Tips on renovating your chosen French property

Tips on renovating your chosen French property

Tips on renovating your chosen French property

If the temptation of restoring a potentially charming, historic French ruin is too much to resist, here’s how to go about it legally.

House hunting in France is fraught with pitfalls, with one of the biggest the temptation to buy and renovate a home that’s definitely seen better days some time in the last century! It’s been done successfully by many thousands of expats, but the first words which spring to mind should be ‘planning permission’.

Basically, you may or may not need planning permission, as it’s dependent on what the property needs and what your plans are. Even if you believe you’ll not need to involve the local town hall, it’s best to pay a visit and check the rules, as changes happen fairly frequently in France. Staff or your local mayor will be able to advise you whether planning permission is necessary and guide you in the right direction if it is. Advice includes whether or not you’ll need to get various permits signed off or simply declare your proposed changes. Necessary forms can be provided along with information about local regulations and restrictions. If extra permits are needed, you’ll be pointed in the right direction.

Before you sign off on the house you’ve fallen in love with despite its obvious need of restoration, check with your lawyer as to any planning restrictions in the area. It’s possible to pay your deposit, thus reserving your right to buy whilst your lawyer is applying for planning permission which, if not granted, will nullify the sale and get your deposit returned. Work on the interior only requires a permit if you’re planning to change the purpose of an area by, for example, creating another bathroom or converting a loft into a bedroom or study.

If your habitable space is more than 170 metres square you’ll need an architect to draw up plans. This rule applies if you’re planning to extend the liveable area or convert an outbuilding thus going over the habitable space limit. As regards the exterior, just about everything including the paint colour or rendering will need official permission. Repairs, including fixing a leaking roof, don’t need a permit unless they amend the original appearance of the property.

If your property has a septic tank rather than mains drainage, you’ll need either to find out exactly where it is or get a new one installed. If your seller can’t remember its location, it’s time to negotiate a price reduction, as replacement is an expensive job also involving a survey and completion sign-off. In France, septic tanks are every new buyer’s nightmare.

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