Moving to France

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Vous voulez déplacer en France? Bien! Millions of British people make the move to France every year, and there are loads of other that want to experience it as well. The beautiful culture and landscape of the country attracts us, but if you’re planning to retire to France or move there to work, then you’ll definitely need to take some factors into consideration, and our easy to use guide will lay out the basics for you.

Although the ferry crossing to France isn’t exactly a long trip, it’s still a major move as you’re switching countries completely, and this can be quite daunting and stressful. There are loads of websites and books available that explain the basics and the more detailed specifics of moving to another country, some websites offer expert advice on how much things will cost to move and how long it will take for your things to be shipped over to your new home. It’s also worth doing some research into French etiquette before you leave, as the French have some very different customs to the English. For example, did you know you should always greet and say goodbye with a handshake or kiss? Or that at the dinner table you never put your hands on your lap?

When moving the biggest issue is where you’re actually going to live. Choosing a property in France couldn’t be simpler with all the companies and website that specialise in properties abroad, and you’ll be able to find a sophisticated Parisian apartment, or a cosy Mediterranean cottage in no time with their advice. If you decide to use a French estate agent rather than an English one, make sure they’re accredited by the FNAIM or SNPI, and make sure you have a translator hired if you don’t speak good enough French to organise it yourself.

Signing contracts on a house in France can take up to 5 months, and you should always have an English speaking solicitor to go over the finer points for you so you definitely understand. When you find the property you want, you have to sign a compromis de vente, which is overseen by a notaire (solicitor), before paying 10% of the overall value of the house. The house is then taken off the market and there is a cooling off period of a week where you can back out if you want to. Once you’ve committed to the buy after these seven days, you then carry out checks on the house in the next two months and organise any finance you need.

You have to present your passport and any marriage and divorce papers at the signing of the contracts and make sure you’ve viewed and accepted the condition of the property before hand. Now you’re ready to sign the final Acte de Vente and pay the remaining taxes and fees, you should expect to pay around 12% of your properties values in these taxes and fees. You’ll need to open a French bank account to pay for this and handle the payments such as stamp duty (0.6%) and the Notaire’s fees, which can be around 1-5% of the property’s value.

To pay for the rest of your house you can either borrow money and remortgage your old house in the UK, or if the move is more permanent you can sell your old house and take out a mortgage on your new French home. Barclay’s and HSBC will offer mortgages on foreign homes, or you could use a French company and ensure that your payments will run smoothly. In regards to taxes in the UK, if you’re still earning money from the UK, either from an employer or by renting out your old home, you may be liable for income tax. Your pension, however, should not be affected- you simply tell the pensions office your new address and details. If you’re sent by an employer, you remain on their pension scheme for five years after. Finally, whilst healthcare in the UK is free, for the first five years of your life in France you’ll have to pay for private health care if you’re unemployed, so check before hand.