Housing

In most cases, companies will provide temporary accommodations for employees who are relocating to France, but eventually, it will become necessary to find a place of your own. Be aware that apartments and houses tend to be much smaller in the South of France than what you are probably used to; this is especially true if you are moving from the United States.

1. A few terms

Rooms in a dwelling are called "pièces"; these are any room except kitchen, bathroom, and hall. For instance, a 3 bedroom house with a living room, dining room, kitchen, and two baths would be a "5 pièces". The size of the property is given in mètres carrés (square meters). See the Useful Information Page to find out how to convert this into units you may be more familiar with.

In apartment buildings, the ground floor is called the rez-de-chaussée (or RC, or 0) and each subsequent floor is numbered incrementally, starting at the 1er étage (first floor above ground level). Below the ground level, there is the sous-sol (or SS, or -1). A cave is a cellar, and in some houses there may also be a grenier (attic).

2. Where to look

Real Estate agencies are, of course, a good starting point for renting or purchasing property. There are many in the area, and most have at least a few staff members who speak English. We choose not to quote any prices in these pages (no, not even approximative ones). The reason is simple: cost of housing varies tremendously depending on area, property type, and size. If you are interested in renting or buying a home here, your best bet is to consult a Real Estate agency; many have web sites and will answer emails (even in English). For addresses of Real Estate agencies, look in the Yellow Pages under "Immobilier". Please do not send us emails asking about the cost of real estate purchases or rentals!

It is also possible to rent or buy from particuliers (private owners), and negotiating with them directly saves the agency fee. The best places to look for advertisements are the Nice Matin classified section, and free local advertisement papers such as 06 and Superhebdo.

3. Renting

Apartments or houses (villas) for long-term rental are usually let unfurnished. This means that there will not be any kitchen appliances or fixtures of any kind. The landlord (or an agency acting on his behalf) must give you a lease (un bail) for the duration of the rental period. The minimum lease is for three years if the owner of the property is an individual landlord, or six years if the property is owned by a business. The lease is drawn up in duplicate, and each party keeps a copy. For married couples, husband and wife are automatically considered joint lease holders. In the case of unmarried couples living together, the partners are joint lease holders if they both sign the lease. If only one of the partners signs the lease, he or she is the only lease holder and the other person does not have any rights. The party renting the property usually has the right to terminate the agreement before the end of the lease period (before you sign, make sure the lease agreement allows you to do this without incurring a penalty). The usual notice period is 3 months, though it drops to one month if you are licencié (lose your job) or muté (transferred to another location).

Never pay anything until you have a written agreement from the landlord! However, you may be asked to provide the following:

The monthly rent does not include extra charges, which are quoted separately. The amount of these charges must be specified in the lease. The charges cover expenses that are shared by all tenants, such as water and heating, garbage removal, shared resources (such as a pool, for example), elevator maintenance, and so on. The landlord is responsible for major maintenance and work, but smaller repairs are at the expense of the tenant.

If the lease includes a clause to that effect, the landlord may increase the rent every year. Otherwise, the rent remains the same for the duration of the lease period. According to French law, the tenant is responsible for insuring rented property. This insurance is mandatory and has to take effect on the day the lease is signed. Tenants may choose their own insurance company, but the policy has to include coverage in case of

To find an insurance agent, check the Yellow Pages under "Assurances".

4. Temporary Accommodations

This may be an interesting option for those who need more time to decide where they want to live. In may cases, companies will provide temporary housing to employees who are either relocating here or are being hired from abroad to work in France. Often, it is possible to extend the rental for a certain time. The typical choices are

Be aware that the rates for temporary accommodations tend to increase sharply during the months of July and August due to very strong tourist demand. To find this type of place in the Yellow Pages , look for "Maisons et chambres meublées" or "Résidences hôtelières".

5. Buying a Property

In France, the procedure for buying property may vary significantly from the one in your country. For this reason, it is best to take a French-speaking friend with you and/or consult a real estate agent who speaks your language if you do not speak French fluently. This is one area where misunderstandings could end up costing a lot of money!

The legal professional who handles the real estate transaction is called a notaire (notary). Do not confuse this with the American notary public! A notaire is a graduate of a law school who specializes in administrative matters.

Real Estate agents charge a commission fee which they set themselves; this fee is usually 5% (plus VAT) of the purchase price of the property. The fee is paid by the seller. For a first time real estate purchase in France, we strongly recommend going through a real estate agent; they can give you an idea of what constitutes a fair price, and you can take advantage of their expertise in working within the French system.

Real Estate prices on the Côte d'Azur are among the highest in France. Even so, the asking price for a property usually includes a negotiating margin, so one should always make an offer rather than accept the full asking price.

Once you have decided on a property and reached an agreement with the seller as to the purchase price, you sign a contract called compromis de vente. The signing of this contract involves making a down payment of 10% of the purchase price, which is then held in a blocked (escrow) account by the notary. At this stage, both parties are committed to the transaction. If the purchaser pulls out, he or she loses the 10% down payment; if the seller pulls out, he has to pay the purchaser 10%. The purchaser would thus get the amount of the down payment back plus an additional 10%.

The buyer pays the notary fees, which are around 10% of the purchase price if the property is over 5 years old or has been sold before, or approximately 3% for properties that are less than 5 years old and have not been sold before. These amounts may seem exorbitant, but they are not just going into the notary's pocket! They include taxes, title search fees, and other items that the notaire will pay.

The real estate agents can also assist in arranging financing for the purchase. Most agents work with several banks that offer mortgages. It usually is very easy to borrow up to 50% of the purchase price, and it is possible to borrow 80% or even more with proof of sufficient income. As a general rule, the payment amount should not exceed one third of the income.




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