What you might not know about buying a house and moving in France

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

What you might not know about buying a house and moving in France

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that we just bought a house and moved. Well, 95 percent moved. Luckily we’re in the same town so the things that remain at the apartment won’t be a big deal to get over here. But actually unpacking the boxes? Well, that IS a big deal. They’re taking up space in our garage at present. A loooot of space.

Anyway, before I get back to that, I wanted to share a few facts and other things I found interesting while going through the home buying process.

So read on for info about moving in France!

What you might not know about buying a house and moving in France

First, let me say that my in-laws are moving stars. If there was a reality TV show (is there already?) on people who are really skilled movers, they would win. I’m sure of it. My mother-in-law is super organized and a cleaning machine and my father-in-law is extremely handy and just never stops moving and packing and running around. They don’t even read my blog but I have to tell the internet how much I appreciate their help. Otherwise, I’d still be on the elevator trying to figure out how to get the fridge out the door.

Note: I’m not an expert on French real estate and am just sharing my experience, so this list isn’t the end all and be all of buying a home and moving in France by any means.

How to move to France >>

Here are a few of my observations on buying a house and moving in France (as an American, first-time home buyer):

  • Home inspections (beyond the required energy/gas and a few other obligatory things) aren’t common here and the overwhelming majority of French people buy homes without having the roof, foundation, plumbing, etc. checked over by a professional. The French will also tell you a more thorough inspection isn’t really necessary.

    To give some context, my parents recently sold their home in the U.S. and the detailed home inspection turned up a faulty window lock, a door knob that didn’t turn properly, a light socket that didn’t work right and other minor things. It’s common in the U.S. for the seller to fix these issues or for a credit to be given toward the home’s cost. Not in France. If you do an inspection (I paid for one because it seems foolish not to), anything that turns up can be presented to the seller, but in most cases, homes are sold “as-is” and it is the buyer’s responsibility to fix things once they’ve moved in. You surely won’t get money from the seller. So for instance, in our home, we have to have a roofer repair a few pieces of slate around the chimney and a few other little things. They’re not super expensive repairs, but will be things we have to get taken care of.

  • At the closing, which is handled by a notary, there’s no negotiating ahead of time for the seller to pay any of the buyer’s closing fees. This is apparently common in the U.S. and something I saw when I caught up on a little HGTV in the U.S. Anything is negotiable in theory, but this is not a common practice in France at all.
  • If you’re moving in France, the buyer pays the real estate agent’s commission. And these range but ours was was about 7.5% of the purchase price.
  • Banks are slow. While I’ve never purchased a house in the U.S. and don’t have a frame of reference for this, moving in France takes quite a while. Sure, the fact that banks are closed on Mondays in many cases and close for lunch may have something to do with the delay, but does it really take a couple of months for a loan to be processed? I guess so!
welcome cake
  • Neighbors don’t bake you a cake. There’s no welcome wagon. No introductions. I guess the French don’t have a reputation for being the warmest group of people, but I thought some neighbors would at least say hi! I was wrong and Tom told me that it would be unusual even for me to go knock on someone’s door to introduce myself (relates to his post on social differences). While this varies depending o where you live in the U.S., I feel that in suburban neighborhoods at least, it’s normal to welcome newcomers. Not here. I will be knocking on their doors. Hahha.
  • When moving in France, it’s normal to have a washer in the kitchen, a toilet separate from the sink in the bathroom and a small fridge, but we managed to find a house with space for a washer and dryer in the laundry room, space for a full-size fridge and two bathrooms with a sink in the same room as the toilet! Guess we got lucky there!

Anyway, as always, thanks for reading! 😉

Anything on this list surprise you? Do you have anything to add about moving in France?

Oh, and don’t forget to check out my giveaway where you can enter to win a $50 credit to all the cool Instagram products on Printstagram!

Photo credit: GloriaGarcía / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


What you might not know about buying a house and moving in France

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Comments (6)

  • nicole


    about how much does it cost to buy a house in France? In say, Paris or in a suburb around it?


    • Diane


      Hi there, I think you can find something for every budget if you compromise on the location. Have a look at French real estate sites like Century21.fr, LaForet, SquareHabitat, Orpi, etc. An apartment in Paris will run somewhere around 7,000-10,000 euros per square meter depending on where you are. Something central in a great area close to public transport in a “hot” neighborhood will be closer to 10k euros/square meter and up. But check out some sites


  • Madeleine


    I’m currently in my second house, and I’ve only ever had one neighbor bake me a cake. They turned out to to be really overly nosey too. They are nice, however.

    The closing costs thing does surprise me. It’s a way to negotiate in the US. I got most of my closing costs covered on both houses, and when I sold the first house, I also paid part of the buyer’s closing. It’s just expected.

    I did not find that the banks were slow for me.

    Inspections… don’t get me started. I had an inspector for my first house that found many picky things like you mentioned, but he failed to find some really big stuff! So, I don’t trust inspections anyhow. I got another inspection when I bought this house I’m in now, and sure, enough, we had a big shower drain leak the first month! Thing is that inspectors would have to tear a house apart to truly find all things that are wrong! I guess the French are just more trusting, or willing to accept fate. Also, there are all these businesses built around home buying and selling in the US. I suspect some of the relationships between inspectors and realtors, plus those silly home warranties that sellers are forced to buy. It’s all a racket, really.

    The thing that surprised me is that the buyer pays the agent’s fee! Wow. It all sounds so much more expensive than in the US.


  • Punaiz


    Well this move in-a-house stuff is a lot about trust.

    As US government rights “in god we trust”, French mainly would write :in my own judgement I trust”, and play such loads of money in buying houses without having a professionnal eye on it. Of course a lot end up in front of courts. But not so much I would guess if we compare with other countries.
    Actually inspections are already very costly and compulsory on termits, abestos, and some such difficult-to-guess-but-possible-to-professionnals topics.
    In the other hand, for leaking toilets and faulty switches, the French refer to the old French educationnal tradition to build up self judgement abilities. French are very proud of that, and not always right to be so proud. But a lot of strange things could be explained by the fact each French believe he managed to built very sound self-judgement brain and loves to use it “his way”.


  • Jasmine Vanasselt


    Very lucky that your in-laws are the pros. Always handy having great help. Thanks for shining a light on a topic I didn’t know about.


  • Brandy


    As the owner of a Real Estate company in the U.S., I definitely saw some differences! Sellers pay the commission here, and it’s usually though not always) 6%, and 5% is not unheard of.

    Homes can be listed “as-is” and it usually means the house needs a ton of work. Inspections are still necessary to secure a loan, and some types of home loans are more strict about what has to be fixed and whether or not they will give the loan–which is to say, if the seller doesn’t fix certain things, the lender won’t give the loan, period.

    Average closing time in my city right now is 45 days, which is considered a bit average but also a bit quick; 2 months is not uncommon at all when there is a loan involved. A cash deal is a different story.

    The title company handles the closing here, but you sign there with one of their notaries.


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