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Building in France

Posted by James Mansfield on August 19, 2017
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Roofs of Le Treport

Land Purchase

Land is readily available and cheap to purchase in most areas of France. Typical plots would be 1000m² (¼ of an acre) upwards. Estate agents and Notaires in your chosen area will keep a list of available plots.

When you have found your plot and negotiated a price you will then be required to sign a ‘compromis de vente’. This is an agreement between purchaser and vendor protecting the rights of both. In this agreement as purchaser you have the ability to include ‘ clauses suspensive’ (special conditions). If these conditions are not met within the time limit of the compromis de vente you can withdraw from the purchase, reclaim your deposit (typically 10%) with no further claim on yourself or the vendor. We would always recommend when purchasing a plot of land that you enter as a ‘clause suspensive’ the necessity of gaining full planning permission (permis de construire) before the signature of the final act (acte de vente).

Plots are often sold with a CU ‘certificate d’urbanisme’. This roughly equates to outline planning permission and is a general agreement by the authorities that a dwelling can be constructed on the land. It will probably contain conditions of size and type of construction and is therefore not a guarantee that you can build the house that you require.
If you have found a plot, signed a compromis and paid your deposit you now need to apply for planning permission. If your proposed house is more than 170m² you will require, by law, the services of an architect to prepare and submit the planning application.
If your house is less than 170m² an architect is not required and you cab hire a designer to help you decide your house layout and submit your application. This route can cost considerably less than the services of an architect.
Planning permission usually takes two months to acquire from the date of submission.

Building the house

You now have your plot and your planning permission and can commence the build. In France there are typically three ways to build your house.

A Turn Key Building Company: for a lump sum they will build you a house with all fittings included and at the end of the contract hand over your door keys. This can sound advantageous until you discover such companies are expensive, have long waiting lists and are inflexible when it comes to house design, preferring to offer one of their standard unimaginative models.

Architect or Maitre d’œuvre: can project manage your new house bringing together all of the necessary sub-contractors and components that make up a finished product. With this method you have much greater flexibility and control over the quality and type of materials and finishings that form your house. The Maitre d’œuvre or architect would normally charge a percentage or a fixed lump sum to manage the project.

Self Build: while possible in France it carries certain problems, mainly in the area of guarantees. Any registered artisan in France working on a new build project must carry a 10 year guarantee on all work carried out, a ‘Decennale’ – if you sell your house within 10 years all Decennales will be requested by the purchaser. If on some of the main elements of your house you do not have a decennale this could be viewed as a problem. Therefore we will always suggest you have the main structural components erected under the terms of a decennale, i.e. foundations, walls, roof and windows. This would provide you with a watertight shell which could be finished off on a DIY basis – something to which timber frame is ideally suited but still giving you the peace of mind of a guaranteed structure.

This article was originally published on Avilionhomes.com

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