Things to Consider When Buying Land in France

Before entering into a contract for buying land in France, find out if planning permission is required for a particular project.
Article Last Updated: 17 May, 2024 under Property Purchase

One of the major attractions of rural life in France is its rich culture and heritage, as well as its farming tradition. The countryside has always been a magnet for people living in Paris and other urban centres in France. It is increasingly so too for expats and foreign investors. Many people are now buying land in France in order to grow wine and even to pursue a career as a farmer!

There is a wide diversity of agricultural land available to purchase in France, from arable farms to vineyards and an abundance of biodynamic wines. France is a popular place for expats and immigrants to live and work, as it offers all the opportunities of traditional life, while maintaining its unique cultural aspects.

1. Planning Permission

If you are buying property in France, whether it be in provence, the French riviera or the loire valley, you are most likely planning to build on that land. Therefore, before deciding on where to buy French property, you should investigate the possibility of obtaining planning permission. French authorities can vary greatly in the management of planning laws. Of course, building land is rather more expensive than land on which it is not possible to build, so take extreme care.

Just like French residents, as a foreign buyer you should understand the buying process. This means that you need to make yourself aware of all laws and requirements for planning and building regulations. Another important point to consider when undertaking a property purchase in France is that not all types of French property require planning permission. Some rural areas may not need planning permission for historically important structures such as old farmhouses and orchards. It is up to the local council to decide whether you need planning permission for any structure.

If you plan to build a new home in France, make sure to obtain planning permission beforehand. Some local authorities in France actually demand planning permission before granting permission for a new home development, in order to ensure the project complies with local and national building regulations. Before entering into a binding contract for the purchase of French real estate, find out if, under French law, planning permission is required for a particular project, and contact the local authorities in the area.

2. French Property Taxes

When purchasing French property, it's essential to take into consideration property tax and other costs. There are multiple taxes to take into consideration such as stamp duty or taxe d'habitation. Costs would include the notary fee or 'notaire's fee'.

Some real estate developments are exempted from sales tax in France. The amount of tax depends on a number of factors, including location and size of development, type of development and its age and purchase price . Many developers choose to remain neutral in order to minimize their tax bill. This means they buy a piece of property and then re-zone it to use as a residential unit or an office building, etc., without altering the land itself. The majority of developers however, will apply for planning permission before construction commences.

Once you have purchased the land, you may needs to take into consideration matters such as capital gains tax, inheritance tax, wealth tax and, if deriving an income from the land, income tax.

3. The French Property Market

Local estate agents will be able to help you identifying any opportunities in the French property market. Depending on the property price you might wish to consider obtaining a French mortgage, though this can be complex without evidence of a local income. That said, there are specialist mortgage brokers who can advise on.

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Caroline began her career in well known French & English law firms, where she practised in insurance, construction and litigation fields, specifically insurance and reinsurance law relating to industrial risks, civil liability (contracts, tort, professional matters or defective products) and transport law. She took the oath in 2009 and works in both French and English in civil and commercial matters relating to construction issues, general insurance, industrial risk issues, product liability cases, property and equine law.
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Georgina Noble-Owen
05 Sep 2023
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