Buying a house in France

(45 Posts)
Trish444 Sun 08-Apr-18 13:06:29

I am on the verge of selling my house in the UK and buying a small flat for home visits and to keep myself on the UK property ladder and buying a house in the Dordogne to spend 8/10 months of the year.
I would be grateful for any warnings or advice. I spent four months near Bergerac last year and loved it but noticed it was dead when I arrived for a couple of weeks.
France is where I want to be but any help re medical insurance or taxes, lifestyle in winter and whether we would be better advised to rent would all help. Thank you .

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tortelliniforever Sun 08-Apr-18 13:08:01

I think Brexit is the big unknown here. Are you planning on working?

fourpawswhite Sun 08-Apr-18 13:11:32

This may or may not help.....I know nothing about France, but did just read the good life in France by janine marsh.

It was free on prime reading and she tells her story of buying a house and moving to France. However, she also mentions setting up a website and the book gives details, for people doing the same to assist with legal, medical, travel, and all questions people considering it may have. I thought that seemed a good idea. It's all advice from people who have done the same thing.

Ancienchateau Sun 08-Apr-18 15:11:09

Will you be working in France because unless you are in employment or education it is difficult to claim any benefits. I lived there for 5 years and was still not entitled to health care or anything else after all that time.

If you are earning or have savings in the UK you will be taxed on those if you are resident in France for more than 6 months of the year.

I have only visited the Dordogne, I lived further North but if you are living rurally it can be extremely bleak in winter. My best advice is to rent in winter and see how you feel by Spring ...

vilamoura2003 Sun 08-Apr-18 22:27:32

I would love to do this. Have completely loved the Dick and Angel series Escape to the Chateau - they are living my dream shock

I think I would be tempted to rent for now if you do decide to go until the effects of Brexit become clearer halo

lapetitesiren Sun 08-Apr-18 22:37:22

It would be better to rent to be sure you like an area. It might be hard to sell if you change your mind and notaire fees can be expensive. If you don't have jobs you may not get a rental property easily though.

Trish444 Sun 08-Apr-18 23:14:27

Thanks for your messages up to now. I am very new on here.

I rented for four months last year and have chosen the area. I think the program New life in the sun has spurred me on but that's why I rented last year to give it a try.
Yes I love Dick and Angel and their beautiful Chateau too but I don't know if anyone else thinks this but I'm sure their progress has been so fast now that there must be a whole team helping them provided by the TV company. Two people alone could not accomplish so much so quickly surely? Mainly this last three episodes only?
But nonetheless I am hooked. They are in Normandy but the weather isn't as good up there although its a beautiful area.

Re work I plan to pop home to work here and there as I have a job I can dip in an out of. However I read on here you pay French tax on your UK income, but surely not as I've already paid UK Tax on it?
I have also heard health care is fully accessible after a stay of three months working or not.
I had health care when I was there for four months for a small cost.

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tortelliniforever Mon 09-Apr-18 06:45:45

Free health care is at risk after Brexit although I expect there will be a deal on emergency healthcare.

Mistigri Mon 09-Apr-18 07:06:57

You would be taking a risk, until the Brexit situation is clear, especially if you plan to spend several months a year outside France. This could ultimately make it hard to prove that you have a right to reside.

If you live in France for 8-10 months a year you will be tax resident in France and you will pay French tax on your income worldwide (exception currently is rental income in the UK which I believe is taxed in the UK - but be aware that double taxation agreements will fall away if there is a hard Brexit

If you're self-employed you will need to set up a business in France, pay social contributions and get into the health care system.

All this is perfectly do-able but need to plan up front for it.

All rural areas will be pretty dead in winter. Spend some time there out of season to make sure it won't drive you mad.

Mistigri Mon 09-Apr-18 07:10:02

It's complicated though not strictly impossible to have salaried work in the UK and live in France. But I think it would hugely complicate things if, in a year's time, you need to show the French authorities that you have been exercising free movement rights (which are linked to the right to work in an EU country).

Much better to be self-employed in France and invoice your UK client, as this gets you into the system.

Phelina Mon 09-Apr-18 07:36:10


amyboo Mon 09-Apr-18 07:37:08

Even now, it is very difficult to get accepted for French healthcare unless you are working in France. My retired Mum got accepted just before they changed the rules around 10 years ago, but now they are much more difficult. If you have an EHIC card from the UK it will not be valid for stays of over 3 months, so if they found out you were living 8-10 months a year in France it could be taken away. Even with the EHIC, if you had to have treatment you could be faced with bills that you would then need to get reimbursed afterwards. And this is before Brexit. No one can yet say what the rules will be post-Brexit. Other things I'd be concerned about post Brexit are: right to residency, inheritance rules on your property both in France and the UK, taxes (although these are mostly governed by individual double taxation agreements), the right to cross easily in and out of France/the UK.

Ancienchateau Mon 09-Apr-18 08:47:27

If you live for more than 6 months of the year in France (you said you were planning to live there for 8-10), yes you pay tax in France and on what you earn in UK.

In theory healthcare is available however, as I said, I was a resident for 5 years and received none or any other benefits. They were still "working on my case" in July. This is a common story. If you are working in France or in education there it is easier but don't be surprised if it takes longer than 3 months, especially with Brexit looming.

TV programmes like Escape to the Chateau are not reality. It can take a loooong time to get anything done in France. Also doing up old property in France is very costly. I know, we have done this. Also selling especially old properties is v difficult as most French prefer to buy new. Again, I know, I have a 200 year old property sitting empty (not even attempted to sell it). Rent in winter and see if you like it.

Ancienchateau Mon 09-Apr-18 08:57:41

but I don't know if anyone else thinks this but I'm sure their progress has been so fast now that there must be a whole team helping them provided by the TV company. Two people alone could not accomplish so much so quickly surely?

Absolutely. We had the benefit of my family having lived in the area for nearly 30 years, we all speak French fluently and have a business there ... but it still took us about 8 years to do up our wreck of a very large property and estate, mostly due to workforce problems, the costs, running into problems, theft, loosing the will to live etc. It's worth it - eventually - if you live there like we do, but the process is nothing like those TV shows.

Trish444 Mon 09-Apr-18 11:02:03

Re 'Escape to the Chateau' Yes same here it took us ten years to do our house up and it was nowhere near as bad or as large as theirs.
They must have funding and help 100% from the TV company. I reckon a whole team go in like the TV makeover shows.
I suppose if they didn't for us the viewers it would be like watching paint dry! One one episode Angel had designs for a room, she was doing drawings then in a blink it was done! and the next room and the next room. It's just not credible that from when they arrived penniless to what they have now........ But it's highly watchable and we love it. They are great and have two adorable kids.

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EmilyAlice Mon 09-Apr-18 11:25:31

I have watched this series of A New Life in the Sun and I would say only a couple of the families shown in France have any chance of making a living long term.
If you live here for more than 180 days a year you need, as others have said, to be tax resident. To get health cover you would need to run a business and social contributions are very high. Above all, you need to speak French, I have been really shocked by how people in the programme have started a gite business without even getting to grips with the basics of welcoming guests.
Rural France is dead in the winter. Without my French friends and neighbours I would be screaming up the wall. In spring, summer and autumn it is fabulous. Somebody once said that rural France is great for old farts who like gardening. That is us. 😊
Definitely rent and see how you like it, but unless you work for a French company it is very, very hard to make a living. We have seen so many people arrive, try and then give up and go back to the UK significantly poorer.

Trish444 Mon 09-Apr-18 11:57:46

Thank you. I think you are right. When we arrived it rained heavy for the first two weeks. I was climbing the walls! I have to have things to unless I buy or start a business to keep me very busy I'm not sure selling mu house to go there to live is a sensible move.

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TheDogsMother Mon 09-Apr-18 12:14:48

You do pay tax in France but it is offset on your UK tax return. Would highly recommend using a specialist French property solicitor as the notaire manages the transaction but does not act in either vendor or buyers specific interests. I can recommend one in London I used if you need it.

EmilyAlice Mon 09-Apr-18 12:21:06

No I suspect it might not be a sensible full time move Trish. Could you get something small to use for extended periods, but less than 180 days a year? That way you can keep your tax and health residence in the UK. We live in Normandy and one of the best things is that we are only 50 minutes from the ferry port to pop backwards and forwards. The weather is only marginally better than the UK, but there are still lots of lovely things about living here.

Mistigri Mon 09-Apr-18 13:00:07

If you're planning to spend substantial time in France but don't want to pay French taxes you need proper advice from a tax specialist. And you need to consider what happens after Brexit, because if you're not a tax payer you most likely have no residence rights under freedom of movement rules - this means no healthcare (except via the EHIC which may disappear after next March).

LillianGish Mon 09-Apr-18 16:52:56

Why do you want to live in France? We live here (Paris) because our jobs are here (DH with a French company, I'm self-employed). We love it - kids were born here, go to school here etc - but many things drive us nuts. I would hate to live in rural France - which is far more rural and depopulated than anywhere in the UK and also there are far greater distances to reach civilisation. Living in rural France is not like like living in rural Britain. If you want to live here because you like going on holiday to France (and I also spend my holidays in France so I can perfectly understand that) I would suggest you do just that. Stay in Britain and come over for extended holidays - either in a long-term let or buy a holiday home that you let out when you are not here. With Brexit looming and all the uncertainty that entails you'd be mad to move here on little more than a whim.

frenchfancy Wed 11-Apr-18 07:59:56

Healthcare is going to be the big issue. Post Brexit I think it will be unlikely that you will be entitled to any. If you are not working in France you would need some pretty hefty insurance. And if you are working tax isn't the big issue - the social charges are much higher than the tax.

If there is a hard Brexit then it is likely that you would be limited to 3 months a year in France like other non-Europeans.

Mistigri Wed 11-Apr-18 11:51:59

Quotes for comprehensive healthcare insurance in France for people not in the system seem to be around 1000€ a month from what I have seen (that might be the figure for a couple rather than an individual but either way it will be a hefty bill).

Trish444 Wed 11-Apr-18 15:41:37

I already have the figures for top up health care as the first 75% is free once you have lived there more than 3 months. Its 50Euros pp. or 70 per couple.
I'm not concerned about health care. Only really how bleak it is in winter and weather anyone over there has a good/bad experience and reasons to buy/not buy after selling UK house.
It sounds as if the general consensus is to rent for at least a year.
I have French relatives who live near Libourne and they are able to help with difficult French language situations (legal) if necessary. We have spent a lot of time in France over the years and I just hate being back in the UK. By the way it's not on a whim as I planned to move there in 2003 but had a job offer here too good to turn down. That delayed the move! lol Now ready to be there again.
There are hundreds of thousands of Brits living in France so it can't be the total nightmare described can it?
Thank you everyone who has replied. It has been very much appreciated.

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EmilyAlice Wed 11-Apr-18 15:54:25

Health care isn’t free after three months, it is much more complicated than that. You have to have a way to get into the system and unless you are a pensioner that means that you have to be employed or self-employed and pay into the system. The contributions are high. You pay top-up insurance as well as basic contributions (cotisations).
At the moment pensioners are covered by a reciprocal arrangement but that could change especially if there is a hard Brexit.
If you are employed by a company who will sort it out for you or have a state pension at the moment it is probably not too complicated. If you have your own business then be prepared for a lot of paperwork. We ran a small business before we had our state pensions and it was complicated and stressful. We both speak French and OH had run his own business in the UK, but it was still very difficult.

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