sea, a recreational lake or a local swimming pool with free access.
So even in such a case, cooling is possible and you will not feel like you are missing anything.
Alternative 2 – Buy property in a resort with pools
Another alternative to buying property in France is to invest in a recreational property in a resort in France.
You will then have access to all facilities, including the indoor and outdoor pools.
During the period that you do not use it yourself, your property is rented out. In return, however, you can reap a nice annual return.
Read more about the advantages of such a mixed-use buy-to-let property in France below.
Buying property in France with a garden
Like a swimming pool, a garden requires periodic maintenance. You can do this yourself (but it may seem like a lot of work) or you can hire a gardener to do it (which may turn out to be too much money).
Very many French country houses have huge tracts of land, which can be very tempting as it adds a huge natural beauty to your property.
But a large garden can unfortunately be a huge burden in terms of energy and money.
Unless you want to spend a lot of money on a regular gardener who maintains everything while you are back abroad.
Think smaller – Buying property in France
An outdoor space with a garden can be very important to you, so you don’t have to give it up… Just think smaller.
Many village or town houses have small gardens that are feasible and realistic to maintain.
They can be easily maintained with a little imagination and energy.
A small pergola can provide a nice seating area with shade, raised beds or pots can bring extra colour to your garden, and small trees and borders (which are easy to maintain) can bring a feeling to your garden, even if it is a “concrete garden”.
Consider a resort with communal gardens
Are you a fan of vast domains, parks and vast plains?
Then it is better to invest in the right resort / domain. In some of these French resorts, you can acquire full ownership of a country house, earn a super-return and also make private use of the buy-to-let property.
The advantages of such a resort in terms of garden are unequalled.
Everything is perfectly maintained by the manager and since it has to remain attractive for tourists, regular upkeep is very important!
The Wyndham Halcyon Retreat Golf & Spa Resort, for example, is one such destination where owners can enjoy an insanely beautiful estate, including an 18-hole golf course, an arboretum and lakes.
Alternative purchase options – Buying property in France
French holiday home for private use and rental – A more profitable alternative?
Buying property in France can be done in various ways.
If profitability is important to you, and a few weeks of French fun and entertainment on an annual basis is enough for you, then a mixed-use holiday home is the ideal solution for you.
Some providers offer a watertight rental guarantee that ensures a carefree return on your invested capital.
Depending on the provider in question, you may also be able to use the property privately (at a reduced rate, at a rate directly deducted from your return, or for free x number of weeks per year if you search and compare well).
An example of an offer that offers up to 8% guaranteed return + 2 weeks free private use per year, is Buy Second Home in France at Wyndham Halcyon Retreat Golf & Spa Resort.
The biggest advantages are that you do not have to worry about maintenance of swimming pools, gardens and so on. You can enjoy it when you are there.
The same applies to the return component, which is also hassle-free.
You can invest in real estate in such a resort and acquire full ownership. The nice thing is that you do not have to play landlord yourself.
Everything is arranged for you; all you have to do is arrange and schedule your weeks of personal use.
Plus receive the deposits of your rent on your bank account.
In France, there are also property promoters who offer a shared ownership option.
This can be an alternative if you want to buy (a fraction of) property in France with little money.
Mental requirements for choosing this
A requirement is that you are happy to use your shared property only at specific times, as other owners will also want to use it periodically.
Another requirement is that you do not mind not being the full owner of the property.
Low entry threshold – Buying property in France
As a kind of “premium timeshare”, a shared property allows you to make an investment in French real estate without a lot of capital.
So you can own real “bricks and mortar” at the same time and stay there for a few weeks a year.
The advantages are that you share in the rental return, you don’t have to worry about maintenance and you have a place to stay every year.
An additional plus is the low entry threshold in terms of capital.
Clarification on capital requirement
Make no mistake, even acquiring full ownership of a property in France does not require a great deal of capital.
So you do not necessarily have to go for a co-ownership investment where you always have to take account of other co-owners.
You may as well use a (mortgage) loan to partly finance the purchase.
In this way, you make optimum use of cheap loan capital and can achieve a maximum return on your own funds (leverage effect).
If you are eligible for a loan (you are professionally active or have enough to pledge), you can become the full owner of a mixed-use buy-to-let property in France from approximately €42,500 as own equity!
Stay alert to legal pitfalls
Such shared property offers advantages but also disadvantages. There may be legal pitfalls, for example.
So research the conditions of such a programme carefully and seek legal advice before signing the contract.
Buying property in France with a group of friends/relatives
If you are not sure whether sharing property with strangers is the way to go, buying holiday property with close friends may also be an option.
This way has worked out well for some people in the past, but there are always potential problems and it is always possible that some “friends” will suddenly no longer be friends.
If you choose to go down this road, make sure that everything is legally in order.
Make sure that both you and your fellow buyers are 100% sure about the rights and obligations.
In addition to arguments over the distribution of the private use for each co-owner over the weeks of the year, other difficulties may arise.
What if one of the other co-owners wants to sell his/her fraction of the property?
For example, if that person is experiencing financial difficulties privately or due to a change in marital status, such as a custody battle…
Taxes on & financing of French property
As with any second home, you must consider the tax and financial consequences for French property.
As a result of recent legislation, France is now entitled to levy capital gains tax on second homes in the country, regardless of whether your full-time home is abroad.
However, this is linked to some specific parameters (only the richest are affected).
When you buy a holiday home, is it a long-term investment or do you plan to use the house for a few years and then sell it (hopefully at a profit)?
Capital gains tax on your second home can “take away” a significant part of your potential profit, so make the calculation and estimate yourself first.
Conclusion – Buying property in France
The question whether you should buy a holiday home for private or mixed use in France or not is not a quick and easy one to answer.
At the very least, they should give you food for thought.
Holiday homes are as unique as the people who buy them, so these properties have to meet all kinds of different requirements.
Please note: France is a large country and even though the rules and laws are the same throughout the country, they are often interpreted in different ways.
We cannot recommend more strongly that you check all the facts and figures from an official and reliable source before making big purchase decisions.
Other information about France
More France information that may interest you:
- Buying a holiday home in France – Tips and advice for the right decision
- Buying a house in France: Tips and points for attention for the selection procedure
- Buy a second home in France as a top investment with up to 8% secure annual return and 2 weeks free private use