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BY LEGGETT IMMOBILIER

Thinking about selling your property in France? Here’s what you need to know

Owning a property in France can be a wonderful experience. Selling it, however, can be less so. With France’s ever-changing regulatory landscape and heavy administrative burden, doing it all on your own can be stressful and fraught with risk, even if you know the market. Using an agent could be a great option which can save you a lot of both time and money. We explain why.

Thinking about selling your property in France? Here's what you need to know

Selling a house in France can be complicated for a number of reasons, and while you may choose to sell it privately, asking for the help of an agency can make this process much easier.

Roz Collins and her husband had been running a successful business renting out their gites (holiday property) in Poitou-Charente for almost 10 years. Then they had to return to the UK and sell their French property.

But finding a buyer wasn’t that easy.

“Although our house was stunning and had beautiful views, a number of factors made the selling quite challenging,” Roz says.

“First of all, the property is a converted barn, so it’s not an ordinary holiday home property, and secondly we put it on the market just when Brexit happened and then Covid followed, and the market just died,” she says.

What’s more, the house was in a quiet, rural area, with the nearest other private property being a quarter of a mile away, and the nearest town, Angouleme, about 50 km away, so the house was not exactly in the middle of a bustling city with lots of prospective buyers passing by.

The Collins had put their house on the market privately but soon realised their chances of success were low.

Are you planning to sell your house in France? Get some help from the market specialists, Leggett Immobilier

“You’re very unlikely to find someone driving around in the country who will notice the property without any marketing, especially if it’s an outside-of-the-city property,” Joanna Leggett from the estate agent Leggett Immobilier says.

In fact, unlike just posting on one’s social media, real estate agents such as Leggett reach a much broader market and are able to get a better final price thanks to their marketing expertise.

Furthermore, using an agency is the only way to get worldwide coverage and attract international buyers who are looking to buy properties in France. “Brits, Dutch, Belgians, Germans and lots of Americans are interested in acquiring a property in France,” says Joanna.

“The best way to advertise and reach the most people is really to use an agent because we do all the marketing at no extra cost – it’s also the best way to get the best price because an agent will be a more experienced negotiator and will be more neutral,” she says.

One day, Roz got a call from Stephanie, an agent from Leggett Immobilier. “She had noticed our house was on the market, and was convinced she could sell it,” said Roz. At that time, the couple had considered other agents, but Stephanie was the only one who followed through.

“She was so tenacious, extremely professional, really thorough, followed up on questions, gave us feedback,” says Roz.

“We always said, ‘if somebody is going to sell this place, it’s going to be Stephanie’”. And that’s what happened.

Overwhelmed at the red tape involved in selling your house in France? Contact Leggett for advice

Roz Collins, right, with her husband, Derek.

Selling a house can be stressful, and usually involves a lot of red tape and administration that perhaps not every seller is aware of, especially in France.

And for the Collins, Stephanie’s help was priceless.

The Leggett agent was there to smooth out the process and conduct all the tests and reports that need to be done before a house is put on the market.

In fact, having an expert conduct a ‘Diagnostic Performance Energétique’, i.e. a diagnostic report which identifies the estimated consumption of energy of a building as well as the effectiveness of the insulation, is compulsory.

Other surveys on termites, lead paint, asbestos, the electricity supply, as well as septic tanks and numerous other issues are also mandatory.

Additionally, agencies such as Leggett take care of all the conveyancing and organise everything without the seller having to worry about a thing.

“We have the official capacity to draw up the ‘compromis de vente’ which if you were doing that yourself, you’d have to liaise with your notaire,” Joanna says.

“An agent will spot things like, ‘Is the buyer looking for planning permission for a swimming pool?’ or, ‘Are they looking to convert the barn into a house?’, and can get the compromis drawn up much quicker than would the notaire,” she says.

The agency also organises the signatures of the buyer and the seller, digitally or on paper, and then has it sent through to the notaire.

“Once the compromis de vente was signed, Stephanie went to the notaire personally on a number of occasions, she followed up, she took care of all the paperwork and she even met up with the buyers and picked up the contract herself in the UK,” Roz says.

“She was extremely helpful, particularly for us because we were in the UK, but she also helped our buyers with their visas, which was amazing,” she said.

“We couldn’t have asked for more.”

Want to sell your French house for the best price and with the minimum of fuss? Contact Leggett Immobilier

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FRENCH BUREAUCRACY

Everything you need to know about your vital French ‘dossier’

It's a crucial part of life and an incomplete one can bring about a whole world of pain - here's what you need to know about your French dossier.

Everything you need to know about your vital French 'dossier'

The French word un dossier simply means a file – either in the physical sense of a plastic or cardboard item that holds documents together or the sense of a collection of documents. You might also hear civil servants use dossier to refer to the responsibilities they hold, as in English we might say their ‘brief’. 

But by far the most important use of dossier, particularly to foreigners in France, is its use to indicate the collection of documents that you must put together in order to complete vital administrative tasks, from registering in the health system to finding somewhere to live.

When you begin a new administrative process, you will need to put together a collection of documents in order to make your application. Exactly what you need varies depending on the process, but almost all dossiers will include;

  • Proof of ID – passport, birth certificate or residency card. If a birth certificate is required check carefully exactly what type of certificate is being asked for (and don’t freak out if they’re asking for a birth certificate no more than three months old, it doesn’t mean you have to be born again).

Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one

  • Proof of address – utility bills are usually the best, if you’re on paperless billing you can log into your online account with your power supplier and download an Attetstation de contrat which has your name and address on it and also acts as proof of address
  • Proof of financial means – depending on the process you might have to show proof of your income/financial means. This can include things like your last three months payslips or your most recent tax return. If you’re house-hunting you might be asked for your last three quittances de loyer – these are rent receipts and prove that you have been paying your rent on time. Landlords are legally obliged to provide these if you ask, but if you can’t find them or it’s a problem you can also ask your landlord to provide an attestatation de bon paiment – a certificate stating that you pay what you owe on time.

Paper v online

The traditional dossier is a bulging file full of papers, but increasingly administrative processes are moving online, so you may be able to simply upload the required documents instead of printing them all out. 

If you have to send physical copies of documents by mail, make sure you send them by lettre recommandée (registered mail), not only does it keep your precious documents safe, but some offices will only accept documents that arrive this way. 

If you’re able to send your dossier online, pay careful attention to the format specified for documents – usually documents like rental contracts or work contracts will be in Pdf format while for documents like a passport or residency card a jpeg (such as a photo taken on your phone) will suffice. If you’re sending photos of ID cards, residency cards or similar make sure you upload photos of both sides of the card.

If you need scanned documents there is no need to buy an expensive scanner – there are now numerous free phone apps that will do the job and allow you to photograph the documents with your phone’s camera and convert them to Pdf files.

Some French government sites are a little clunky and won’t accept large files – if you get an error message telling you that the file you are uploading is too big, you can resize it using a free online photo resizing tool. 

Payment

If the process requires payment (eg changing address on certain types of residency card or applying for citizenship) you may be asked for a timbre fiscale – find out how they work here

House-hunting

If you are looking for a property to rent you will need to compile a dossier and if you’re in one of the big cities – especially Paris – landlords or agencies usually won’t even grant you a viewing without seeing your dossier first, so it’s always best to compile this before you start scanning property adverts.

The government has put together a tool called Dossier Facile which allows you to upload all your house-hunting documents to a single site, have them checked and verified and then gives you a link to give to landlords and agencies, which makes the process a little simpler.

Find a full explanation of how it works here.

Attestations

For foreigners, especially new arrivals, it’s often a problem getting together all the documents required. It’s worth knowing that if you don’t have everything you need, you can sometimes substitute documents for an attestation sur l’honneur, which is a sworn statement. 

How to write a French attestation sur l’honneur

This is a legally valid document, with penalties for submitting a false one, and needs to be in French and written in a certain format – the French government website provides a template for the attestation.

Vocab

Déposer un dossier – submit your file

Pièce d’identitie – proof of ID eg passport, residency card

Acte de naissance – birth certificate. 

Copie intégral – a copy of the document such as a photocopy or scan

Extrait – a new version of the document, reissued by the issuing authority

Sans/ avec filiation – for birth certificates it might be specified that you need one avec filiation, which means it includes your parents’ details. Some countries issue as standard short-form birth certificates that don’t include this, so you will need to request a longer version of the certificate

Justificatif de domicile – proof of address eg recent utility bills. If you don’t have any bills in your name you can ask the person who either owns the property or pays the rent to write an attestation de domicile stating that you live there

Justificatif de situation professionnelle – proof of your work status eg a work contract – either a CDI (permenant contract) or CDD (short-term contract)

Justificatif de ressources – proof of financial means, such as your last three months payslips (employers are legally obliged to provide these), other proof of income or proof of pension payments or evidence of savings.

Avis d’imposition – tax return. Some processes ask for this separately, for others it can be used as proof of resources – this is not a copy of the declaration that you make, but the receipt you get back from the tax office laying out your income and any payments that are required. If you declare your taxes online in France, you can download a copy of this document from the tax website. 

Quittance de loyer – rent receipts

Attestation de bon paiment – a document from your landlord stating that you pay your rent on time

Un garant – for some processes, particularly house-hunting, you might need a financial guarantor. This can be tricky for foreigners since it has to be someone you know reasonably well, but that person must also be living (and sometimes working) in France, and they will also need to provide all the above documents. If you’re struggling to find an acceptable guarantor, there are online services that will provide a guarantor (for a fee).

En cours de traitement – this means that your dossier has been received and is in the process of being evaluated. Depending on the process this stage can take anywhere between hours, months or even years (in the case of citizenship applications).

RDV – the shortened version of rendez-vous, this is an appointment. Certain processes require you to first submit your dossier and then attend an in-person appointment.

Votre dossier est incomplet – bad news, you are missing one or more crucial documents and your application will not proceed any further until you have remedied this.

Votre dossier est validé – your dossier has been approved. Time to pop the Champagne!

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