Home Housing Buying Expat mortgages in France
Last update on January 10, 2020
Written by Steven Grover

Looking at French property for sale? Make sure you’re aware of the rules of expat mortgages in France before you buy your dream French property.

If French property is catching your attention, it is good news that there are no restrictions on foreigners getting a mortgage in France. However, different rules and tax implications apply depending on whether you are a resident or non-resident.

Due to France’s popularity as an expat destination, foreigners looking to take out a French mortgage will find that most major French banks and real estate services cater to this demographic. There are also specialist property lenders that might include English-language assistance and specialized expat mortgage services. Read more in our guide to French mortgages.

One thing that can restrict your French mortgage options is your salary. The single most important element in successfully getting a mortgage in France is income, as explained below.

Are expat buyers still welcome in France?

In recent years, France’s banks have become increasingly willing to offer mortgages to foreign buyers. This means that international buyers don’t need to rely on remortgaging an existing property or using an international lender in their home country.

Although there were concerns that banks might be reluctant to lend following Britain’s vote to exit the EU, the situation in France appears to be the opposite. In an effort to draw potentially reluctant foreign buyers, French banks are putting together even more attractive packages and experts predict interest rates could decrease as a result.

Banks in France are still offering foreign buyers 20-year mortgages at interest rates as low as 2%. Property in Paris has emerged from the financial crisis as one of Europe’s core performing markets. Although prices are being pushed up, there are still some affordable opportunities when compared to some major capitals such as London and New York.

For British buyers, one potential effect of Brexit is that they may face restrictions on how much they can borrow; banks typically offer EU citizens 80%, while they limit non-EU citizens to as low as 50%. However, as British buyers make up the biggest percentage of foreign property buyers in France, experts predict banks will continue to look favourably on British applicants regardless of the Brexit outcome.

Requirements and tips for an expat mortgage in France

  • A command of French or a translator is typically necessary for certain aspects of the buying and mortgage process. For example, documentation might be in French.
  • The advantage of getting a French mortgage is that the property you’re purchasing can be used as security. This is not usually available with an international mortgage.
  • Your income level restricts te amount you can borrow in France. As a result, it’s important to calculate the legal maximum you can borrow before you look at French properties.
  • French loans can be for between five and 25 years; most commonly, their terms are between 15 and 20 years. This depends on your age and the bank you’ve chosen. It has been possible before to borrow up to 30 years; however, age is a factor and this has been rare following the crisis.
  • French mortgages typically cover around 70–80% of the purchase price.
  • French banks normally require life insurance to take out a mortgage.

How much can you borrow?

There are no self-certification loans nor non-doc (subprime) loans in France. Thus, you need to prove you receive a regular income that covers all of your debts three times over.

This is because Banque de France lending laws state that your total debt cannot exceed one-third of your total income. In some circumstances, you may get a slightly larger margin but this is never more than a few percent. If you earn €3,000 a month, then the total of all your mortgages, credit cards, loans, and other debt repayments cannot come to more than €1,000 per month.

Other personal circumstances can push up or down the mortgage amount you are allowed to borrow. If you’re already paying tax in France, you may be able to borrow up to 100% of the property purchase value (i.e., the sale price minus estate agency fees). However, this is rare following the financial crisis.

UK and other EU residents/taxpayers may be able to borrow up to 85%, although 80% is typical. Non-EU residents and taxpayers may eligible for a mortgage of up to 80%. This ranges greatly between banks and can be as low as 50% of the purchase price.

French mortgage calculations

Based on the income and deposit requirements, below is an example of how to calculate your French mortgage requirements and how much income you need.

Purchase price€300,000
Deposit of 20%€45,000
Notary fees (approx. 8%)€24,000
Total cash needed:€69,000

The repayments for this mortgage over 25 years at 4% would cost €1,345 per month. In addition, add in €80 a month for life insurance.

This means that you must prove an income, after all other debts, of €4,000 per month, or approximately €48,000 per year.

Depending on which bank you approach, this figure may be taken from your net or gross income.

Costs of an expat mortgage

The notary fees in France tend to work out at around:

  • 6% in government taxes (such as stamp duty);
  • 1% in notary administration fees;
  • approximately 1% of the mortgage amount assignment fee, if you are taking a mortgage to assign the bank’s legal interest in the property.

As the buyer you need to fund the deposit (minimum 20%) plus the notary costs (approximately 8%).

Euribor and French mortgage rates

All mortgage interest rates in France are linked to the Euribor (Euro Interbank Offered Rate). This was introduced at the beginning of 1999 along with the euro.

Euribor was brought in because European banks wanted to establish a new interbank reference rate within the Economic and Monetary Union.

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What types of French mortgages are available?

Variable interest rate mortgages

These are based on the lending bank adding a margin to one of the Euribor indexes, normally the three-month or 12-month rates. They are typically fixed for anything from the first three months to five years, then go up or down as the market index moves.

Some banks offer variable rate mortgages that can safeguard against rises in the interest rate by capping the maximum rate, or by extending the term of the loan rather than raising the monthly payment. Most products also give you the option to convert to a fixed interest rate at any time.

Fixed interest rate mortgages

The repayments with this type of mortgage are fixed for the whole term of the mortgage. As a result, you know exactly what you’ll pay each month over the whole term of the loan.

However, fixed rates are usually higher than variable rates. There are normally larger penalties for paying off your mortgage early than you would have with a variable interest rate mortgage. As Europe continues to experience historically low-interest rates, today buyers face less risk when locking in a long-term interest rate.

Interest-only (prêt infiné) mortgages

Interest-only deals are becoming more available in France if you want to reduce the monthly repayment to a minimum. However, there are some differences with the products in other countries:

  • Assurance vie (life assurance) linked: with this loan, instead of placing your deposit into the property, you take a 100% interest-only loan and are obliged to place the deposit (minimum of 20%) into a French investment scheme which runs alongside the mortgage. These schemes can have significant inheritance planning advantages and can offer flexibility if you are going to buy and sell a lot of properties, as they can be kept as the deposit for the next purchase.
  • Dual phase: some banks also offer a product, which is interest-only for the first few years of the mortgage and then becomes a repayment loan for the remaining term. This is particularly useful if you believe you will pay off large sums in the first period.
  • Asset-backed: this is an interest-only product that does not require a deposit into an investment scheme and does not have a second repayment phase. You must provide evidence of your other net assets up to a value of between 120% and 150% of the loan amount.

Buy-to-let mortgages

For anyone looking to purchase on a buy-to-let basis, this type of mortgage does not really exist in France.

Future rent can be taken into account but the bank will normally devalue the property by 10% and then lend 85% of the 90% valuation. This means that a larger deposit is needed.

The bank will also only take 80% of possible long-term, unfurnished rental income into account. This is considerably less than what you will probably achieve through seasonal weekly lettings.

Bridging loans (Prêt relais)

This is a loan for those purchasing a property in France who have yet to complete the sale of their existing French property.

In most circumstances, the loan is available for up to two years pending the sale of the existing property as long as there is enough equity in it. The loan may be up to 70% of value of the existing home. The borrower generally only pays the interest element of the loan, with the capital being paid off on sale of their present property.