In France it is very simple. Take the advertised purchase price and add 7.8%.

The price you see

The price you see advertised in France always includes the estate agency fee. The only thing you need to factor on top are the Notaire fees. The sum of the agency fee is not really important to the buyer as it is negotiated between agency and seller, and comes out of the seller’s share. In general the buyer does not discuss the agency fee and lets the agent and seller battle it out between themselves. The buyer does not need to pay the agency, a cheque is written directly to the estate agency by the Notaire.

Notaire fees

The costs of purchasing a property in France are fixed by the government, even the solicitor fees. They even fix how much a Notaire can charge for photocopying a page for you. However things are so complicated behind the scenes that even the Notaire does not know how much it is going to cost until the final deeds come back. For this reason they charge a “provisional amount” of around 7.8% and then return a cheque in your name with the difference once the Acte has been completed. This can range between a couple of hundred and a couple of thousand euros depending on how much paperwork will be required.

It will never be more than this amount apart from two possible additional costs. The first is the cost of a translator, if the Notaire is not fluent in the language of the buyer. This usually around €350 but it is the translator that sets the price so it may vary. The translator must be an officially registered translator with the Town Hall so you cannot use a French speaking friend or family member.

The second possible cost is if you wish to change your marriage regime for inheritance purposes. Foreign wills are not recognised in France, and property falls under the French inheritance regime no matter what the nationality or where the residence is of the buyers. Upon the death of a spouse the estate is divided between wife and children, even from previous marriages. Many wish to have an contract drawn up that makes it explicit that the property is to be passed directly to the surviving spouse. This also means that no inheritance tax is immediately due. The cost varies between €300 and €400 depending on Notaire.

A final point to note is that when drawing up the Compromis de Vente, the estate agent will put in an estimate of the Notaire fees. It is only an indicative and do not be upset if the figure the Notaire comes back with is slightly different.

Ongoing costs

There are two ongoing costs, your building maintenance fees and your government taxes. When you buy an apartment you also buy a share of the building and your share, usually based on the size of your apartment, will determine how much of the costs you need to bear. An average apartment in an average building will be around 5%, so if the roof needs repairing and the cost is €10,000 then you will be asked to contribute €500. All decisions of works to be done are taken at the annual general meeting of residents, the property management company serves a purely administrative function and cannot make any decisions on behalf of the residents.

In addition to any rare one-off costs, there is a monthly charge. This covers cleaning the common areas, regular lift inspections, minor repairs, and for the concierge if there is one. A pied-a-terre in the Old Town or Carre d’Or with no lift will incur around €40-€80 per month. A moderate one or two bedroom in the city centre costing €300-€400k will be around €80-€120 per month. A larger apartment in a bourgois building with a concierge will run €120-€180 per month. A tiny number of new-build prestige properties have costs €200-250 per month but they are exceedingly rare.

The French pay two yearly taxes. The first is council tax, due every September. It is based on area and then size. If you are spending around €250k on a property expect it to be around €600 per year, and if spending €350k then €1,000 per year, if spending €450,000 then €1,200 per year, and if above then around €1,400 per year. The second tax is a residents tax (also known as the poll tax) based on where you live the 1st January. This is generally slightly less than the council tax. Foreign residents are now expected to pay the second tax also, though in our experience it is still a bit arbitrary as to which actually receive a bill.

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