Monday, May 28, 2012

What's included in a property sale?

This thorny question arises frequently on the various French property forums, by both buyers and sellers, so a further clarification is perhaps opportune.

In order to avoid any subsequent disagreements prior to or at completion, buyers and sellers should agree from the outset what precisely is included in the property sale, and draw up a list of what items are included and those not. This is important as misunderstandings can occur - for example, over what is meant precisely by a 'fitted kitchen' or 'fully equipped kitchen': does it include a cooker, hob, built-in oven, refrigerator, dish-washer and so on. The buyer's expectations may differ widely from those of the seller!

Such a list can be attached to the 'compromis de vente' (pre-sale contract) and included as a condition of sale when the parties get together to sign the 'acte finale' on completion.

Buyers are advised to visit the property immediately before completion in order to ensure that the property is in the condition in which they first saw it and agreed to purchase. This includes any work that may have been done, in agreement with the vendor, but otherwise nothing should have been done to alter the list of items included in the sale.

In the absence of an agreed list (not advisable) the Notaire handling the transaction may propose an 'indicative list' which normally includes items the buyer would expect to see left behind by the vendor. Among the items most frequently disputed are light fittings, door furniture, blinds, hanging rails for curtains, heaters/radiators, kitchen equipment, hanging rails inside cupboards etc.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Living small, thinking big!

I am currently involved in selling my Mediterranean beachside apartment and finding an alternative in my nearest large town (Perpignan). As an alternative to advising clients on buying French property, I have found that I have revised my ideas over the months I have been searching (a luxury as I am not in a rush to sell), notably on the question of optimum size.

I am a great fan of small-scale living and because purchase price, local taxes and building managements charges are all more or less calculated on the basis of square metres, I have revised my personal requirements downwards. I am particularly keen to find a top-floor apartment offering good ceiling height (4 metres are ideal) and the chance to install a mezzanine, which under French regulations (loi Carrez) is not counted as official living space - but can add a third or more to the size of an apartment.

In doing this I have been encouraged by websites such as the American which has just held its annual competition to find the most attractive small space submitted by fans of the blog; and another site which has some interesting videos on small-scale living in the town or countryside, both in America and Europe (including France).

Finally for those thinking of buying some land and doing their own thing, I recommend the latest title in the excellent 'Archi Pas Chère' series called Nouvelles Maisons* . It is in French but presents some interesting examples of houses built on small plots, offering 100 square metres or more of family living space, and using the latest technologies to provide warmth and insulation. Pictures and floor plans are included, plus the contact details of all the architects concerned.

Again I shall be writing about this in the July or August issue of French Property News. 

* Nouvelles Maisons by Olivier Darmon, Editions Ouest-France, September 2011.

Buying to let furnished

France has a huge private rental sector, estimated at 98% of rented properties owned by private landlords (compared with just 2% by institutions such as banks and insurance companies). Out of France's 27 million households, just over 11.6 million (40%) live in rented accommodation - of which 6.55 million are in the private sector.

This furnished rental sector represents a major opportunity for small investors and is a more secure alternative than short-term furnished holiday lettings - June to September in the warm south, during the ski season in the winter. Furnished rentals normally involve an annual lease (renewable) and tenants are often young and mobile, students or salary earners, and tend not to stay for more than two or three years. For them the furnished rental is a more attractive alternative to buying or even renting (and equiping) an empty house or apartment for a relatively short period.

The French fiscal authorities recognise a category of small entrepreneur or furnished property renter (loueur en leublé non-professionnel) with an attractive tax regime. The rules for 'long term' furnished rentals, based on a one year renewable lease, are less onerous than for unfurnished rentals (which provide wide protections for tenants for whom it may be their main home). They generally involve less management than, say, holiday lets requring frequent changeovers and cleaning between rentals.

I shall be providing a longer article on the subject to appear in French Property News in the autumn.

P-D de R.