As we’re now in a position to start preparing to move Le Marie and I are returning to a conversation we often have; when we go shall we rent at first or buy straight away? Here are some of the factors we’ve considered in our deliberations.
Renting can help you make sure that you don’t make an expensive mistake.
- Moving to France has been the dream for quite some time, but we all know that dreams can turn into nightmares. Will we actually like living in a country where we are ‘foreigners’? Although this can seem romantic the reality may feel different. Also, despite my attempts at learning the language, what if it is still too much of an obstacle when we go? My parents have lived in France for ten years and we visit them as often as we can, I love the people and the culture but….
- My dream is to live in the countryside, always has been. I’ve seen pretty much every episode of Escape To The Country, a lot of them twice. Again though that’s the dream, am I really going to like the reality? We live in a large village but it still has plenty of amenities within walking distance. What will I feel like in a country setting where the shops shut for a two hour lunch break? Renting allows us to try out country living without expensively committing to it so that even if we decide, yes France is for us, we keep our options open to perhaps buy inside a village of even a small town.
- Due to my Escape To The Country obsession I also love older properties – again renting allows us to determine if this would be the best option for us.
- I know for some people renting could ensure they have the right area, but as we’re moving near to my parents we’re restricted on this anyway.
Living in France makes our ability to obtain an attractive mortgage far easier.
- My husband was offered a fantastic job this time last year that meant he could work from home, which he started doing in July, and made our move to France possible. However, this resulted in him having to register as a LTD company. He would therefore have the business taxed in the UK, but the wage he draws from it would be taxed in France as a resident there. The implication for a mortgage is that he is effectively treated as self employed. Although some sites say he can obtain a mortgage after two years of books, many say three. That would result in us not getting a mortgage until next year.
- Being a resident in France would make a 100% mortgage possible. This would mean we wouldn’t have to sell our house to release equity.
- If we did decide to release equity through a remortgage doing so next year may be safer as the referendum, despite not having an impact on us due to my Irish citizenship, is already affecting the value of the pound. Therefore any transfer of money over this period will result in a far lower return as a result of the exchange rates. Next year, hopefully, the markets should have settled.
What about settling somewhere then having to move again?
- I must admit this is one of my main arguments against renting prior to buying. With two children aged 4 and 1 frequent moves, particularly one which involves another language, is not conducive to their being confident enough to thrive. Also there’s the expense. However there are some solutions to this problem.
- We’re considering a fee paying, Catholic school. Partly because I’m a practising Catholic and partly because this would mean that they can go to school in the town where we know is the centre of our desirable area because of my folks. This means that, should it be necessary to move house, they won’t have to move schools. The school we’re considering goes from l’école maternelle right through to le lycée too so the girls can attend the same school throughout.
- There is a possibility of renting a house which we would like to buy. As I’ve been looking at the market in my desired area for some time it means that I know which houses have been on the market for a while. I have actually contacted someone before asking if they’d be interested in renting with a view to us buying in a year’s time which they agreed was a possibility, if they didn’t sell in the meantime. The house wasn’t suitable as it had a shared drive unfortunately. However I recently notice that one of the houses we like and that my parents have gone to view from the outside, which has been on the market since 2013, actually has a monthly rental charge as well. As terms and conditions for those renting are so good in France then this would be a positive step.
- The only drawback is that you can’t do anything to a rented property without running the risk of losing a lot of money on works. You could shop for new furniture though!
Renting in France seems to benefit the leaseholder
- If it’s for a named individual a rental contract has to be for at least three years – plenty of time to make our decision. We may not have the option of a named person (I don’t know quite what that means) if someone was renting to us because they haven’t been able to sell and are doing this just to keep money coming in, but still worthwhile knowing.
- If the owner decides to sell the house during or at the end of a lease then the tenant has the first option to purchase – which would put us in a really secure position because we wouldn’t be in a situation of having moved in only to have the property sold out from under us.
- A tenant can terminate though after giving three months notice by registered letter at any time.
All these points make a good argument for renting first – however I’m a real Suzy homemaker and I know I’d be frustrated about not being able to decorate straight away. In spite of this renting might still be the best option as this would mean time that I would have spent obsessively decorating would be spent on putting down roots in the community we were going to live in.
What do you think? Rent or buy? I know I’m going to change my mind about fifty times more before we go so your advice won’t be wasted!