Buying a house in France: Everything you need to know

Buying a house in France: Everything you need to know

by Clara Avrillier

Updated May 12, 2022

Buying a house in France is a dream for many people. With its renowned cuisine, incredible weather and diverse regions, it’s easy to understand why! However, buying a house in a foreign country can seem scary and overwhelming. It’s important to have a good understanding of how the process works in France before immediately jumping into the house search. 

In this article, we explain how the process works, the costs and time associated with buying and where to buy a house in France. It provides an overview of the process to help you turn your dream into reality. The house-buying process in France is quite different from other countries, so we have transformed it into five simple steps.

  1. Finding a property
  2. Making an offer
  3. Signing a preliminary contract
  4. Signing the final contract 
  5. It’s time to celebrate!

Bonus: Where to buy a house in France

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1. Finding a property

As with any house search, you first need to find a property to buy. There are two main ways you can do this in France: search yourself, using real estate or private websites, or use a real estate agency. If you decide to search yourself, we’d suggest researching the city and the market as much as possible. If you are buying a house in France as a foreigner, an agency is probably the best way to go as they can guide you in your search and advise you on the legal side of things. Agency fees are generally seven to eight percent of the property sale. It’s also a good idea to learn some vocabulary to help you through the process.

2. Making an offer

Once you’ve found your dream property, it’s time to make an offer! You can either do this orally, which is not legally binding, or provide a written offer. In the offer, you can include conditional terms, such as the requirement for a mortgage so that if the bank does not approve you, you can back out of the sale with no penalties. You should also state how long the offer is valid for.

3. Signing a preliminary contract

The next step is very important and differs quite a bit from other countries. The compromis de vente (preliminary contract) is a contract you sign after the offer is accepted. This is the equivalent of a sale in France, so you commit to the purchase very early on in the process. Following the signature of this contract with a notaire (real estate lawyer), the buyer has a ten-day cooling-off period in which they can withdraw from the offer with no penalties. The buyer also has to transfer the house deposit (usually five to ten percent of the property price) within these ten days. There are a variety of other fees involved in the buying process, so it’s a good idea to get acquainted with them before starting your search.

4. Signing the final contract

The acte de vente (final contract) is the completion of the sale. The standard timeline between the preliminary contract and the final contract is 3-4 months, so much longer than in the USA for example. Once you have signed this contract, you will get the keys to your new place.

5. It’s time to celebrate!

And that’s all folks! You have now bought your very own property in France, so you can pop open the champagne and start celebrating. If you are moving to France permanently, we recommend checking you have the correct visa (if required) and health insurance.

Bonus: Where to buy a house in France

Now that you have a better understanding of the process, you can get started on the details, mainly, where to live! There are many wonderful cities in France to choose from, depending on what you are looking for. For example, if you’re moving with your family, Toulouse is a great option: there are lots of international employers based in the city so the selection of international and bilingual schools is fantastic.


Lets’s buy a house in France

So there we have it, five simple steps to buying a house in France. From making an offer to signing the final contract, we have you covered, so hopefully you can make a start on that lifelong dream of moving to France! And if you’d like to make things a bit easier, learn French with Lingoda – it will help you understand what’s going on in the house-buying process and put your mind at ease.

Ready to start learning with Lingoda?


Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with many expats looking to move to France. Find out more on her website, ON IT Translations, or connect with her on LinkedIn