Advice for Americans Buying Real Estate in France

Originally posted on & updated on 8th June, 2024

Did you know that each year, over 100,000 individuals from different corners of the world choose to make France their new home? This influx of foreign nationals accounts for roughly 10% of all real estate transactions in the country.

Advice and Tips for American Buyers

We’ve recently seen a significant increase in enquiries from American families, professionals and investors wanting to learn about buying a home and staying in France. This article is designed for americans looking to purchase French property or invest in real estate in Paris. The most frequent questions we receive are about visas, taxes and legal information. The Visa situation is a good place to start, especially if you’re starting to plan for spring or summer.

Do I Need a Visa to Travel to France?

This will depend on how long you wish to stay and if you’ll be working or taking a holiday. If staying for less than 3 months and not earning income, US citizens and american passport holders usually do not need a visa. The first step should be to contact the local French embassy to ask about visas and requirements for staying and/or working in France.

Residency Laws for American Citizens

The above mentioned 90 day rule states that tourists and visitors can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the European Union without the need a visa. So you can effectively spend 180 days (6 months) in France but you cannot spend more than 90 successive days in the country and the EU.

Should you wish to stay in France for more >90 days then you will need to obtain a Long Stay visa. Note that you can only apply for one type of visa at a time, so plan carefully as it is very difficult to change the status once in France, you would have to return to the USA to re-apply before returning with the new visa.

Can I Live there Permanently?

Once you have lived in France for five continuous years, you may apply for a ‘carte de résident’, a renewable permanent residence permit that allows to live in France for up to 10 years. Highly skilled professionals, entrepreneurs and Tech start-up founders should consider the France Talent Visa.

France is Cheaper than the USA & UK

France is not a cheap place to live and taxes have a repuptation for being on the high side. So you may be suprised to learn that the average cost of living in France ($1363) is 35% less expensive than in the United States ($2112) and 24% less expensive than in the United Kingdom ($1804). France is ranked 29th vs 6th for the United States in the list of the most expensive countries in the world. And with the situation in the Euro area many US clients are looking to capitalise on the weak currency against the USD.

Is French Real Estate a Good Investment?

The French property market is considered to be stable with house prices rising steadily. In the last quarter of 2017, average prices were up 3.4% year-on-year nationaly. Property prices have continued to increase at a steady pace in greater Paris (+3.9% from march 2018 to march 2019) and was predicted to grow by 7% for the luxury market.

Real estate prices in Paris have increased by 23% in the last 5 years, growing from an average €8,368/sqm in 2015 to €10,288€/sqm in winter 2019, that was before the pandemic but prices have held up well at around 7/8% for old apartments in the capital. And prices have increased in most rural areas boosted by French and european professionals looking for peace and fresh air in the countryside, as well as shortage of new homes to sell.

The average house price for American buyers in 2017 was around 450,000 euros, at MFH-HQ we’re finding that the average budget for our US clients to be slightly higher at 600,000 euros, this figure is due to seemingly growing interest in historic properties, estates and chateaux.

Why is the Healthcare System So Good?

France has a longer life expectancy, a lower infant mortality rate and a higher doctor/resident ratio than the United States. The focus on preventative care means that patients are less likely to return for follow-up appointments.

The system in France allows more choice as there are no insurance companies restrictions as they can be in the US. “Sécurité Sociale” is government funded which means everyone has access to affordable health care, whether you are a citizen, resident or a visiting tourist.

Is Health Care in France Free?

Healthcare costs are covered by both the state and through patient contributions, they are completely free. The French national insurance fund, Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM), will repay you for part of the costs later. Most families in France have a top up medical care insurance that completes most needs including dental and optical care.

Is it Difficult for Foreign Buyers to Get a Mortage?

The short answer to this is YES, it is difficult; the ‘Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act’ (FATCA) is part of the US tax code, it was introduced in 2014 to help counter tax evasion. The cost for complying to this administrative procedure is high to French banks. With already very strict lending criteria, this means that few lenders will entertain considering loans from US clients.

If you require finance for your project, it’s essential that you research this early on, we can put you in contact with our specialist finance partners who can advise on the best borrowing options for overseas buyers. Note that a minimum of 30% deposit is normally requested for non-EU-residents, nearer to 50% shows a better understanding of how French mortgages work and financial security.

What are the Tax Implications?

Regardless of citizenship or nationality anyone living in France permanently will be taxed on their overall income. Home owners, families and investors not residing in France must pay tax on any income earned from properties that they own in the country.  All income must be recorded and reported, so make sure that you include your running and other fixed costs (local taxes, repairs, utilities, insurance, management fees, etc …) to reduce the tax bill. We advise to use a local accountant or book-keeper, ideally english speaking. The good news is that our French tax and law experts can assist you with every aspect of buying or living and working in France.

Is the Buying Process Complicated?

Although different to what you are accustomed to, the Buying Process is pretty straight forward, aimed at protecting the buyer and takes 3 / 4 months to complete on average.  There’s no deposit to pay until the pre-contract has been signed and the 10 cooling off period has elapsed. See our guide to buying a property and note that we work with excellent English speaking notaires who are well up equipped for online meetings and POA’s at distance. For professionals and investors looking in specific cities and area, discover our bespoke a la carte service’.

Where to Find Travel Advice?

There’s plenty of travel advice online and everyone has different views, and ways of arranging their flights and trips. Start by looking at the travel advice back home, even at your nearest airport or airline, they’re usually up to date with the latest travel advice.  And this link from the US Embassy in France website and advice for Foreign Nationals from the French Government.

For those travelling from the USA via London, here’s the UK government travel advice. And look for advice at other hubs of the countries you are travelling from and to, starting with Paris Charles de Gaulle, New York JFK, Miami and London Heathrow.

What are the Main Airport in France?

Here is a list of some of the major international airports that offer international and transatlantic flights:

Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)

This is the largest and busiest airport in France, with over 76 millions flights in 2019, it is the 10th busiest airport in the world. Paris Charles de Gaulle is located about 25 kilometres northeast of the capital city. The airport offers a wide range of transatlantic flights to North America, South America, and the Caribbean destinations.

Paris-Orly Airport (ORY)

Orly is the second-largest airport, located about 13 kilometres south of Paris. The airport offers a range of transatlantic flights to destinations in North America and the Caribbean.

Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE)

This is the third-largest French airport, a gateway to the Côte d’Azur, and is located about 7 kilometres west of Nice. Landing or taking off here offers stunning views, with a sense of almost skimming the water—it’s a unique experience. Nice Côte d’Azur Airport offers a limited number of transatlantic flights to places in North America.

Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS)

Lyon-Saint Exupéry is the fourth-largest airport, located about 25 kilometres east of the city centre. It offers a limited range of transatlantic flights to North America from the Rhone-Alps region.

Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS)

Toulouse-Blagnac is the fifth-largest airport in France, it is home to Airbus and is located about 8 kilometres northwest of the Pink City in the Occitanie region. The airport offers limited transatlantic flights to destinations in North America.

These are all international hubs, offering a range of transatlantic flights to destinations in North America, South America, and the Caribbean. If you are planning to travel to or from France and are looking for a transatlantic flight, these airports are good places to start your search.

Alternative Airports

In addition to the main international airports, France boasts several smaller regional airports that provide limited transatlantic flight options. Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) offers a modest selection of transatlantic flights to North American destinations. Similarly, Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport (BOD) in Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Nantes Atlantique Airport (NTE) provide some transatlantic routes to North America.

These regional airports serve as smaller hubs, offering transatlantic flights that might appeal to travellers seeking convenience or affordability. While they provide fewer transatlantic flights than larger international airports, they can be viable options for specific travel needs.

Can Americans use their Driver’s License in France?

American drivers can use a valid US license to drive in France for a short stay of less than a year, such as for tourism purposes. It is necessary to have your American license with an official French notarised translation or an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) for it to be recognised. Read our articles about driving in France and visit the website of the French embassy in the US to learn about International licence for long-term residents.

French Immobiliers vs the Realtor System

At my-french-house.com we believe that your house hunting experience in France should be focussed, especially coming from the other side of the pond. However, most folks will find that the French realty listing system is very different as the ‘French agents immobiliers’ work in a different way than realtors in the US. Tell us about your dreams, your plans and let us guide you through your French Adventure.

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