Q + A: Logistics Behind Buying a Home in France

• 03 July 2009

Many of you asked questions via comment or email about the logistics behind buying and renovating a home in France. I thought I'd answer those questions in the form of a post as they formulate an important part of the process as a whole. If this kind of information bores you, I apologize...skip to the next post :)

Before I venture on to answer those questions, I want to highlight this image above. My father-in-law discovered some old photos taken on a family trip in 1989 to guess where...Beynac-et-Cazenac. The very village where La Maisonnette lies.  This means that my husband's entire family passed through Beynac exactly 20 years before we purchased our cottage!  It's interesting how life comes full circle in different ways.

Without further adieu, here are the answers to your many questions:

1. Is it difficult to buy a home in France?

Yes and no.  Let me explain...if you speak French fluently and understand how to navigate the vast amounts of red tape and cultural issues, buying a property in France isn't difficult; but it can be a long, drawn-out process. Expect 4-6 months to close (four months being "quick") and be sure to have a French bank account. It takes the same period of time to acquire a loan, which you have to do via a bank in France (we found BNP International Buyers Division most helpful).  Obtaining a loan can be tricky if you are a foreign buyer, but don't give up even if the first time around you experience some road blocks.  Expect your down payment to be more around 20%, versus the typical 10 or 15% here in the US.  

2. Do you have to apply for citizenship to buy a home?

No.  That's a whole other process...

3. Do you need a visa to renovate a home in France?

Technically, yes.  If you stay in France for over 3 months you will need a visa. Keep in mind that ticket prices typically double when you stay more than 30 days, so you'll likely have to purchase two sets of tickets.  It's expensive, but there isn't a way around it that I'm aware of.  Just make your time there count!

4. How do you put your kids in school over there?

If you own a property or are renting long-term, your kids are allowed to attend the local schools.  

5. Do the teachers and children speak to her in English or always in French?

Classes are conducted in French so what your child gets out of the experience will be contingent on how much French he/she knows.  I'm not sure what the schooling situation is like in Paris, but in the remote countryside, English isn't spoken at all at school.  Kids are like sponges though...you'd be amazed at how quickly they can pick up a foreign language!

6. Where do you stay if your home is being sandblasted when you are in France?

The local campground, a farmhouse, the local hotel, or another rental in town. The choice is yours! This last time it was the campground, which is, for the record, a slight upgrade from your typical KOA here in the States.  It's also across from the school making the commute pretty snappy. 

7. Can you have dual citizenship?

From what I understand, you must be born in France or have a parent with French citizenship to acquire dual citizenship. Since it isn't anything we've ever considered though, I'm not very familiar with the process.  I do know though, based on my friend's attempts to obtain dual citizenship for her children, that it is also a long, drawn-out process.  

8. Do you have to be a citizen of France to buy property in a historical district?

No. But if you want to make any exterior changes to a property in a historical district, you must consult the office of the Chief Architect of France.  Basically what that means is that I am saying "au revoir" to my wish for a back door going out to the patio from the kitchen :)  Unless I'm keen on waiting ten years and willing to endure a lot of paperwork!  Ha! 

9. Do you have internet access in Beynac?

We've actually always had internet access when in France. All of the above mentioned choices of lodging (including the campground) offer free WiFi making it possible to work from abroad and stay connected.

10. When you were looking for appliances, did they vary much, or were you able to find similar US companies?

Appliances are quite different in France actually. Most people do not have dishwashers or dryers...just a washer.   The former are definitely considered luxuries--even more so than here in the US.  Whether you live in a home or an apartment, this seems to be the case. Apparently a dryer, something we consider to be a necessity, is considered a luxury in France. For anyone interested in renting our property in the future, let it be known we are installing both a dishwasher (although it had to be small!) and a dryer. We've gone to great lengths to make sure both conveniences are available to our guests. Like most things in France, appliances are a little more expensive in France and yes, there are variations in quality. The brands are also different, although there might be one or two you recognize (Bosch, LG, etc.)

12. Are the workers reliable?

I'd love to say "yes", but a reliable worker can be hard-to-come-by (I wonder if it's different in an urban environment like Paris?) Locals even admit it! Our experience has been that if we aren't here, they simply don't show up to work, despite instructions to continue with projects.  Their mentality is that you have all the time in the world; one of our artisans even suggested we change our tickets (a $5000 expense!), to work around their 20-hour work week.  We've had excellent luck, however, with our mason and plumber.  Both are outstanding workers and get the job done right and for that we are very, very grateful.

13. Is a venture like this possible with children?

It's a lot of work, but yes, it's possible. We have three little kiddos ourselves.


Alissa Nicolau said...

I second this... very curious!

koodeker said...

LoL, I am sure you have rec'd similar questions from many a reader. We're all curious. Hope you're enjoying your trip. Looks like the giveaway is going well :) Takl to you soon!

lisa said...

Thanks for demystifying this whole grand adventure!!

Susan said...

To clarify the dual nationality question, a person can have dual citizenship if they are a US citizen and are born in another country or if they marry someone from another country and are automatically granted citizenship by marriage. There is no risk of losing US citizenship in either case above BUT if someone voluntarily applies for citizenship of another country it is understood that person is willingly giving up their US citizenship and they may lose their US citizenship (and all subsequent rights, privileges and protections). Canada may be an exception to that.

Likes Chocolate said...

Love your site and hearing about your adventures. Hope you have a happy 4th!

Felicity said...

Great information, thanks! I'm not quite sure how I stumbled on your blog but I love reading it, specifically about your renovations. We're thinking about doing the same thing in Mexico in the next year or two so I'm gleaning information everywhere I can. Hope you're enjoying your 4th!

paula said...

what an adventure!

Michiko said...

I haven't read your blog in a while, and I forgot how much I enjoy it! Thanks for sharing your adventures, finds and recipes. Are you serious about renting out your little Maisonette in the future, cuz if you are, put me on the waiting list!! :)

Robin said...

Love following this adventure. Would love info on renting for a week. Thanks!

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