Property Surveys in France

In France ‘English type’ Structural Surveys are almost unknown, and thus are rarely offered by French Estate Agents as houses are ‘Sold as seen’. There is not even a word for ‘Surveyor’! The nearest being ‘Expert de Batiment’.

Traditionally, obvious defects, like cracked walls for example, were referred to a local builder for an opinion. This is less common now as builders are rarely inclined to give free advice. I have to pose the question, how independent is a local builder who may know the agent and the vendor quite well?

Diagnostics (similar to HIPs in the UK) – this is not a survey.

There is a legal requirement for a vendor of a property to provide the purchaser (and the Notaire) with a range of Diagnostic Reports.  These Reports can best be described as effectively ‘Health and Safety’ statements and are issued as protection for the vendor against any future action by the purchaser for non-disclosure of items which could cause ‘damage to the person’.

The reports include statements identifying the presence of Asbestos in the property; the presence of lead in paint (but ignore lead water pipes!); and in the South of France the presence of Termites. This last point is generally extended to other parts of the country to include all parasites.

In addition, for properties over 15 years old there is a safety check of the electrical and gas installations. Finally, there is a report which comments on energy consumption, insulation in the house and a report on the compliance or otherwise of the septic tank (Fosse septique); there may also be a report in some areas of potential seismic activity and mining hazards.

Specialist Companies carry out these Reports (written in French) as they have the specific equipment to carry out the required tests. These Companies do not do ‘English type’ surveys, they are not looking at the general structural stability of the building, nor currently at any of the other services such as water and mains drainage.

So why have a survey?

Would you buy a 5 year old car without a Garage Report or an MoT? – No!

So why when you are buying your ‘Dream House in France’ would you consider buying a house without a specialist Report on its condition, which will identify defects which may need attention? Those defects could cost a lot of money to repair and turn your dream into a Nightmare!

I will spend at least 4 to 5 hours looking at a property, and have the experience to spot faults which you may miss during your usually shorter visit(s).

Too many Dreams turn out to be Money Pits!