The quality of new homes in France is generally good and French law requires that building work be protected by a assurance décennale insurance policy (see Definitions). Consequently, many French people do not bother with home inspections and will often seem a bit puzzled as to why you are arranging one. Furthermore, many estate agents will try to discourage you from having a professional house inspection and provide a variety of reasons why it is not necessary.
Despite all this, one should seriously consider having a Building Survey done before buying a property, especially if it is an older property. Professional house inspections often find problems in older houses and this can be used to renegotiate a better price (unless the faults are so major or the cost of rectification so high that you no longer wish to proceed). Even if the faults are minor (and certainly any older house will have a number), the price of the inspection will likely be recovered when you renegotiate the price based on the faults. More importantly, there may be major faults, in which case the inspection will allow you to walk away from a potential nightmare and buy a true dream house.
In the UK there are professionals who specialise in house inspections (known as ‘home surveyors’ or 'building surveyors') and they have well-defined types of inspection (e.g. ‘full structural inspection’). This is somewhat less true in France, where one contacts a professional such as a building expert (expert en immobilier, expert en techniques du bâtiment) or an architect (architecte) and asks them if they can do a house inspection (expertise immobilière).
There are also a number of UK-qualified inspectors, who have moved to France and become France-qualified as well. Such inspectors are often the best of both worlds; they can provide the detailed reports (in English) which one is used to from the UK, but also know the local standards. Ensure that any inspection is done by a qualified professional who is fully independent.
You should ask the inspector to include in his report an estimate of the costs to repair any problems identified; this is important not only for your own information but also in case you wish to use this information to renegotiate the price.
If possible, you should be present during the survey; this provides another chance for you to carefully look over the house and to ensure that the inspection covers all areas of interest. In the event of possible problems being identified, it also allows you to see them for yourself and ask questions on the spot.
Registered professionals include:
Anglo-French Surveying - Resident, registered and insured Building Surveying practice and Historic Building Advisors. Able to undertake Building Surveys (formally known as Full Structural Surveys), licensed by the RICS to carry out Homebuyer Surveys & Valuation Reports as well as targeted inspections on all types of residential and commercial property. Advice on repair and restoration of historic buildings and structural defects.
James MATHEWS -Architect - Bilingual, Anglo-French architect registered in France. Offices in London and in Poitou-Charentes. Full or partial service as required, including design, permit applications, construction drawings, tendering procedure, and management of the building work.
J-C CORDIEZ Architecte Expert - Buying or renovating property in South Eastern France? Before jumping in with both feet, talk to us. We will investigate it inside out for you: Technical building surveys, Real Estate market valuation, Overall advice and assistance, Project design and site management. We're ON YOUR SIDE to secure your purchase. Don't let latent defect, overvalue, regulation or design issue be an afterthought...By contacting us, you can save money and enjoy peace of mind. We won't baffle you with French technical or regulatory jargon, but will advise you on what is to be checked in your own situation.
MaMahon Architects - Architects Office based in the Charente Maritime providing complete Design and Project Management Services. Experience on Renovation, Conservation as well as Contemporary Architectural Projects.