Home Property Terms You Need to Know When Moving to France

Property Terms You Need to Know When Moving to France

Posted by on March 16th, 2018.

For those planning a move to France, navigating the language barrier can be tricky – especially when it comes to purchasing a French property.

To help you on your way, we’ve put together a jargon buster of all the French property terms you’ll need to know.

As a starter, à vendre is the most important as it means ‘for sale’!

Getting Started – Learning the Location Lingo

Do you want to live in the town or in the countryside? If life in a city – en ville – is getting you stressed, for example, you might want to look at French properties à la campagne (in the countryside).

The French countryside contains many isolated maisons (houses), although most of them are located in bourgs (small villages). If your budget can stretch to it you might be looking for a château (castle or mansion).

When looking at the details of any house you’re interested in you might want to look at the année de construction (year of construction).

If the property is exceptionally old then there might be plumbing or modernising to do before moving in, and the build date can also reveal whether there could be dangerous materials in the mix like plomb (lead) or amiante (asbestos).

It may also be a monument historique (listed building), which will naturally restrict the extent to which you can renovate and upgrade it.

Any potential problems with a property can generally be found in the dossier de diagnostic technique (DDT – the surveyor’s report). This is a collection of documents detailing the condition of the building or site and it needs to be provided by the seller before exchanging.

It’s worth noting that in addition to the DDT, you might also want to conduct a bilan de santé immobilier (house survey) before committing to a purchase, just to make sure that everything is exactly as it seems.

Whatever you buy you’ll need to take out assurance habitation (buildings insurance).

Getting Hands on with Your French Property

If you’ve narrowed down your search and are looking at the amenities of French properties, there are quite a few words to learn so that you can refine your list further.

In terms of sizing up your potential property, the French system uses shorthand so you can quickly work out the property type and how large it is.

T indicates an apartment and is more likely to be found in a city, while F indicates a house. The number after these letters shows how many ‘main’ rooms they have, not including a salle de bain (bathroom) and cuisine (kitchen) – an F4 could be a house with three chambres (bedrooms) and a salon (lounge).

Speaking of the bathroom, you might want to look at whether it has a baignoire (bathtub) or a douche (shower).

Sticking with water features, a large property may have a piscine (swimming pool); this could be all yours, or it could be a communal feature if several properties are located nearby. The pool itself could be a piscine intérieure (indoor pool), or it might be a piscine extérieure (outdoor pool).

Another outdoor feature to be aware of is the jardin (garden), which could be spacious or consist of a window box, depending on the size of the property.

Those looking for somewhere to stash their collection of vin (that needs no translation) need look no further than a property with a cave (cellar), although these spaces can also be large enough to store noisy appliances like machines à laver (washing machines).

And when it comes to utilities in French properties, it’s prudent to look at how heating and drainage are provided.

Chauffage au gaz (gas heating) is one potential source of heat, although a home could also have chauffage au mazout (oil heating). When it comes to water, an old home in the countryside may have a fosse septique (septic tank) for storing waste, while a more urban property is likely to have access to a tout a l’égout (main drainage system).

An added bonus to an already sizable property might be one that has a maison d’amis (guest house), to cater for visitors once you’ve settled in.

Finishing Off – Buying Your French Property

When you finally whittle your French property wishlist down to one and are ready to buy, there are a few things to be aware of regarding the purchasing process.

You might have employed an agence immobilière (estate agent) to handle the househunting process, but when it comes to getting the title deeds the task is usually handled by a notaire (notary).

French notaries act as middlemen between buyers and sellers, and they work for the French government to make sure that all legal processes are followed to the letter of the law.

If you need some credit to get on the French property ladder, a hypothèque (mortgage) may be in order. French banking rules mean that you generally will not be permitted to take out a mortgage that costs more than a third of your gross monthly income.

Something to be aware of is the taxe fonciére (local tax) of a property, which is calculated by a split tax on owned buildings and land.

When everything has been signed and hands are shaken, you’ll be given your attestation de propriété (proof of ownership) and be able to move into your new French property.


If you’ve settled on buying a French property and want financial advice or assistance with transferring funds, we’re here to help. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about saving money on your currency transfers.

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