From beautiful barns set within breathtaking landscape to commanding chateau with period features that captivate your heart, the idea of turning something that has been forgotten into a home is a dream of many.  Tackling a renovation in any country is not for the faint-hearted and issues can arise if you are in a country that is not your own that has different rules and regulations and where language could be a barrier.  But, don’t be frightened, these issues can be easily overcome.  If you’re passionate about renovating, about transforming a piece of French history and culture to be enjoyed by the next generation as well as provide you with your own little (or big) haven, we have put together our top 10 renovating tips to start you on the right path.

1. Research

Before you commit to purchasing a property undertake thorough research.  Find out as much as you can about the property and the area and talk to people in the local community.  We have a vast and gorgeous collection of properties ripe for renovation and our team are available to support your research and provide you a wealth of advice to help you on your renovating journey.  We will also put you in touch with builders, architects and surveyors (expertises) who will be able to answer all your questions to ensure you make the decisions that are right for you and the property.  Check what utilities are provided at the property, does it need a new septic tank, is there a supply of electricity for example?

2. DIY

There is a huge amount of satisfaction when completing a project yourself, but when renovating you need to be realistic, are you capable of undertaking all the tasks?  You need to have a clear vision as to what tasks will require professional help, as this will have an impact on your budget.  Even if you have renovated properties before, you need to be aware that materials and regulations can be different, therefore you need to bear in mind you may require the professionals more than normal.

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3. Budget

This is where expert knowledge could prove valuable, we will be able to give you a guide as to the costs of purchasing the property.  Renovating is often taking a step into the unknown as you don’t know what you will find, when you start to peel back the surface.  One of the biggest mistakes we see is people underestimating the costs, again be realistic and make sure you have a contingency plan in place for all those unknown extras.

4.  Finance

Make sure you have all your finances in place before you put in an offer, also look at the wealth of mortgages available to you, whether they are sourced in the UK or France.  We would also recommend you seek professional advice when looking to purchase a home in France.

5. Planning permission

Depending on the work required you may require planning permissions, we will be able to put you in touch with the right people to ensure that any application is dealt with in the appropriate manner.  Another point to note is that septic tanks also require permission to be installed, as you may need to replace an existing tank or install one.

6. Purchasing

Although you may be eager to start to turn your renovation into a home, you also need to protect yourself, should you not successfully receive all the necessary permits for any proposed changes – these are known as ‘permis de construire’ (building permit) and/or ‘déclaration de travaux’ (declaration for smaller renovation work – ask us about the difference).  Therefore, it is imperative that you build in a clause into the buying contract which in effect states that the purchase is subject to the above permits being received.

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7. Choosing a tradesman

It is important that you choose a builder that is registered, if you use an unregistered builder you will have no recourse in the French legal system should something go wrong.  All registered French builders will have a Siret number which signifies TVA (VAT) registration and is issued by the Chamber of Commerce.  Other things to check are that they hold Décennale Insurance, which gives you a guarantee of their workmanship for up to 10 years, also Responsabilité Civile – basically, insurance cover should they accidently cause any damage to your property during the renovation.

8. The build

It is essential that you keep all documentation relevant to the build and this includes every single receipt, as some of these costs can be set against any perceived gains on your property for French Capital Gains Tax.  Make sure that you also take out Dommage et Ouvrage Assurance that will cover the builder should he have an accident on your property.  Put together a formal schedule with your builder and agree timescales and any penalties for being late.  Never pay all the fees in advance and build in payment points into the schedule. We can bring you in contact with the proper insurance companies, to make these arrangements a breeze.

9. Show respect

When designing your renovation, be respectful to your property’s surroundings and heritage. If you are going to paint a house in candy stripes as witnessed in Chelsea, you are sure to get yourself into trouble.  Seek your architects advice to make sure any changes can be dramatic (if you wish) whilst remaining sympathetic.

10. Passion

All renovations are projects of passion, therefore, if you are not passionate about the property and the area, you are not going to enjoy the process.  There is no doubt that the journey will be stressful at times but the reward will be completely worth it when you see the finished property and know you can now call it home.


Also published on Medium.