Buying Property in France
By Peter Brooke
This article is published on: 23rd May 2014
Buying property is one of the most major investments we make in our lives. For yacht crew, it’s rarely for a primary residence, which makes the considerations for buying a little different.
Location will always come first, but when using property as an investment, yield should be a very close second. This is the net annual rental income (after all costs) divided by the value. One of the biggest reasons why property is considered the best investment is because it’s possible to leverage, or borrow, to buy it, especially when interest rates are low. For example, if you buy property for €200,000, and it gives a rental income of €8,000 per year, a four-percent yield is realized. If you only invested €40,000 and borrowed the remainder at three percent interest, then you immediately double your yield to eight percent. This is a compelling reason not to invest all your capital into a property. Even if interest rates are higher, it may still make sense, as it’s often possible to offset the interest against rental profits to reduce income tax.
Buying property in France is very popular amongst yacht crew, especially near the yachting centers of the Côte d’Azur. This is because the property can be a great escape in the winter when the yacht is in port or the yard, and also gives a great seasonal rental yield in the summer, the time when crew are hard at work.
These areas also are very sought after and selling a property is rarely difficult. The costs of buying in France are quite high; government taxes and notary (legal) fees total approximately 7.5 percent of the purchase price, and agent fees (when you sell) can be five or six percent. This means 13 percent growth on the property is necessary to make any capital profit, which is why property should be seen as a long-term investment and why rental yield is important. Annual taxes also apply and vary depending on where the property is located and its size. Borrowing in France is still possible for yacht crew, although it’s getting a little harder as banks tighten their rules. Generally, crew can borrow 75 (sometimes 80) percent of the purchase price. This means you need approximately 32.5 percent deposit (including notary fees) to start your property portfolio.
French lending laws allow you to be up to one-third of your income in debt, so if you earn €3,000 per month, you cannot spend more than €1,000 on your debt repayments. Over 20 years at three percent, €1,000 per month equates to a loan around €185,000. For tax-resident yacht crew (in France or any other country), the loan-to-value can often be higher as tax documents make banks feel more comfortable about lending. Any rental income is taxable in France, whether you are resident or not, and capital gains tax and inheritance tax will be initially liable in France, too.
There are many considerations when buying property, so seek good, qualified advice especially if it’s part of an overall plan; a mortgage broker should be able to find the best terms for you, often at no cost.