Escape to the Chateau 2019: how to follow in the footsteps of Dick and Angel and buy a historic property in France

The much loved Escape to the Chateau is set to return to Channel 4 this weekend for its sixth series following intrepid Dick and Angel Strawbridge as they renovate their French castle. 

Keen viewers have already been treated to a week of Escape to the Chateau: DIY, where Dick and Angel visit other British chateau owners and help them realise their renovation dreams.

Fellow Brits inspired to flee the country in the face of Brexit will find an abundance of chateaux, which can be bought for the price of a flat in the capital. 

Some are even (almost) commutable to London. 

But, with the Brexit deadline extended once again and uncertainty compounded by yet another General Election, should Brits even consider buying property in France at the moment? 

In addition, chateaux may often seem like relative bargains compared to London property, but they tend to require significant investment and work over long periods of time to make them liveable.

If you’re still keen to live out the dream, read on for everything you need to know about buying a chateau in France. 

Should you buy property in France before Brexit?

With Brexit ongoing, it’s more vital than ever to consider what this might mean for those thinking of moving across the Channel.

Negotiations around the UK’s departure from the European Union are still underway, so it remains unclear exactly what this will mean for those buying in EU countries over the long term. 

That said, there are certain facts that will prevail regardless of what eventually happens. 

Non-EU citizens are entitled to remain in France for up to 90 days in any 180 day period and standard holiday insurance should cover any medical issues occurring during this period

Property taxes and French mortgage rates remain the same, regardless of the buyer’s nationality.

Both the British government and EU have expressed a commitment to the residential rights of citizens.  

Buying historic properties in France

The prospect of renovating a massive home might sound a daunting financial prospect, but there are advantages to buying a landmark home over an ordinary one.

Many chateaux are classed as ‘monuments historiques’, which means they’re listed buildings.

Buyers must obtain planning permission for any work they plan to do, but the French government will then pay up to 40 per cent of the total bill for restoration and even ongoing maintenance.

Some renovation costs are 100 per cent tax deductible, while others are 50 per cent deductible. Even these are 100 per cent deductible if chateau owners open the house to the members of the public for at least 40 days a year.

Should you, too, fancy buying yourself a slice of French history, you should realise that the process is somewhat different than in Britain, but the following five steps should help you.

The offer

Once you’ve found your dream chateau, make sure you have organised all your finances, arranged surveys and thoroughly researched the property and the area before making an offer.

The compromis de vente

In Britain, contracts are exchanged at the very last minute. In France, the opposite is true. Once an offer has been accepted, buyer and seller sign a contract called a ‘compromis de vente’, which can be off-the-peg or contain unique conditions suggested by either party.

The deposit

Once you’ve signing the compromis de vente, you must pay a deposit of around 10 per cent, which will be held by the agent or local notary.

Cooling off

The buyer has a 10-day cooling off period after signing the compromis de vente and paying the deposit, during which they can change their mind and still have their deposit returned intact.

The acte de vente

Once searches have been carried out, both buyer and seller will be asked to sign an ‘acte de vente’ to complete the transfer.

The buyer then pays the balance on the purchase price, along with the notaire fees — around one per cent of the sale price — agency fees, and the French property tax — similar to stamp duty — which is 5.8 per cent of the sale price on older properties.

The successful buyer then receives an attestation de propriété, showing they are the new legal owner, along with the keys.

Escape to the Chateau: DIY is on Channel 4 at 4pm on weekdays. The new series of Escape to the Chateau starts on Sunday at 8pm on Channel 4.

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