What you need to know about driving in France

Guest post by Tracy Leonetti, Language & Business Service

Your Driving License: If you are non-European, you have one year to transfer your license over to a French one. After that you will need to take the French driving license. Note: For non-Europeans, before you leave your home country, ask your local driving office to give you a letter stating that your rights to drive are not suspended or cancelled. You will need this for your driving license application at the Prefecture.

Since 1st July 1996, it is not an obligation for Europeans to change their driving license and you may continue to drive in France with your driving license. However France works on a points system and if you commit a driving offense where points would be taken from your license, it then becomes an obligation to change your driving license to a French one. Driving license changes are done at the prefecture.

Car Registrations & Insurance: If you are bringing a car over to France, you normally have one month to make the change to a French registration ‘certificat d’immatriculation’ but this can be pushed out to 6 months as this is when one is considered as resident. This process is taken care of the Prefecture and the cost can be a little expensive as there is an import tax plus a pollution tax. Before leaving your home country, ask the garage where you bought the car or the manufacturer for a ‘Certificate of Conformity’, this is a document stating that your vehicle conforms to French standards. You will need this document to change your car registration. More information on the Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés.

Also check your car insurance policy as most only cover up to 3 months abroad and if you have an accident in France you may find yourself without cover.

How do you find a bargain property on the French Riviera?


Here is David’s question:

I heard you talk about the lady who lost 300,000 on her apartment. I am looking to buy and would like to find something that is a bargain or at a knocked down price, what advice would you give me as a buyer to find these discounted properties.

I would also like to ask about the difference in price between something with a sea view and a property without.

So to answer the first part of this question, finding a bargain apartment does take some time. But first you need to be sure about the area that you are interested in. Visit, spend some time, walk around, window shop the agencies to see what types of properties are available in that area.

If you go through an agency, they can tell you how long the property has been on the market, so maybe there is room for negotiating a better price if its been for sale for a long time. You can also ask if there has been some recently reduced properties. That gives an indication that there is a stronger intent to sell and perhaps be more open to accepting a lower offer.

Obviously the closer you are to the beach, the more expensive it will be, so look to be set back, but what is nice is that the natural geography of the Riviera is terraced with many hills, so you still might find a place with a view.

Obviously properties without a sea view will be less expensive than one with a sea view. A good trade off for a sea view would be a garden. An outside space to enjoy.

What has been a recent trend lately are larger homes or bastides where people are selling off the independent cottages or guest apartments on the property or even an entire floor. One of the benefits of finding this type of property is that you have the direct advantage of feeling like you are living on a large residential property that comes with privacy. Meaning you don’t have a lot of neighbors.

These types of offers are becoming more prevalent as some people just don’t have the necessity of having a huge home, if there kids moved away or they are getting older. You will want to look for keyword such as co-proprietaire in the description of the property.

You can also look at ads in the newspapers or community portals for For Sale by Owner, but do beware that this is more risky, and you will have to properly equip yourself with the right legal people to be sure you don’t run into any legal problems either with the sale or the deed of the property.

And finally, You can also consult some rental agencies to view some properties and see if there can be a possible bargain to be found through asking if they would consider selling the property.

However, there is one thing to always keep in mind regarding finding a bargain…

And that is Why is it a Bargain?

The last thing you would want is to be stuck in a money pit of endless repairing work on hidden damages that in the end does not create a bargain, but rather an added expense.

So put your critical pairs of eyes when visiting potential bargain properties and especially look for signs of water damage, condition of the roof, plumbing, electrical connections and the condition of the walls.

If you smell moisture and feel humidity, its not a bargain.

So David, there are bargains to be had, but they do take more time to find and some work. Patience is key here.


PROPERTY FORUM: Refurbishing, Reselling and Developing Property

Riviera Radio Property ForumThis topic has been received through the Property Forum and is talks about refurbishing and reselling properties on the French Riviera.

I have been listening to your information about property and would like to hear your opinion. I have bought and refurbished 4 buildings in the  last 5 years. They all needed to be refurbished, which we did and we sold them on with good profits. I am thinking the next few years prices will go down in the south of France, so this may not be the best part of the world to be developing property.  – Jack from Eze

Refurbishing and reselling properties on the French Riviera can be both a lucrative and rewarding experience.  Taking something that is old and tired and revitalizing it into something new and fresh and is what inspires many people to buy these types of properties, whether as a small business or as a personal project.

The nice thing is marketwise, the French Riviera is a prime destination, so even if price points do lower a little from either the effects of the economic crisis or French fiscal changes, the French Riviera does have a very stable return on investments for properties that are.. interesting and correctly priced.

Your comment here refers to two different aspects of real estate, one being the refurbishment of tired or older properties, and the second being actually developing property.

The first being a lot less complicated than the second.

There are scores of tired or older properties that could use refurbishments and its just a matter of finding them.  This type of investment is the most conservative of the two as they require a smaller investment, lower labor costs, and definitely fewer rules and regulations.

The thing is, after you have completed several successful refurbishments, you say  “hey, I can do this! Maybe I can even do a brand new project.”

But please… make no mistake, be careful with this type of logic. I am not saying it can’t be done, but its a whole different ball game.

Developing new property here in France usually  includes large companies with very large budgets, strict rules and regulations, stringent construction processes that include environmental specifications, architects, engineers, construction managers, technical control offices, accountants, legal consultants etc… you get the point.

For this type of investment you would also have to find a zoned plot of land which do run rather high in this area of France as you probably already know, since land on the French Riviera is a precious commodity and is highly sought after.

And once a new project is built, you are then financially responsible for guaranteeing the construction of each apartment for any defects, damages or problems for a specified number of years.

From what you have mentioned here Jack, it sounds like you have indeed found a nice niche for yourself that has been manageable and works for you in an area that does hold its investment value. And that is worth a lot!

Property Forum: A case of a sale that went awry!

RR-forumThis is a Property Forum topic that has been received through Riviera Radio regarding a sale of a property that went completely amiss and a prime example of a situation that probably could have been entirely avoided all together.


Una from Dublin writes:

We had an apartment near Cannes for sale for over a year. The agency hardly got anyone to have a look at the apartment. When we put pressure on them they said you need to lower the price. The answer is always lower the price.

We said, but you are not putting any effort in to the sale besides listing us on your website. I felt a little spent on some advertising would have opened the net to a wider so we could have found a buyer at a better price. The agency, when they eventually answered the phone said, “no we don’t think that will work” and they never got us an offer in the end.

My French friend offered to advertise the apartment as that was the only offer we got. Can’t help but wonder if we had more time and did some marketing and print outs could we have lost a lot less money.

Initially we planned to buy another apartment close to Menton, but now think we will hold on and just rent.

Losing 300,000euros on the sale of an apartment is outrageous! Could have this been avoided? Absolutely.

When selling your property here in France and go through an estate agency, you should ask them specifically how they are marketing their properties.  Only putting a picture on the website, as they did in this case, is simply not enough.

You can also ask to send you frequent updates on your property with potential interest and initial feedback.

Asking around locally to see if this agency is well respected is important to do. Have they sold properties near your property? Has anyone in your immediate area used them before?

A good real estate agency should know the local market very well and be highly visible and active in the area, and should have a strategic marketing strategy in place.

If they don’t answer the phone…that’s a sign.

Without seeing the property in this case, it is impossible to determine if the price was really an issue. Having a correct price is important, overinflated prices are useless when the value of the property does not correctly correspond with the price and potential buyers will get immediately turned off.

Another aspect to this situation is to property prepare your home for viewing.  Homestaging your home will not only get your property sold faster, but will give you a bigger return on your investment.  And finally, it is catching on here in France.

The fact is potential buyers are not interested in seeing your personal items nor are they interested in personalized decor ( i.e. colored walls). In fact it is the opposite. Freshly painted off-white walls creates visual space and allows the buyer to see a blank canvas where they can envision themselves living in your property.

It is imperative to fix broken, old or unsightly fixtures, getting new towels for the bathrooms, light colored bed covers, and de-cluttering your kitchen counters.  The main point here is less is really more.  Adding a couple of fresh new plants is also a nice touch.

Do not forget that any renovation work on your property can eventually be deducted from your capital gains tax. So in the end, your property will get seen and sold faster with better offers.

Please know that this situation is not the norm. By working with a truly professional real estate agency, you will most likely sell your property with a profit.

Property Forum: The ‘compromis de vente’ vs ‘promesse de vente’ contract

To sign and what to sign?? That is the question.

PROPERTY FORUM: The difference between a ‘compromise de vente’ and a ‘promesse de vente’.  They sound similar don’t they?

There are two types of preliminary acquisition contracts here in France before the final sales act, or as called in French, the “acte de vente”.

And although they are completely different, they do share a few things in common that you should know about.

  1. Both offer a 7 day period to change your mind.  It is important to note here that if you decide to withdraw from the contract, you must write a registered letter to all parties involved in the writing and the signing of the contract (i.e. the seller, the notary, the estate agent if you are using one) indicating your withdrawl, and this must be done within this 7 day period.
  2. Both include suspensive conditions or in French “conditions suspensive” in the contract. An example of the most common condition suspensive would be getting your mortgage arranged in a specified timeframe.
  3. Both require a deposit to be paid that usually runs about 5-10% of the price of the property, which you can get back if you submit the registered letter within the 7 days after the day you signed the contract, or if one of the suspensive conditions has not been realized.

The “Promesse de vente”

The promesse de vente – more formally known as the Promesse Unilateral de Vente – is basically a one-way (hence unilateral) commitment by the seller to sell you his property.

This unilateral contract is similar to an option to buy with the understanding that the deposit acts as the indemnity for the seller taking the property off the market and not selling it to anybody else.

The buyer is not committed to buy the property and can withdraw from the contract at anytime after the 7 day period, but will not recover the deposit. Again, if the suspensive conditions haven’t been realized, the buyer can withdraw and get the deposit back.

The “Compromis de vente”

The compromis de vente on the other hand is a mutual agreement between the buyer to buy the property and the seller to sell the property at an agreed price.

Both parties here are legally binded to the contract.

Again the suspensive conditions in the compromise de vente must be filled within the stated time limit of the contract before the final sales act can be signed. So this means that if all the conditions have been fulfilled, both parties are required to sign the final sales act. If either party changes their mind at this stage of the transacation, they can expect the other one to sue them and seek financial damages.

The Five Habits of Successful Homebuyers

You might have heard inspiring stories as well as some nightmares when it comes to buying a new home.

Whether you are buying a house, apartment, holiday home or even an office space, there are 5 basic tenets that successful homebuyers follow that not only make their investments quite simple, but also less time consuming.

Let’s face it, the moment  you decide you are going to buy a property, you want the keys instantly. However, going from “I want a new place” to actually putting the key in the door does takes some work and time on your part.

Successful homebuyers are competely aware of the real estate purchase process, but more importantly, they understand that most of the work lies in their own participation in the deal to be made. The five habits of successful homebuyers are:

  1. Know why you want a new place. What is your reason for wanting a new place? Are you moving for work, family got bigger or smaller, economical reasons, or just looking for a change? While this might seem like a redundant question to you, it is the foundation of what lies ahead. The more clear you are in why you are moving, the more clear you will be when it comes to specific needs in the type of property you are looking for and the area you choose. If you are in an emotional state, take a break and come back and think about it again. You want to be sure you are reasoning rather than just reacting. Remember, buying property is a major decision that requires clear thinking.
    For example, if you are looking for a larger place for your family, perhaps a residential neighborhood, then proximity to schools and supermarkets are very important. If you are looking for a change of place for work, then proximity to transportation lines, autoroutes, even walking distance will play a role in the property you are looking for.
  2. Do your homework.  Start going to the places that you think might interest you and drive around. Take note of the areas you like and dont like. Try to spend some time by walking around, going for lunch and just get a feel for where you are at. Intuition is stronger than you might think and will speak volumes to you if you pay attention to how you feel when you are in a certain area.  Look at for sale signs and see what types of properties they are, this will give you an indication of the local real estate market activity. You might even want to pick up some local real estate magazines to get an idea of pricing as well as definitely spend some time online researching the different types of properties that might interest you and determining if these types of properties fit within your tentative budget.
  3. Know your financial capacity.  While you might have a tentative figure in your head about what you can afford, take time to consider additional costs such as utility bills, association fees, garbage pick up, transportation / parking costs if they apply, initial deposits and charges for the transfer of phone lines, internet, cable etc. and any foreseen renovations or new furnishings. You would be surprised how overlooked these additional costs add up to, so by taking the time to estimate or guesstimate, you will be more clear as to what you truly can afford. If you are going to need a loan, this is when you should get pre-approved for one.
  4. Get your papers in order.  The more organized your paperwork is, the better. This means bank statements, loan approval papers, copies of your personal documents such as drivers license, identification, passport, birth certificates etc. Create a folder just for the paperwork so that you can easily refer to it or take it with you when meeting with the bank or real estate agent. This also includes a list of all the questions you have about the property, the purchase and time frames and any other important matters you dont want to forget.
  5. Visit the property with a critical eye. The first time you visit a property that you absolutely love and the song of excitment is ringing through every cell of your mind and body, you might not be so concerned with the water mark on the ceiling above the shower. You might be thinking, this is it, I don’t care, I want it. That is all good, but you need to take a critical look at the property again. Be sure you are looking high, low, over, under, outside and inside for any major defects or problems because this is THE time to ask..before the sale.  You don’t want to be buying problems.

Hombuying is not rocket science, but it does require your own personal due diligence along with the help of a qualified professional real esatate agent. The more you prepare, the easier the process will be, and the sooner you will be putting the keys into the door of your new place.



An Exceptional Year to Sell Your Home

While 2012 was marked by a “wait and see” attitude towards selling property due to the global and Eurozone economic climate, 2013 has a new impetus that is creating a more favorable ambiance for those who are considering in selling their home this year.  In effect as of September 1st 2013 and running until August 31st 2014, an “exceptional” 25% abatement in the total taxable part of the capital gains for second homes was established by the Hollande administration to boost the real estate market.

So what does this mean for you?

This means that if you have a second home in France that you have been considering selling, perhaps to upgrade/downgrade or would like to explore another area in France, you have until before the 31st of August of next year to sell your property in order to enjoy the 25% abatement.

In addition, the holding period for a property to be exempt from capital gains that was originally 15 years then dramatically changed to 30 years, has been brought back down to 22 years.  Please note that this only applies to capital gains and not social contributions which are exempt after a 30 year holding period.

Below you will find the calculations that demonstrate the exceptional 25% abatement and without, for both French citizens and for citizens residing within the European economic zone.
























foreign tax



A great resource for tax information and regulations for non-residents can be found at SARF -The Accredited Tax Representatives for non-Residents. 



The Zen of Organized French Paperwork

New life in France and you don’t speak French?

At first glance the idea of completing French paperwork when you don’t speak French can seem daunting. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be.  One of the key advantages of hiring a French paperwork professional is not only having someone else do the paperwork for you, but more so, keeping your household administrative affairs in order. Yes, that’s right, getting you organized!

Whether you need to get your kids signed up for school, get your cable installed in your house, getting health insurance or even getting your administrative file in order at the Prefacture for your Visa, a French paperwork professional is your key go-to person that will help you solve all of your personal affairs. Your ideal paperwork professional should have extensive knowledge of the French system and some years under their belt.

With 20 years of living and working in France, Tracy Leonetti from Tracy Leonetti Language & Business Services has been able to help many expats new to the French Riviera set up their administrative life and maintain their household French paperwork.  Tracy simply explains the benefit of this service, “LBS really helps reduce ones frustration levels due to paperwork problems and they feel a real sense of relief as they know that their paperwork will be dealt with.  They dont have to worry about it anymore!”

Other things to consider that would require French paperwork would be car registration, child benefits (CAF), international payments and overseas transfers, telephone-internet-electricity, and house car/insurance among others.

Home-staging: The Naked Truth About Your Property

3353231_sIs your home really ready to seen and sold?

So your home has been on the market for 6 months and you had many visits but no one is making an offer. What the heck is going on here? Is it the global economic crisis? Am I asking to high a price? But it’s such a great home!
While factors like an economic crisis and an overpriced home can and will influence the sale of your home, the truth is, the answer could be staring you right in the face and you don’t even see it.

When you list your home to sell with an agency or even if you dare to sell it on your own, you think to yourself, Presto, my house is on the market now and my phone should be ringing off the hook, right?. One question. Did you bother to look at the stained and weathered bedspread you have had on your bed from five years ago? Or what about the orange curtains in the living room when you were going through your Bringing-more- happiness-in-my-home-through-color decorating phase.

While these things may be nostalgic to you and bring you additional joy in your life, the person who is looking to buy your home is so NOT interested. They want Light, they want Fresh, they want Clean and they want to be able to Envision themselves in your home with their own stuff, not yours.

Overly furnished homes, those precious knick-knacks, souvenirs, and typical household clutter does only one thing…turn people off. A picture is worth a thousand words, have you looked at the picture that the agency is using to sell your home? What does that picture say? It says, this is Sally’s house with her stuff rather than, This Home is Ready for Sale!

The good news is that there is a solution.

Home-staging is a fast and effective way to prepare your home or apartment for sale before you decide to put it on the market or even while it’s on the market. Home-stagers will not lie to you, in fact, they will tell you the naked truth.

Home-stager Diane Lydon from IMMOSTYLING located on the French Rivera explains, “A home is more than just walls and a roof, it’s a place that is filled with emotions, experiences and memories shared with family and friends. IMMOSTYLING recognizes that leaving a home and moving on can be difficult. Reasons for the move can differ, but the required end result is the same. The owner wants a good price and a quick and easy sale.

Home staging effectively positions the property in the top 10% of the market by presenting the home not as it had previously been lived in but as a viable, marketable product. Space, light and ambience are accentuated giving the potential buyer a positive and welcoming view and a sense that they could move in immediately. We give the owner a simple and practical step by step plan that is not only a valuable tool to sell their property but also assists them to accept the inevitable changes and look ahead to the next stage in their life.”

From minor changes to massive overhauls, these experts will help you bring out the best in your home and prepare it for viewing. They even help you pack your things if it’s too much for you to do or if its something you just don’t want to deal with.

What is nice about this type of service is that you decide the level of refreshing you want and the type of small budget you are willing to put for minor repairs and needed changes.

The result? You will have real estate agents fighting to sell your home because they know it will be a quick sell and most likely at a higher price than you originally thought. Home-staging your home is a great way to maximize the value of your home, get it sold quickly, and in the end have some extra cash in your pocket.


A Real Vacation…French Riviera Style

French Riviera Vacation
How to truly experience the best of the French Riviera?
Thinking about your summer vacation this year?
Why not make this year’s vacation, not just a vacation….but an unforgettable experience.
If you plan now, NICE PROPERTIES new Property Rental Service can help you find THE place to spend your summer basking in the Mediterranean sun with your family or friends and enjoying those panoramic sea views poolside.
While spending your holidays might be “convenient” and “easy”in a hotel, the experience of “living” in a beautiful rental property with breathtaking views is the most authentic way to spend your vacation in a most private and tranquil ambiance.
If you do prefer the ‘service’ aspect, there are always concierge and personnel staff services that can attend to your every need.
Whether you seek to rent a private hilltop villa in Villefranche Sur Mer, seaside home in St.Jean Cap Ferrat, apartment with panoramic sea views and a large terrace in Cannes, NICE PROPERTIES is your link to the French Riviera.
Your summer sanctuary.  Share your coffee with the quiet morning sunrise,  relish the refreshing plunge in the pool after a day at the beach or on the boat, lay back in the chaise lounge with your evening aperitif taking in the evening sunset’s deep fuscias and golds reflecting in the glassy calm sea.
Moments unlike no other.