New build properties are particularly popular with French buyers – probably because it can be cheaper than buying an old property and updating it to modern standards, particularly in the case of heating, plumbing, insulating etc. This area is strictly regulated in France and developers must have a bank guarantee in place for each new development.
This guarantee is provided in the Deed of Sale to ensure that the new development will be completed to the advertised standards even if the developer or construction company runs into financial difficulties.
If this is the route that you wish to go you will first need to identify a developer/builder. You’ll need to find land for building on and make sure that it is appropriate for building a house (check with the notaire to be absolutely certain) and you will most likely need to employ an architect to design the house and draw up plans for submission to acquire the correct building permits. Theoretically, you can design, build and acquire permits without help but in our experience this rarely if ever happens as the rules and regulations are onerous and complex.
A builder may have a “model” property – a pre-determined type of property, assuming that the land you buy comes with a “terrain a battir” guarantee (land for building), and you are using a reputable builder, this is often the quickest way to get permission to build. This is because the models are designed with local planning requirements in mind and they are often at competitive prices. Developer’s officers in the high street can often look like estate agents – they are a common site in France.
If you go with a developer/builder who is helping to locate land – make sure that you visit the site and are clear on the plot you require. Also check exactly where the property will be located on the land to ensure you are satisfied – there can be caveats with the permission to build on “terrain a battir” that precisely state on which part of the land a building can be erected and the size of the building footprint may be specified.
You’ll need to pay a deposit (typically 2-5%) which will be held in escrow by the notaire or developer (make sure he has a license to hold the money) – you have one week to change your mind. When you pay the deposit you’ll sign a “Contrat de reservation” – this will reserve the property and fix the price.
The building contract is defined in French law and includes:
A definition of what is to be built
The schedule of stage payments
Schedule of construction
Penalty clauses for late completion by the builder/late payment by the buyer
There will be other statements included – each contract is individual rather than standard. Generally speaking the time between the signing of the contract and the completion date is 4-6 months.
When the property is ready for occupation you will need to visit accompanied by the developer (or a representative). You should carefully examine the property and agree snagging issues. You will then have a period of 30 days in which to identify any further problem/snagging requirements which you should notify to the developer by recorded delivery post.