France is a politically stable country with a balanced economy. “La Côte d’Azur” as the south-eastern coastline is named, is in many respects Europe’s equivalent to California. The area is chic but not flashy. There is plenty of activity but also tranquillity, style and charm. In other words, variety. Distances between the Mediterranean beaches, the Alps and skiing possibilities are incredibly short. Cultural history, a tradition for culinary arts added to a wonderful climate are the essential ingredients making up a superb quality of life on the French Riviera. An international airport in Nice (France's 2nd largest) and an efficient highway network makes the region accessible with ease.
Generally speaking, the real estate market is active all year round. But, if there should be an exception to the rule, it is worth mentioning that August is considered the period where most French take their summer holidays. Many brokers are therefore closed, coupled with the fact that properties that are for sale will be hard to access due to seasonal lettings. December is also a month with somewhat reduced activity. From Easter up until summer, the period is generally considered to be the busiest in regards to purchase activity. But statistically speaking, there is no seasonality.
The answer depends somewhat on whether a real estate agent is involved or not. If the offer is posted by a private owner, the price will tend to be a reflection of the owner’s price desires more than the actual market price. Consequently, there may then be some room for bargaining in such a case. If real estate agents are involved (often, there are many that have a mandate to sell the same property), the market mechanism sees to it that the price set, generally speaking, is realistic (lower). It is always of great interest to enquire how long the property has been on the market, and if any price adjustments have ensued. Well worth noting, there is no tradition of bidding rounds in France.
Stamps duties, registration taxes and fees are all collected by the notary on behalf of the state. If the property is a new build, such costs may be limited to 2.5% of the purchase value. If the property is second hand, one should expect to pay up to 7.5% with a slight degressive scale for housing at high cost levels. Furthermore, every year two taxes are due: “Taxe d’habitation” is a tax on residence imposed on the rightful user of a property on January 1st (in magnitude, it corresponds approximately to half a month's rent for an equivalent property to let). “Taxe Foncière” is a municipal tax paid by the actual owner of the property on January 1st. It tends to be of an equivalent level to the amount paid in “Taxe d’habitation”. These taxes are valid for French citizens as well as for foreigners.
For more information, see: "Fees, Taxes and Financing"
The French notary is a lawyer specialised in civil law and property matters, working on the basis of a public licence. The notary is a compulsory, neutral element in any French real estate transaction. Most commonly, the seller’s real estate agent will recommend one. It by no means makes the fees more costly to appoint one's “own” notary since the notaries then share the fixed emoluments between them. One's “own” notary may be useful in making relevant observations for the transaction to take place in a well adapted manner for you as a buyer. AAA Riviera uses carefully selected notaries depending on location, language, specific aspects of the transaction and of course, notaries that are used to dealing with foreigners.
AAA Riviera has carefully selected a few French and International banks that have experience in dealing efficiently with foreign mortgage applicants on competitive terms that are tailor made to fit each applicant’s situation. The French banking system is known for its bureaucracy and lack of flexibility but, this being said, they are often very competitive. Depending on the borrower’s age and the size of the loan, a health declaration and even a medical check-up may be necessary for insurance purposes. Annuity loans of 70 % of the purchase amount are common. Alternatively, AAA Riviera can refer you to a small selection of International banks capable of taking mortgages in French properties as well as offering “interest only” solutions.
One is not less safe here than in any other cosmopolitan environment. Aggressions are negligible. Nevertheless, one should observe a certain number of basic precautions:
In order for an average square metre price to be of any relevance, it is important that it is of local exactitude as there are not only great differences from one town to another, but also from one neighbourhood to another. Furthermore, the square metre price, even if based on the levels of the immediate vicinity, does not disclose discrepancies such as those noted for one bedroom and four bedroom flats that are more costly because of scarcity. Finally, each property has its own individual value established according to certain criteria: size, number of rooms, floor-level, terrace/balcony, orientation (south-facing), views (sea, street /courtyard, greenery), the standard of the residence, elevator, parking facility, attractiveness of location, rental potential etc. Consequently, it is important that local real estate expertise (that has as reference point equivalent sales in the neighbourhood) is involved in the valuation.