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Top 5 common and costly defects to consider when buying in France
Post-purchase guidance | Defects and issues
Your new French home: Top 5 common and costly defects to consider
All parts of a building have a technical lifespan, which age at different times and can be expensive to rectify. Here are 5 of the common (and sometimes hidden) defects that it's important to be aware of and budget for when choosing your new home in France.
Knowing what's risky to ignore and what can be dealt with later (or not at all) is crucial for any home buyer. With an idea of the costs involved in repairs and renovations, you can often negotiate on price, plan for building works, and understand the impact of your investment on future saleability.
1. Electrical installation
Carrying out a diagnostics inspection of a property's electrical installation (wiring etc) is legally required in France, unless the system is less than 15 years old.
An independent surveyor will be able to expand on the issues raised in the diagnostics report, such as old equipment, poor earthing, old three-phase supplies, and lack of safety features. Electrics can wired differently in France compared with other countries, and are often replaced as and when required. This means that a system can have new and old wiring, which is potentially dangerous.
Next steps? A qualified electrician will be able to assess and advise on anything that needs updating. This could mean a complete rewire throughout the property, but it goes without saying that safe electrics should be a top priority.
2. Heating and insulation
Energy use and carbon emissions will be covered within a property's diagnostics report, but in order to optimise energy efficiency and save money, it's also important to look at the heating system and insulation.
A good surveyor will be able to provide an initial assessment of heating and insulation, highlighting age and condition as well as potential areas of concern. For example, is the boiler the right size for the property? Are the radiators old and inefficient? Has the insulation aged and is it too thin to be effective?
Although the cost of replacement can be high, it be may be possible to repair or retrofit elements instead, which could save you money.
Roofing is not covered within a property's diagnostics report, but roofing issues are common and putting them right can be one of the most expensive repair jobs faced by homeowners.
Old and crumbling tiles, uneven surfaces, and defective timberwork can cause leaks and movement in the roof, leading to cracks in the walls. Your surveyor will be able to assess the main issues and advise on repairs, and of course, finding and rectifying roofing problems early can be far kinder on your wallet!
In the worst case, your surveyor may advise complete replacement of the roof, but at least you'll be armed with the facts and can make a decision on whether it's financially viable to go ahead with the purchase.
Structure is another key issue that is not covered within a property's diagnostics report, but is really important to be aware of.
However, foundation subsidence, spreading roofs and drainage issues can have serious (and expensive) impacts on a property, including cracked and deformed walls, uneven floors, damaged joinery, and broken cabling and water pipes.
Although it can be very expensive to rectify structural issues, it's risky (and potentially dangerous) to leave them unchecked. Rectifying any structural problems sooner rather than later not only helps to save the integrity of the building but also avoids the extra costs of plastering, decorating, and replacing fixtures and fittings.
Damp is another important issue that is not covered within a diagnostics report, but again, it's vital to know if your chosen property is affected by this unwanted problem.
Damp is common in many French properties, often due to the lack of damp-proofing incorporated into walls and floors. The issue can be made worse by high external ground levels sitting against the building, especially in older properties.
There are ways to reduce damp, ranging from chemical applications to large tanking systems, but these can be technically awkward and expensive, especially if walls, floor, fixtures and fittings are affected. Your surveyor can help to pinpoint the extent of the damp and advise on possible solutions and the likely cost.
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