Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creative ways to buy your French homes

It is relatively straightforward in France to acquire and pay for a house or apartment, provided you have the cash available or are able to obtain a mortgage. The vast majority of transactions follow this route, but if you happen to be - say - single or poor (or both!) there are a number of more creative ways to buy your ideal property.

I wrote some time ago on this blog and in French Property News about a new trend whereby groups of family members or friends get together to jointly buy or build a single or group of properties, and thereby create their own large or small 'co-onwership' (copropiété). This is known in French as a 'habitat groupé participartif' and can range from two or three families or more who wish to select their future neighbours and work together from planning through to occupation to create their ideal environment. The motivation behind such schemes can be financial but some aim to bring together like-minded groups such as ecologists, vegetarians, retirees - and in one case I discovered while researching this subject, a group of women. This new approach is comprehensively described, with several case studies in a book by Yves Connan entitled 'Habitat groupé partifipatif' (Editions Ouest-France) and includes detailed cost breakdowns of various sized projects.

If you find this sort of approach too daunting you may be interested in joining a smaller group, including people you may not have met before, but may find through social contacts or even the internet (yes, there are sites and forums devoted to this).  I watched a documentary on French television last night which told the story of three such individuals - a young man approaching 30, a single woman about the same age, and another in her forties. They met via the internet and had got together to buy a three story house in a fashinable part of Brussels, which they planned to convert into three seaparate apartments on each level. They all admitted that - as they said - being single they would never have attempted this on their own.

The house had belonged to a single family but the three individuals, seen at the Notaire's office, basically each bought their own section, together with a share in the building itself. This is very much the same process as when you (individually) buy an apartment in an existing multi-occupancy building - you acquire your own freehold apartment, together with a number of shares (known as 'tantièmes') in the building itself. The only practical difference here is that the three people concerned were the first joint co-owners of what was to become a shared building.

I have just bought a top-floor apartment in a building occupied by just four people - my neighbour and myself each have separate apartments on the top (third floor), a third owner who owns the whole of the first and second floors (run as a guest house or 'chambres d'hotes'), while the ground floor consists of an indoor garden and the flat-cum-fitness studio of the fourth occupant. Our shares in the building itself are in proportion to the size of our apartments (I own a modest 160 out of a total 1000) and we contribute to joint costs - such as the building insurance (in addition to that of each individual flat) - in proportion to the number of shares we each own.We manage the building ourselves, without the need to pay for professional managers that may be needed in larger multi-occupancy buildings, and meet informally to discuss any issues arising. We have recently decided to upgrade the entryphone system and will split the cost four ways once we agree the electrician's estimate.

You might consider this approach if by chance you have descovered a likely building suitable for conversion and can find one or two others that may wish to join you as futur joint owners.