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Getting a mortgage in France

If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a piece of the picturesque French countryside, securing a mortgage in France might not be as complicated as you think. French banks and mortgage providers are often open to international buyers, including non-residents, making the process relatively accessible. 

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Getting mortgage in France as a non-resident

Securing a mortgage in France as an expat involves meeting specific criteria. French lenders extend mortgage options to both residents and non-residents. To qualify, you’ll need to satisfy income prerequisites and provide a minimum deposit, with detailed amounts outlined below. If you’re self-employed, prepare to furnish audited accounts spanning a minimum of three years. 

Credit history and existing assets may be subject to evaluation by lenders, who might also impose age related restrictions. For instance, obtaining a French mortgage can be more challenging or costly if you’re over 65. 

Typically, French mortgages necessitate a property purchase agreement. However, you may opt for a certificate of commitment from a mortgage provider, which remains valid for three to four months. While these letters lack contractual obligations, they signal to the seller that you’re a committed buyer. 

Capital insurance protection is a standard requirement set by French mortgage lenders. This coverage ensures your mortgage payments are covered in the event of severe illness or unfortunate demise. While not legally mandated, obtaining suitable coverage is a crucial factor in securing a mortgage. The premium amount hinges on factors such as your age, medical history and desired level of protection. Individuals over 60 or those borrowing more than 200,000 € will likely need to undergo a medical examination. 

Getting a mortgage after Brexit

With the UK’s exit from the European Union, you might wonder if it’s become more challenging for British citizens to secure a mortgage in France. Fortunately, French mortgage providers remain open to considering applications from residents, regardless of their origin. 

Nonetheless, there are a few Brexit-related details to bear in mind. EU nationals, including British buyers post-Brexit, can generally access a maximum LTV of 85%. This is slightly higher than the average 70-80%. However, securing a 100% mortgage is typically only possible for those who are French tax residents.

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Types of mortgages in France

While France boasts a well-established mortgage industry with ample experience in catering to international buyers, it’s worth noting that the range of available mortgage products may be comparatively narrower than in certain other countries. Here are the key categories of mortgages you can explore:

Fixed-rate mortgages in Frances

Structure: In a fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate remains constant throughout the term of the loan. This means that your monthly mortgage payments stay the same, providing predictability and stability. 

Benefits: Fixed-rate mortgages are favoured for their predictability and protection agains interest rate fluctuations. They offer financial stability, making it easier to budget for the long term.

Considerations: While fixed-rate mortgages provide stability, they may initially have higher interest rates compared to variable-rate options. Borrowers should carefully evaluate their long-term financial situation before committing. 

Variable-rate French mortgage

Structure: Also known as adjustable-rate mortgages, variable-rate mortgages feature an interest rate that can fluctuate periodically based on changes in financial market conditions.

Benefits: Variable-rate mortgages often start with lower initial interest rates compared to fixed-rate. If interest rates decrease or remain stable, borrowers can benefit from lower overall borrowing. 

Considerations: The main risk with variable-rate mortgages is that interest rates can increase over time, potentially leading to higher monthly payments. Borrowers need to be financially prepared for potential fluctuations.

Interest-only mortgages

Structure: Interest-only mortgages require borrowers to pay only the interest on the loan for a specified period, typically between 5 to 10 years. After this period, borrowers start paying both principal and interest.

Benefits: Interest-only mortgages can result in lower initial monthly payments, which can be advantageous for buyers who anticipate an increase in income in the the future.

Considerations: While they offer lower initial payments, interest-only mortgages do not reduce the principal balance of the loan during the interest-only period. This means that the remaining balance will be paid off over a shorter period, leading to higher monthly payments one the interest-only period ends. 

Capped-rate mortgage

Structure: Capped-rate mortgages are a hybrid of fixed and variable-rate mortgages. They offer a fixed interest rate for a specified period, after which the rate becomes variable. There is a ‘cap’ or limit on how high the interest rate can rise.

Benefits: Capped-rate mortgages provide a level of protection against sudden and significant interest rate increased, providing borrowers with a degree of stability. 

Considerations: The capped-rate is typically higher than the initial variable rate, so borrowers pay a premium for the added protection. Borrowers should carefully assess whether this extra cost is justified for their specific circumstances. 

Bridging loans

Purpose: Bridging loan, or interim loans, are short-term loans designed to cover the gap between the purchase of a new property and the sale of an existing one.

Benefits: Bridging loans provide flexibility and enable buyers to act quickly in competitive property markets. They offer a short-term financial solution to facilitate seamless property transitions. 

Considerations: Bridging loans are short-term and typically have higher interest rates. Borrowers should have a clear plan for repaying the loan once their existing property is sold. 

Mortgage rates in France

Securing a mortgage in France involves considering various factors that influence the interest rates. These key determinants include:

  1. Amount borrowed: The sum you request as a loan significantly impacts the interest rate offered.
  2. Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio: This ratio compares the loan amount to the property value. A lower LTV often results in a more favourable interest rate. 
  3. Mortgage type: Different types of mortgages, such as fixed-rate and variable-rate, come with distinct interest rate structures. 
  4. Duration of mortgage: The length of the loan term can affect the interest rate. Shorter terms may have lower rates, while longer terms could have slightly higher rates.
  5. Property type: The type of property you’re financing, whether it’s a residential home, vacation property, or an investment, can influence the interest rate. 
  6. Residency status: Your residency status in France, whether as a resident or non-resident, can impact the interest rates offered to you. 

In recent years, French mortgage rates have been notably competitive, often lower than those in many other European countries. This trend has been reinforced over the past decade, with rates experiencing a significant reduction. It’s important to note that mortgage rates are subject to fluctuations based on economic conditions. For instance, data from the Banque de France indicates a modest increase in average rates on new loans in the first half of 2022. For the most up-to-date figures, the Banque de France website provides monthly publications. 

How to apply for a mortgage in France

If you are considering buying a property in France, securing a mortgage might be a crucial part of your financial strategy. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process: 

1- Research and compare lenders

Start by researching reputable mortgage lenders in France. Compare interest rates, terms and conditions offered by various institutions to find the best fit for your financial situation. 

2- Understand eligibility criteria

Each lender may have specific eligibility criteria. Generally, you’ll need to provide proof of income, creditworthiness and demonstrate your ability to repay the loan. 

3- Gather necessary documentation

To streamline the application process, gather essential documents such as:

  • Proof of identity and residency: Passport, residency permit, or ID card
  • Proof of income: Payslips, tax returns, or any other relevant income documentation. Self-employed individuals may need to provide audited accounts.
  • Credit history: A report from a credit bureau or agency.
  • Property details: Information about the property you intend to purchase. 

4- Complete a pre-application assessment

Many lenders offer pre-application assessments. This process helps determine how much you can borrow and provides valuable insights into the type of mortgage that suits your financial situation. 

5- Hire a mortgage broker (optional)

Considering hiring a mortgage broker with expertise in the French property market. They can provide invaluable guidance and access to a broader range of lenders.

6- Choose your mortgage type

France offers various types of mortgages, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, and interest only options. Research each type to decide which aligns best with your financial goals. 

7- Receive a mortgage offer

Once your application is approved, the lender will provide a formal mortgage offer. This document outlines the terms and conditions, including the interest rate, loan amount and repayment schedule. 

8- Hire a notary

In France, property transactions require a notary. They handle legal aspects of the purchase, including the mortgage registration.

9- Secure mortgage insurance

Most lenders in France require borrowers to have mortgage insurance. This coverage protects the lender in case of default.

10- Finalise the sale

The notary oversees the completion of the sale ensuring all legal requirements are met. This includes transferring funds to the seller and registering the property.

Getting a mortgage in France: What you'll need to apply

  • Proof of identity and residency: Passport, ID card, or residency permit.
  • Proofs of income: Payslips, tax returns, or audited accounts for self-employed individuals.
  • Credit history: Obtain a credit report from a recognised agency.
  • Property details: Information about the property you’re purchasing, including its value and condition.
  • Legal documentation: Sale agreement, property deeds and other legal documents.

Getting a mortgage in France from the UK

It is entirely possible to secure a mortgage in France while residing in the UK. French banks and mortgage providers are accustomed to working with international buyers, including those based in the UK. They are often just as willing to lend to non-residents as they are to residents. 

However, as a UK buyer, you may encounter some additional requirements and restrictions. For instance, the typical loan-to-value (LTV) ratio in France, which indicates how much a provider is willing to lend in relation to the property’s value ranges from 70% to 80%. Yet, some lenders may offer mortgages for only up to 50% of the purchase price for non-EU nationals. Additionally, you might be asked to meet specific conditions, such as opening a French saving account with a minimum deposit, taking out life insurance, and obtaining health and disability coverage. 

Can I get a UK mortgage to buy in France?

Yes, it is possible to obtain a UK mortgage to purchase property in France. Many UK banks and financial institution offer mortgages for properties located abroad, including France. These mortgages are specifically designed for British buyers looking to invest in international real estate. However, it is crucial to note that the terms and conditions, as well as the interest rates, may differ from standard domestic mortgages. 

Mortgage costs in France

The expenses associated with a mortgage in France can vary, often being higher for existing properties compared to new constructions. Typically, when purchasing property in France, you should budget for total transaction costs ranging from 10-15% of the purchase price. This encompasses various fees like taxes and insurance. Specifically related to the mortgage, there are additional charges, including: 

  • Mortgage arrangement/Administration fees: These are charges levied by the lender for setting up the mortgage. They can range from 0.5% to 2% of the loan amount. It’a wise to inquire about these fees upfront.
  • Mortgage broker fees: If you choose to work with a mortgage broker, they may charge a fee for their services. This expense varies, but is around 1% of the loan amount, so it’s advisable to discuss it with the broker beforehand. 
  • Notary fees: Notaries play a crucial role in property transactions in France. They’re responsible for legal aspects and ensuring all paperwork is in order. Their fees are regulated by the government and are based an a sliding scale. It’s usually about 2-3% for a new property older than five years (plus VAT).
  • Valuation survey: This is an assessment of the property’s value. The cost can vary depending in the complexity of the valuation, but it is around 250 €. 

Mortgage repayments in France

When it comes to repaying a mortgage in France, it’s essential to understand the process and factors that can influence your monthly payments. 

Types of repayment methods

In France, there are typically two types of mortgage repayment methods:

  • Capital and interest (amortising) mortgage: This is the most common type. It involves paying back both the principal amount borrowed and the accrued interest over the loan term. With each payment, the outstanding balance reduces. 
  • Interest-only mortgage: Here, you only pay the interest for a certain period (usually the initial years of the loan), and then start repaying the principal along with interest. 

Frequency of payments

Mortgage payments are usually made on a monthly basis. However, some lenders may offer alternative schedules, such as quarterly or even yearly payments.

Factors affecting repayment amounts

  • Interest rates: Changes in interest can affect your monthly payments. If rates rise, your payments may increase, and vice versa.
  • Loan term: Shorter loan terms typically result in higher monthly payments but lower overall interest costs. 
  • Loan amount: Obviously, a larger loan amount will lead to higher monthly repayments.
  • Type of interest rate: If you have a variable interest rate, your monthly payments may fluctuate based on market conditions.
  • Insurance and taxes: Some mortgages include property insurance and tax payments. These additional costs will be factored into your monthly payment.

Early repayment

In France, you have the option to make extra payments or repay the entire loan before the term ends. However, depending on your mortgage agreement, there may be penalties or fees associated with early repayment. 

Managing currency fluctuations

If you are repaying a mortgage in a different currency, be aware that exchange rate fluctuation can impact your monthly payments. 

In case of repayment difficulties, promptly contacting the lender is essential. Most are open to renegotiating terms or even providing repayment holidays, especially in specific circumstances like sudden unemployment or a death. For those facing serious financial strain and the risk of losing their home, seeking assistance from the over-indebtedness commission is an option. This commission advocates on your behalf and strives to prevent repossession. Further application details can be online. 

Refinancing a mortgage in France

Refinancing a mortgage in France involves replacing your current home loan with a new one, a process less common in France compared to other countries. This means there are fewer remortgaging options available and associated costs can be relatively high, potentially offsetting financial benefits. 

People consider refinancing for various reasons, like capitalising on lower interest rates or accessing equity for renovations or other property purchases. However, be prepared for additional expenses, including potentially higher interest rates, lower Loan-to-Value (LTV) rates, administration costs, and early repayment fees. 

To start the refinancing process, gather vital documents such as income proof, credit reports and existing mortgage details. Seeking advice from a mortgage advisor or broker is recommended to navigate the complexities and identify optimal options. 

Compare  offers from different lenders, considering interest rates, fees, and terms. Evaluate potential savings and ensure the new terms align with your financial objectives. Upon selecting a lender, complete the application, which might involve a credit check, property appraisal, and legal documentation. Once approved, the new mortgage terms will replace the existing agreement. 

Useful resources

Banque de France – Mortgage Market Overview – Visit the website

Notary fees calculator – Visit the website

Over-indebtedness Commission – Visit the website 

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