Property renovation in France

When people talk of home renovation they are talking of a wide range of different things. For some people renovation is adding insulation in an attic, replacing some slipped roof tiles, fitting a new kitchen or perhaps refreshing the interior of a property with some paint. For others it is buying a complete ruin or a derelict farm building and starting to construct a home from almost nothing.

For most projects, renovation falls somewhere between the two of these options.

Commonly, a building ‘for renovation’ suggests a building that has fallen into disrepair or been empty for some period of time. Also common are buildings that have been inhabited until recently, but have no modern conveniences, 50 year old electrical systems, no insulation and so on.

Luckily France can offer buildings in all possible states of repair. True, in some popular areas it is now hard to find a ruin to renovate at a bargain price, and in some areas at any price, but this is simply because the price in a popular area represents the value of the final building less the costs involved in restoring it, rather than the value of an old heap of stones in a field. Most areas still have plenty of places to renovate, but they might be a bit hidden away, and they might be a bit rural.

That bargain property you saw on the TV for £20,000 and needing a few hundred spending on it to convert it into a house worth a fortune may or may not have existed. To say the least you will be lucky to find it nowadays. The French (especially the estate agents) have certainly got wise to the idea that a pile of rubble with planning permission can actually be worth quite a lot of money.

Usually the distinction between ‘degrees of dereliction’ is unimportant. But bear in mind that when you go into a French estate agent and say you are looking for a ‘property to renovate’ you might be describing something in rather better condition than the estate agent thinks. They will have seen hundreds of derelict buildings with no roof and a wall falling in, perhaps in an infinitely worse state than you can imagine. So when you ask for ‘properties to renovate’ they could imagine a few walls with no roof while you imagine a house needing a new kitchen.

If you want a house that is habitable straight away, but in poor state so you can add your own mark on the property, you should make that clear.

Note that I have not generally made a distinction between ‘DIY’ renovation and paid renovation, but there is a key difference. If you pay a registered artisan to do the work it will be covered by a 10 year guarantee, and if you sell the property you can demonstrate that the work was professionally performed. If you do the work yourself, it will not be guaranteed. So the savings made at the time of doing the work could be lost when you come to sell the property and get a lower price.

So, renovation for me, and hence for this website, is the conversion of a building (or just a room) that is in poor or run-down state into a building that is comfortable, attractive and safe to live in. It that is your goal, read on…

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