Can a Foreigner get a French Mortgage?

Purchasing an investment property in Paris.

The Ins and Outs of Obtaining a French Mortgage

Photo of Pont Alexander III in Paris by 12019.

Getting a mortgage in your home country can be a challenging process, but what if you’re eyeing that charming cottage in the French countryside or a cozy apartment in Paris? The prospect of obtaining a French mortgage might seem daunting, but rest assured, it’s not necessarily easier or harder than securing one in your home country. However, there are certain expectations and requirements unique to the French mortgage market. In this guide, we’ll take you through the process of obtaining a French mortgage and what you need to know before diving into this exciting journey.

What Determines Mortgage Approval in France?

When applying for a French mortgage, your approval hinges on a variety of factors, including the amount you need to borrow, the type of mortgage you choose, and the property you’re looking to purchase. Here are some specific factors to keep in mind:

  1. Steady Employment: Lenders in France prefer applicants with steady, permanent employment. If you’re self-employed or own your business, you’ll need to provide special documentation demonstrating the stability of your work situation.
  2. Age Limit: Some lenders have age restrictions and may not approve mortgages for borrowers over 75 years old.
  3. Property Considerations: The age, condition, and potential for resale of the property may be considered by the lender.
  4. Credit Checks: In France, traditional credit checks are not carried out when applying for a mortgage. Instead, the approval process primarily relies on your current financial situation, particularly its stability.

Requirements for a French Mortgage

To be eligible for a French mortgage, lenders typically expect you to have a stable income, savings, and a frugal lifestyle. Foreign buyers may also need to have a life insurance policy equivalent to at least 120% of the mortgage, with the lender as the beneficiary. Additionally, opening a French savings account is advisable, depositing at least enough to cover 24 mortgage payments.

It’s essential to be aware of the associated fees. Overall, transaction fees when purchasing property in France can range from 10% to 15% of the purchase price, including mortgage-related fees.

Can Foreigners Get a Mortgage in France?

Foreigners are usually welcome to apply for mortgages in France, but additional requirements may apply, especially for non-residents. Non-residents typically can’t secure a mortgage to cover 100% of the property’s cost; the common range is between 70% and 80%.

The Process of Obtaining a French Mortgage

Step 1: Organize Your Finances and Financial Paperwork

While the process isn’t necessarily complicated, French lenders have strict criteria. You’ll need to demonstrate that your financial situation is stable, sustainable, and reliable. Lenders want to see prudence and a savings account with regular contributions. Ideally, your net monthly income should be at least three times your financial liabilities, which include mortgage payments, debt, and other similar expenses. These liabilities should not exceed 35% of your income.

To strengthen your position, consider avoiding overdrafts, cashing in minor assets, creating a monthly savings plan, paying off small debts, and cutting non-essential expenses. This preparation can take time, so start early and gather the necessary paperwork.

Step 2: Decide on the Type of Mortgage You Need

You have several options, including fixed-rate, variable-rate, capped-rate, and interest-only mortgages. Each type has its pros and cons, so choose the one that aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance.

Step 3: Ask the Lender for an Agreement in Principle (AIP)

Before signing the Compromis de Vente (preliminary contract), request an AIP. It provides a tentative loan amount, helping sellers have confidence in your financial capabilities.

Step 4: Sign the Compromis de Vente

Once you’ve found the perfect property and had your offer accepted, sign the Compromis de Vente. Consider adding a conditional clause that allows you to terminate the purchase if your mortgage application is not approved.

Step 5: Apply for a French Mortgage

Gather the required documentation, which may include employment contracts, bank statements, insurance certificates, and more. Be transparent, as French banks conduct thorough assessments.

Step 6: Receive Your Mortgage Offer

After applying, expect a 12-14 week wait for the mortgage offer. During a mandatory cooling-off period, you can review rates and terms and withdraw from the purchase without penalty.

Step 7: Complete the Property Purchase

Once the mortgage process is complete, the notaire will request funds from the lender, and the purchase can be finalized with the signing of the Acte de Vente, officially making the property yours.

Obtaining a French mortgage may seem like a complex process, but with the right preparation and guidance, you can turn your dream of owning a property in France into a reality. Remember to work with experienced professionals and be diligent in your financial preparations to ensure a smooth and successful mortgage application process.

Featured image by Thomas Ulrich.

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