Buying a property in France, for the most part is no different to buying in the UK or the US, but there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration before making a commitment, especially in light of the recent and continued changes in French Property laws and social security rules.
State Medical Cover. Top of the list has to be the planned introduction of new rules governing National Health care for ex-pats below retirement age living in France. The French social security recently released a statement announcing that inactive people (read retired or unemployed) below state retirement age will no longer be eligible to receive state health coverage. This will affect many thousands of Britons already living in France and is certainly something to take into consideration if you are thinking of buying in France, are below retirement age and have any kind of long term health issues.
French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, still has to push this through the bureaucracy, and already there are rumblings that this proposal is in breach of EU law. Sarkozy seems determined to revamp the French social security system, and this is a good starting point. The only people affected by these proposed changes are expats with little or no voice in the government, so this is a safe place to start. The Telegraph recently ran an article “Loss of health care threatens expats in France.” Although it has to be said, the “case study” they chose to print was at the extreme end of the scale, and is hardly typical. Many expats are likely to be unaffected.
Inheritance tax. Inheritance tax laws have changed recently for the better. The threshold has been raised from 50,000 Euros to 150,000.
Renovation Insurance. It is now required that all completed renovation work be accompanied by a ten-year, insurance backed defects guarantee. What this means, in effect, is that whilst property owners may still do the work themselves, unless the renovations were carried out by a recognized professional, the insurance will likely not be available and may adversely affect the sell on value of the property.
Energy diagnosis. Introduced in November 2006, it is now obligatory to produce an energy diagnosis or “diagnostic de performance energetique.” This diagnosis must be carried out by a professional and is an efficiency report assessing the likely energy usage of a property along with a note of the presence of asbestos and lead. It will also include technical recommendations for improving consumption. This is not a legally binding contract, but will give an objective comparison between several similar properties for sale. Of course, there is a fee attached to this service.