Is a ‘buy-to-let’ property a good investment in France?


Buy-to-let property is no longer the gold mine it once was in many countries; increasing costs, decreasing profitability, difficulty in getting finance and removal of mortgage relief in the UK mean that investors looking for better returns and a safe investment are eyeing up alternative markets. The same is true for South African buyers looking to invest in a stable property market with lower interest rates and for Australians looking to capitalize on the strong Australian dollar. France with affordable property, very low mortgage rates, a strong rental market with excellent rental returns and a stable political environment is proving the most popular alternative and the buy-to-let market is beginning to take off here.

Historically France has always been considered a stable place to invest but, traditionally, foreign buyers have been more attracted to France’s countryside, letting out their property as a gîte in peak holiday seasons. Having a holiday let in France can be an easy and reliable way to make money if the property is in a good location and well marketed. However, as more and more French country gîtes come onto the market, getting bookings has become increasingly competitive. Holiday lets are also labour-intensive and the investor must find someone to clean and maintain the property.

Hence property buyers wanting to generate the maximum income with the least effort are looking to more traditional, longer term buy-to-let markets, more often in French towns and cities. Longer term lets can ensure a regular stable income, have fewer advertising costs, no changeover fees, lower agency costs and are likely to have less wear and tear.

The regular long term rental market is one that frightens many international owners, either because they do not speak French, or because of the laws on security of tenure which are heavily biased in favour of the tenant in France, especially if the property is unfurnished. In this case, the minimum rental contract is for three years with the tenant having first right of refusal to stay for a further three years. At that point, they can only be given notice if the landlord plans to live in the property himself or sell it.

Furnished properties are more flexible as they have a minimum term of one year contract and, if you let to students, it can be shorter; hence this is one of the most buoyant areas of the market right now as there is a great shortage of student accommodation in France. Toulouse, for example, is one of France’s fastest growing cities with a large student population and not enough rental accommodation. Here, a standard one bed apartment in the city will rent out for an average of €596 per month while average apartment prices are €2,624 per square metre. Just remember that, even though you may not be resident in France you are liable to French income tax on your rental earnings and unfurnished lettings also face social charges.

Nevertheless, a buy-to-let property is a one of the most fiscally attractive income streams in France, as the tax breaks are generous and small landlords are not liable to self-employed social security contributions. In terms of capital gain, in the long term, French property also looks like a very sure bet; prices increase slowly and surely here and, as long as you buy in a good location, you are likely to see a long-term capital gain.

As ever, it is always important to take professional advice before buying property in France. For any questions, please email me on


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