So today I am extremely happy. Why? Because after 4 months of mortgage hell I finally have received a mortgage offer to buy our next family home in France. Why was it hell? Here goes:
1. It's Not like the UK
We incorrectly assumed applying for a mortgage in France would be like applying for a UK mortgage. Wrong. We contacted our bank HSBC who wanted a telephone discussion & sent out an application pack (minus application form but we assumed this was normal as they already know all our details from the discussion over the phone), the pack included a breakdown of repayments & details of the evidence/documentation we needed to support our application. We photocopied, scanned, emailed & posted all this & heard nothing for weeks. Our phone calls/emails were ignored & finally returned (stating we'd missed the original compromis end date) after we'd already gone down another route with another provider having realised our bank application was going no-where.
2. A Provisional Offer means nothing
French Banks will give you a provisional offer which is useless. You apply online & they say given your outline figures that they will give you a mortgage so you duly make an offer on your house & sign the compromis (ensuring you include that really important mortgage clause!). But the offer basically means they have computed your outline figures in a system which says theoretically we can give you a mortgage should you meet all our conditions & underwriting (which you don't know if you will meet or not as they don't declare them online & are very difficult to pass if you do not have a mainstream application).
3. They hate & will ignore Auto-Entrepreneur Income
If you have recently changed jobs or started up a business as AE they will disregard this income (yes one very large bank in Paris informed me this after we'd been given a provisional offer, photocopied, scanned, emailed & posted a ream of paper & sent in all this with our application that they would disregard my hubby's income as he was AE). They would only consider our UK income which not surprisingly without his French income meant we didn't pass the French Affordability rules. But advised us that if we reapplied using our UK only income spread over previous years then this would be ok. We duly did this, only to be told 6 weeks later that the underwriters noticed the 2 applications didn't match so were rejecting the new application too. Thanks!
4. Bureaucracy is an understatement
Having completed 2 applications both of which went up a dead end we appealed on SFN for help & were recommended 2 english speaking advisors who deal with the French banks on your behalf. By this point I was panicking as our situation appeared complex (UK Limited Company, French AE income for 1 year & maternity/paternity leave for 12m added into the mix for good measure) and we were running out of time & going no-where. As mentioned before, I photocopied birth certificates (for all our family - kids included), marriage certificate, passports, title deed to our current home, assets, savings, pensions, share-holdings in UK/France, 3m bank statements for all our accounts, 3 years UK tax returns for both of us, P45's, P60's, P'ing everything. Then we went backwards & forwards again and again with letters from our UK accountant confirming our past company & personal income, current income & projected future income, then more detailed breakdowns too (I dread to think what her bill will come to this year!). I've photocopied my way through 2 black print cartridges and a couple of reams of paper. Not very good for the environment or my pocket.
5. The process is long & painful
Our latest application via an advisor (I will highly recommend on the HouseHunters Group soon) has gone through and we've received an offer. In this last period I have been preparing myself for losing the property as so much has happened and I actually thought we wouldn't ever get a french mortgage (even though we can easily afford the loan & could probably have secured personal loans in the UK to cover it!). Every time I received an email, my heart sank into my stomach as I thought 'oh what are they going to ask for now?'. I couldn't possibly imagine providing anything else. Fortunately the vendors have been gracious enough to extend our compromis to cover the delay (probably as they really want the property to go to a family not someone who will turn it into apartments).
We now have to wait out the 11 days cooling off period before we can sign the offer & return it, then we have to transfer funds to the notaire & arrange the signing of the Acte.
I haven't posted about all this before because I didn't want to jinx our final effort (silly I know). Now I'm happy it's almost over, we almost have the keys & our next visit home (from our temporary stay in London which is to boost the coffers & help prop up les chiffres in the accountants letters above!) will be to sign the Acte for our future family home.
Now I can be excited...let the project begin....