Knowing what to buy in France

Wouter Haaijman,  Thursday, 26 March 2009

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It used to be a bit easier. You bought a house in France, and if it turned out to have hidden problems, you just sold it again. There were buyers in abundance. Of course, you did not mention the issues. The new owner had to discover them for himself. Selling your house and buying something new did cost a lot, but if you thought it all out well, you could make a nice profit at the time.

It is all very different now. The euphoria is over.

Many houses are now for sale for months or even longer. Selling a home if you don't like it, if it is not suitable, or if it will cost too much to renovate, is nowadays no longer possible. This means that you can't run the risk of getting surprises.

Hardly anyone today can afford to buy a house without knowing what it will eventually cost in advance. It's not just about the purchase price and the cost of purchase. You also want to know in advance whether urgent repairs are needed, what repairs are expected in the future and what those repairs will cost.

You also want to know what problems you may encounter after you become the owner of the property and whether these problems can be solved.

Are you thinking about renovating? Then preventing surprises is just as important. For example, if you want to build some gîtes in a barn, the barn, or the ground on which the barn stands, must be strong enough to do so. Barns are often more or less open spaces and were not originally built to lay floors and walls in later on. An expert - must determine whether the structure of the barn and the ground beneath it are suitable for your plans.

Sometimes some problems cannot be solved with money. You want to buy a castle and set up a hotel in it. The commander of the local fire brigade does not issue the necessary permit, because the windows do not meet the minimum dimensions. You have a problem now. The only solution seems to be to enlarge the windows. That costs a lot of money, and you had not foreseen that. Unfortunately, it appears that the local beauty committee does not want to give its approval. Your problem has grown even more significant.

An expert will investigate, advise and, where possible, try to resolve such matters. Such an expert was involved in the two examples above. The gîtes were not built because the barn was not stable enough. The windows of the castle remained as they were because the commander of the fire brigade accepted another solution and granted the permit.

The plans you have with the house or building are essential. After these have been discussed in detail, an expert can carry out a specific investigation.

The expert must be independent, objective and competent. Membership of a professional organization such as CEIF (Chambre Expert Immobilier France) or RICS (Royal Society Chartered Surveyors) guarantees the necessary skill, experience, and attitude.

Buyers of a house in France who are advised to limit the risks, for example by having the contract reviewed and the home inspected, almost always find this a matter of course. Yet there are relatively few buyers who actually act accordingly. Fortunately, things often go well. In maybe 8 or 9 out of 10 cases, nothing is wrong. However, things can go wrong, and that is almost always very expensive. It is a pity if you as a buyer belong to these 10% or 20% problem cases.


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