Tips & caveats on buying a property please

We are looking to buy a small place in Limousin. I’m interested to hear any tales (positive or nightmare) from those of you who have bought your permanent home in France. Any and all useful advice and links appreciated.

Do your own research ,take nothing that is said as gospel especially on access ,s eptic tanks or verbal promises .
Check out notaires listings before estate agents , many houses are listed with notaires before agents .
There are loads more others will be along with their ideas and experiences


Visit in winter as well as summer. :wink:


Similarly, if you like the place, visit at different times of day/days of the week when the neighbours are home. This will help to avoid a house with 25 neurotic dogs/cats next door or half a dozen teenagers with “interesting” tastes in high volume music…


Ask about servitudes and/or chemins…

Ideally you don’t want either on your land…
Don’t take verbal from Agent/Seller/Neighbour as gospel.

Ask at the Mairie… they will discuss the status of the “plot” in question… especially useful if you have plans for the future…

Many a poor soul has bought, with a view to building/enlarging/whatever… only to find that they can’t do quite what they thought they could… ("but the Agent/Seller said blah blah blah … so we didn’t bother to ask at the Mairie ")

The Mairie will tell you plainly… and they are well used to prospective buyers enquiring… Essential to find out wot’s wot from those “in the know” … even if the answer means you walk away…

Don’t sign anything unless you are sure you understand what the document says.


For Brits this is probably the most important advice.

Understand also that Notaires do not do the same job as a UK conveyancing solicitor; they are not your advocate, their role is just to make sure the transfer of title is legally sound and appropriate taxes on the transaction are collected & paid.

Oh, and (wish I’d thought of this) - if you can’t negotiate your vendor down far enough on price, see if the agent has room to reduce their fees.


Especially check during winter during the chasse season - if you are looking for somewhere remote. Our hunters are around Saturdays, Sundays and mid-week Wednesday. You may not mind having them around but they can be noisy and tend to think they have the right to be anywhere.
If you buy somewhere that’s a “fixer-upper” expect to spend at least as much again as your purchase price on doing the fixing-upping. Property may be cheap to buy but the costs of materials / any labour etc thereafter are not.
Be aware that there are things called “servitudes” - rights of way across your land. We rejected some places because we did not want problems with neighbours. You may be remote, but you will still have neighbours!
You may be used to very remote, but there are times when a good local town with lots of facilities is a real advantage. Rural France is struggling to fill doctors’ and dentists’ places. Where will your nearest GP surgery be? How good is your nearest hospital and how long will it take to get there in an emergency?
Don’t be surprised if things take longer than you expect. We found our property quickly and signed but then everything went quiet for weeks while Safer offered our property to local farmers first. Also, just getting stuff done - connections to water / telephone / electricity / local specialist shops - places still shut from 12-2pm for the French lunch hour. Major supermarkets no, but smaller places still do.
You may be very lucky with your estate agent and notaire, but bear in mind they probably won’t contact you with updates. You need to chivvy them if you want info on progress.
And, in fact, generally, don’t expect anyone to volunteer information or to suggest something - especially if they think you are “mad English” - you need to know the questions to ask, so don’t beat yourselves up when you find something goes wrong. We finished up with two towel rails, side by side, in one bathroom because we had two different teams doing different tasks. They assumed that was what we wanted!


Be prepared to walk away even if its your dreamhouse.


and get the answer in writing… if a reduction is not in writing, it can be denied when sitting in front of the Notaire… (seen it happen… )

1 Like

Buy a plot of land with building permission (often advertised in the Mairie - ours was) and build your own wood framed house (we did - well, we project managed the whole affair employing the relevant trades).



Thanks everyone, this is all very helpful.

Ask around to find the best artisans for you, bear in mind good artisans are booked up months in advance, check they are properly registered with a siret number etc or bang goes your garantie décennale and possibly hello law court.


We would love to build a timber frame house Graham, but I can imagine it must have been a real nightmare from the planning permission stages through to completion?

The local community is very important, especially in rural France. Get to know your local mayor and the people who work in the office. Use local artisans / suppliers wherever possible, the local community will notice and the aftersales care and service will be great. Yes, you might save a bit going to one of the big stores, but they won’t come out if you subsequently have a problem.


Not really, especially if you get a good maitre d’oeuvre. Worth looking at terrains viabilisés and asking to have a look at the plan d’occupation des sols at the mairie of communes you like the look of.

Yes your local secretaire de mairie is a precious ally - as their title doesn’t indicate they are actually part of the fonction publique territoriale and trained in all sorts of things, ie not there to type letters for the council. Mayors come and go, secretaires de mairie stay.


Be aware that building work is very expensive in France.

Ask around about the mayor and the commune before you buy. Are they welcoming of incomers? You don’t have to be buddy-buddy, but it makes a big difference if the community welcomes you.

Each to their own…

There are fewer and fewer construction plots available outside lotissements, so you can also consider a plot with a derelict house to knock down.

Check if the area has fibre, and if not when this is planned. Rural internet speeds can be dire.

Not really Nigel, we employed the services of a maître d’œuvre in Chabanais Jérome Viroulaud to draw the plans and submit them for planning approvals which he did excellently. He recommended various trades to do some of the works and being retirees and living 5 minutes away from the site, we supervised the whole lot. Quite enjoyable really.


4G masts are often placed in such vicinities :wink: