We learned a lot from our first property finding visit. Here are our findings on aspects of French property.
French estate agents only provide a basic description and a few photographs. They never provide a floor plan – though the vendor may be able to provide one. They are also very rarely willing to provide the property’s address. They usually want potential buyers to sign a “Bon de visite” which prevents you from buying the property through another agent of directly from the vendor. The reason for all of this is that properties are usually being sold through several agents often at different asking process depending upon the agent’s fees. Agents don’t want to risk losing their commission!
Property sizes are designated by the ground area in square metres along with the total land area in square metres. There are often building restrictions that the property area is less than 0.1, 0.2 or even 0.4 times the land area. These restrictions are sometimes local to a town or even to a street. It is important to verify whether it is possible to extend the building if it is required.
Beware! After the floods of the late 1990s, areas close to the sea, rivers and canals have been given designations of zone blue and zone red. Zone blue is fine and you can build on it given the existing constraints. Zone red is a disaster area. It is forbidden to do anything with zone red land. It can’t even be used as a recreational park area. Many people now own zone red land which was once worth a fortune and is now is totally worthless.
Properties are often described in terms of the number of rooms (pieces). Sometimes the number of bedrooms (chambres) is also provided. A room which is below a certain size should be designated as an office (bureau) rather than as a bedroom. Agents often blur this distinction.
There are two types of bathroom. There is a salle d’eau which is a shower with a wash basin and possibly a bidet. Then there is a salle de bain which will also contain a bath.
Toilets are almost always in a separate room as the French find it distasteful to put the toilet in a salle d’eau or salle de bain. The toilet room may also contain a bidet but often not. It does make one wonder about the potential consequences of having the toilet and bidet in separate rooms!
There are several types of kitchen. A cuisine is a separate room. A cuisine Americain is a kitchen built into a living room. A cuisine été is a Summer kitchen designed for outdoor cooking. A barbecue is quite common either on a balcony or as a separate outdoor unit.
Swimming pools have to have one of three safety features. They can be fenced off with a gate. They can have a pool cover. They can be fitted with an alarm which goes off if someone, or something, enters the pool without disarming it.
Another thing to check for is does it have a forage – free ground water for swimming pools and watering the garden. Mains water is quite expensive.