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Characteristics of French residential developments

When buying a new build property in France you are buying a property that has not been built yet. This is why buying new homes is called buying off plan. You might also find the term ‘Vente en l’Etat Futur d’Achèvement’ or ‘VEFA’. When the marketing of a development is launched the building process has not started yet and it doesn’t start until a minimum amount of plots have been reserved.

This can take a few months. Therefore you must be prepared to wait for your property to be ready. Counterparts are that the payments are spread out over time and the developer is obliged to meet the delivery deadline. The building process in itself takes between 12 to 18 months depending on the size of the development and the difficulty of the works.

Why buying so early then? French new homes are sold for 70% to the French market and when a development is located in a popular area it is sold out well before completion of the building. Nevertheless it happens (and now more often than before the crisis) that some developments reach completion with a few plots left to be sold.

But in this case you cannot customize your interior and above all the choice is much narrower. If your mind is set on a particular development because you really love the location and the architecture you shouldn’t delay your reservation because the plots you are interested in might get reserved and sold quite quickly.

Delaying the purchase in the hope that prices might get down is also risky if you have made up your choice. In a recent past developers even used to increase the prices while the building was in progress. It was a common practice and it is legal. Nowadays French developers no longer carry on with this habit but it is very seldom that they reduce the prices.

They rather tend to adjust their stocks by delaying the purchase of new building sites or by re-negociating the price of the land or even cancelling foreseen operations they had in the pipeline. They don’t often reduce the price of properties on which they have already paid the land and the works.

When it happens it is on a limited amount of properties that have been released for several months or for the commercial launch of a given development when they want to boost the first sales in order to reach the threshold to release the bank loan. You might of course be interested in bagging a bargain but then you are buying a price and not necessarily a location or the exact property you wanted.