It is not that common for the French to have surveys done when buying a house, and there is no separate profession of house surveying in France that is the exact equivalent to the role of the Chartered Surveyor in the U.K. If they do want a survey on the property before they buy, the French will usually either commission a registered builder to prepare a report on the condition of the property, or sometimes an Expert Immoblier. (Not to be confused with the agent immoblier or estate agent, an Expert Immobilier can prepare a property survey and valuation, and crucially, under FNAIM's umbrella, will have Professional Liability Insurance). Website: Expert Immobiliers
You could either go down one of these routes or you could contact one of the many British surveyors now working in France. Try typing "British Chartered Building Surveyors working in France" into any major search engine for a list. You could also check with the RICS (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) before employing anyone claiming to be a 'Chartered Surveyor' to make sure they are genuine.
Given that certain aspects relating to a French property for sale are already covered in a survey in the Notaire's report, which is paid for by the vendor, and if you're buying a total wreck to renovate, it's possible that you may choose not to have a property survey done at all. The Notaire's report has, since 2007, been consolidated under French law into one document entitled 'dossier de diagnostic technique' or DDT, and is in the process of being expanded to encompass an energy performance report, and reports on the condition of gas and electricity services, and septic tanks. This is in addition to those reports already included on the presence of asbestos, lead, termites, etc. It does not though include a valuation or an appraisal of the structural soundness of the building.
Be aware also, that current
French law appears to discriminate between two different categories of
that the vendor may or may not be held liable in law for after the sale
of the property. If the vendor has deliberately covered over or
attempted to conceal, for instance, a serious structural
defect, he would probably have a case to answer.
In the case of a defect that the vendor has not attempted to conceal, and that would most likely have been detected by a survey, had one been carried out, the French courts would be likely to be much less sympathetic to any claim by the buyer.
While that is all very well in theory, the reality is that litigation is beyond the pockets of most, and hopefully best avoided by having a professional appraisal of the condition of the property carried out before buying.
If you're not having a survey done on the property, for whatever reason, here are a couple of things to look out for.
are looking for a cheap property in France, possibly as a holiday home,
there are a few things you might encounter.
Firstly you will find that a some of the really cheap French properties have no garden or outdoor space at all. It is not at all uncommon for others to have a garden, but elsewhere rather than attached to the property.
The garden of one French property that we looked at which had obviously been empty for years, was being used by the man over the road to grow his vegetables. Whether he had had prior permission from the previous owner or was merely being opportunistic was hard to tell, but we wondered how easy it would have been to reclaim the garden in the event of buying that property.
You may also come across, as we did, some weird and wonderful
examples of French 'improvements' to their properties.
On one of our visits to France to look at houses, we were shown a property where the owner had had an electric radiator installed in a rather strange way. Whether the heater had been too long for the space under the units in the kitchen, or the owner was trying to be thrifty by using the same radiator to heat both the hall and the kitchen I couldn't say, but a jagged hole had been knocked through the blockwork between the two and the radiator stuck through the hole and poked out halfway into the hallway.
In another French house that we looked at a w.c. had been installed on the first landing of the flight of stairs immediately in front of the front door. This would have allowed one the unique opportunity, whilst sitting on the toilet, of talking face to face with any visitor standing at the front door!
At the other end of the market and for those on a larger buget there are of course many French, Dutch, German, or British owned, (to name but a few) tastefully restored older properties to buy in France without the benefits of open plan toilets.
It would be convenient if you could find out the addresses of some of the French properties you were interested in from the immoblier and drive round and view them from the outside as this would allow you to eliminate the undesirable ones from your list without wasting time. Unfortunately the immobiliers are usually very reluctant to give out the addresses and will normally take you round for viewings in their car or arrange for you to follow them if you want to take your own car. Given where France features in the road safety statistics for Europe you might find the latter a better choice.
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Acknowledgements: images used on the left in the text area are mainly from morguefile.com, my thanks to biberta, missyredboots, rosevita, doctor_bob, cohdra, mconners, kairily, clarita, scott. m. liddel, and anyone else from morguefile whose image appears here. All the images in the right hand column on each page have been taken by me during my various travels in France and are copyright of buyahouseinfrance.info.