France is the most popular tourist destination in the world with many thousands of second home owners choosing this beautiful country. From the snowy mountains of the Alps to the sun-kissed beaches of the Cote d'Azur there is surely something for everyone.
France has so much to offer. If you want skiing you have the choice of the Alps or the Pyrenées, for coastal areas you have not only the famous Cote d’Azur but the stunning sands of the west coast as well as Brittany and Normandy in the north. For city life you have Paris, Marseille or Bordeaux and inland you have the beautiful waterways of the Dordogne or the Canal du Midi.
More seasoned travellers may even prefer to stay slightly off the beaten track where you money goes further; inland areas like the Loire or the Massif Central offer great value for money. The canals and rivers offer an extra option for boating in addition to the coastal hotspots on the Mediterranean.
Group purchase of French property needs particularly careful consideration, because French inheritance laws are designed to ensure that ownership of real estate is divided amongst family members, and is not solely at the owner’s discretion. This makes it hazardous to enter into informal group ownership arrangements, for example with a nominee owner acting for the other members.
The usual way to solve this problem is by forming a special type of French company called a Societe Civile Immobiliere (SCI). Provided no commercial activity is undertaken, then once this is done there are relatively few on-going formalities to be met, but the initial process does need considerable expertise.
Potential buyers should be aware that “commercial activity” includes rental of the property, and there has been an increasing degree of surveillance by the French authorities of unregistered “informal” rental of vacation property in collaboration with tax authorities elsewhere. One advantage of The OwnerGroups concept is that the increased owner utilisation and shared operating cost of group membership means that rental income generally does not need to be a high priority for the owners as a means of offsetting costs, and the complications of dealing with these issues can be avoided. Joint purchase of commercial property such as vineyards, is of course possible but requires a different form of ownership. The OwnerGroups Company uses a specialist legal firm to ensure full compliance with all the necessary regulations.
Use of an SCI permits a share of the property to be sold independently of the property, which is obviously important for a group ownership. Such transfers are looked on under French law as more like a property transfer than a simple share transfer as in the UK, in that there are more formalities to be covered, including a tax of 4.8% on the share value. This is however considerably less than the taxes and duties on transfer of the property itself would have been. Although nominally borne by the buyer, this needs to be kept in mind when setting the selling price for a share – someone accustomed to buying ordinary stocks and shares will not expect to have to pay this additional cost, so it should be factored into an “asking price” which can then be “inclusive of all transfer fees”. Other alternatives include owning the SCI through a UK company but this obviously has its own complications. We can obtain appropriate advice for each specific case.
Three types of climate may be found within France: oceanic, continental, and Mediterranean. The oceanic climate, prevailing in the western parts of the country, is one of small temperature range, ample rainfall, cool summers, and cool but seldom very cold winters. The continental (transition) type of climate, found over much of eastern and central France, adjoining its long common boundary with west-central Europe, is characterised by warmer summers and colder winters than areas farther west; rainfall is ample, and winters tend to be snowy, especially in the higher areas. The Mediterranean climate, widespread throughout the south of France (except in the mountainous southwest), is one of cool winters, hot summers, and limited rainfall. The mean temperature is about 11° C (53° F ) at Paris and 15° C (59° F ) at Nice. In central and southern France, annual rainfall is light to moderate, ranging from about 68 cm (27 in) at Paris to 100 cm (39 in) at Bordeaux. Rainfall is heavy in Brittany, the northern coastal areas, and the mountainous areas, where it reaches more than 112 cm (44 in).
The price of property within France varies wildly according to which region you are looking at. City centre living in Paris will cost you around €9000/m2 whilst in the cheapest region a small farmhouse could cost only €400/m2!
The Cote d’Azur is the next most expensive area after France at around €4000/m2 putting the average price of a property at over €400,000. Aside from that and outside the skiing regions of the Alps you are generally looking at needing to spend upwards of €250,000 for a good 4-bedroom property.
Obviously, buying as a group massively increases your buying power – how about a French chateau?