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Expats moving to France will find plenty of reasonably priced, comfortable housing options. The standard of accommodation in France is similar to other Western European countries, with comfortable but small living quarters dominating the housing market.
Housing in France varies from studio apartments and condos to cottages, farmhouses and even chateaux. It is generally best for expats to know well in advance the type of accommodation they're in the market for.
Types of accommodation in France
The type of accommodation available in France depends largely on the region. Most cities offer apartments and studios, while as one travels further from the cities iconic French châteaux, farm cottages and stone houses are more readily available.
Expats should be aware that unfurnished accommodation in France, as opposed to other destinations, does not usually include any white-label appliances, like refrigerators or washing machines. Air conditioning is not a common feature, except in the south of the country, while an adequate heating system is essential for the country’s cold winters.
While shipping furniture to France is a viable option, expats can rest assured that they won't have much difficulty finding furniture after arriving in the country. Paris in particular is wonderfully shopper-friendly, boasting a famous range of second-hand and antique stores as well as a number of modern superstores.
Some of the types of accommodation available in France include:
By far the most common type of accommodation in French cities, apartments are usually rented out on a monthly basis. They vary in size from small studio apartments to sprawling high-end condos, with an equally vast range in price.
Cottages are more common in the rural areas of France. These are usually for sale, but some are rented out on a short-term basis for holidaymakers, especially near the coastal regions in the south of France. Cottages in rural France are also frequently available as renovation projects. These can be bought for a low price, but are usually in need of considerable restoration.
Cottages vary considerably in price depending on their condition, location and size. They can be suitable for expat families planning to live in France for a long period of time or those who want to avoid the fast pace of city life.
Expats with a slightly larger budget may consider buying a stunning chateau, many of which have rich histories dating back to the middle ages. That said, most have been renovated over the years and have all the amenities expected of a modern home.
Finding accommodation in France
One of the best ways for expats in France to find accommodation is through the classifieds in various print and online publications. These adverts often include a time and date for interested parties to view the property.
Expats may find it difficult to secure accommodation in France before moving into the country, as most landlords and property owners prefer doing business with people they've met. It is usually also best to see the property in person before committing to a lease.
For these reasons, another way to find accommodation in France is networking. Due to extremely high competition among potential tenants, some of the best properties available may not be advertised publicly. Expats are advised to make connections and ask around to find out if anyone in their social circle may know of something.
Expats who don’t mind the extra fees or don't want to deal directly with a landlord can always use a real estate agency. This option is good for expats who are in a rush and don’t have time to browse the market themselves.
Renting property in France
Most expats will probably decide to rent property in France. Expats will find that housing costs are mainly determined by location. The golden rule is that the closer the accommodation is to the city centre, the higher the rent will be. As a result, it is not uncommon for expats to seek accommodation in slightly outlying districts of French cities. These areas often offer bigger properties that are in better shape and boast more creature comforts, such as air conditioning and double glazing, than anything available in the downtown areas.
Expats should note that, should they rent property in an apartment building or government-subsidised housing complex, their monthly utility bills will more than likely be included in their rental fees.
Finding a property to rent in France can be a little testing. Expats may need to provide three recent payslips to prove that their monthly salary is at least three times the rent value. This is primarily a result of the many French laws in place protecting the tenant once a lease is signed. Furthermore, estate agent fees can be as high as one month's rent.
See more on renting property in France.
Buying property in France
Buying property in France is a popular option for expats, especially retirees looking to enjoy life in true Provençal style.
Purchasing property in France is relatively straightforward for EU citizens. Once a property has been selected, the buyer will negotiate and enter into an initial agreement with the vendor. This agreement is called a Compromis de Vente or Contrat de Réservation, and is a legally binding contract that sets out the terms and price of the sale. A notaire – a publicly-appointed official representing the interests of the French government – needs to ensure that the property has sound title (i.e. that there are no irregularities in the ownership) and that the purchase or sale is correctly transacted.
►Learn about the French healthcare system in Healthcare in France
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Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to France. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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