Anyone moving to France will tell you that a big part of settling in is learning the language – so don’t miss this handy list of phrases for property buyers to make sure you know your DPE from your VEFA and your longère from your promesse de vente. Plus, we’ve got a special offer from Frantastique for a month’s free trial of online French lessons. 

Check out our French A-Z guide for property buyers.

Check out our French A-Z guide for home buyers and you’ll be navigating your way through the world of property in no time!

A : Acte de vente

The acte de vente is the sales contract – the final one you’ll sign when you offer.

B : Bon de visite

Most agents ask for a bon de visite, which is a signed agreement that you won’t go off and find the property with another agent or circumvent them in favour of going privately to the seller.

C : Château

British buyers love a good château, or castle/manor – and they can be surprisingly affordable!

D : DPE/diagnostiques

These are compulsory diagnostic tests of the house’s energy performance that the seller must provide to you. Other diagnostics include for radon, termites and natural risks.

E : Euro

Buying in France means buying in euros, and that means you’re at the mercy of the constantly changing exchange markets – unless you plan ahead. Find out how in the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.

F : Frais d’agence

The agent’s fees are normally between 3-7% and are normally paid by the seller, although in some regions, like Brittany, they’re traditionally paid by the buyer.

G : Géomètre-expert

Your géomètre-expert takes care of ‘topographical’ matters: soil sampling, defining plot boundaries, valuation of plots and more.

H : Hypothécaire

A prêt hypothécaire is a mortgage, which can often be easier to obtain in France than in the UK.

I : Isolation

Isolation is a false friend in the property context, and very much a good thing – it means insulation.

J : Jardin

Your jardin is your garden, and most overseas buyers find themselves doubling the size of what they could afford back home.

K : Kit préfabriquée

A maison en kit préfabriquée is a prefabricated house, manufactured off-site in advance.

L : Longère

A longère is a traditional long-house, much beloved of British buyers. Traditionally one storey, many now have spacious attic conversions, too.

M : Mairie

The mayor’s office is the first place to go for most legal matters, documents and so on. Even small hamlets will have one, and, in smaller communities, it’s well worth introducing yourself as soon as you move.

N : Notaire

The notaire is a key figure in your property purchase, representing the state and acting as an unbiased witness and authenticator of all documents.

O : Obligation

The seller has a legal obligation to provide you with information about the home, such as the exact details of the property, existence of rights of way, energy diagnostics and more.

P : Promesse de vente

Also called the compromis de vente, this is when the seller provisionally accepts your offer to buy, with a ten-day cooling-off period for you.

Q : Quotité d’assurance

Each borrower’s share of an insured mortgage, if the mortgage is joint.

R : Rénovation

Easy to guess, rénovation is renovation – very popular among British buyers, although the French do sometimes find our love of DIY somewhat perplexing.

S : Servitude

Nothing to do with servants, a servitude is a right of way or other kind of protected passage, either for people, for public services like water, or a protected viewpoint.

T : Taxe foncière/d’habitation

The two property taxes you may have to pay. The taxe foncière is paid by the owner, and the taxe d’habitation by the occupant. However, the taxe d’habitation is currently in the process of being abolished.

U : Urbanisme

The Code de l’urbanisme is the building code, which lays down the rules, among other things, for planning permission. France has a lot of specific rules on renovations and major works, such as special stipulations if you’re near a church.

V : VEFA

VEFA, or vente en état futur d’achèvement, is the final contract of an off-plan home.It normally includes a lot of technical detail and plans of the property, as well as time frames for the works.

W : Vasistas

It starts with a v these days but used to be a w (and we were struggling). A vasistas is a skylight, transom window or fanlight. Supposedly, the name came about from the German ‘was ist das?’, or ‘what is that?’.

X :

Y : Yourte

Yurts are a niche but surprisingly popular form of holiday business within their sector, offering a relatively low-maintenance ‘glamping’ experience to guests. If you’ve got plenty of land, this could be an option.

Z : Zone A, B, C

If you’re moving with children, you’ll soon know whether you’re in zone A, B, C, as the school holidays are set differently in each one, to avoid overloading transport, roads and services.

If you’re looking to brush up on your French – or even start from scratch – don’t miss our special offer of a month’s free trial of Frantastique, one of Europe’s leading language learning platforms. Gone are the days of dreary ‘talk and chalk’ and curricula irrelevant to real life. Frantastique uses artificial learning to adapt itself to your pace, through 15-minute daily lessons with relevant topics enlivened by a dash of humour!

As expat Kate, living in Les Roches de Condrieu, says, ‘Frantastique is the first French class I have stuck to for more than a year. It’s helped my confidence immensely – I now even send emails without my French husband checking them. I took the national French exam to apply for nationality last week and got 94%!’ Sign up for your free trial here today and join a community of over 3,000,000 learners worldwide!

Buying a House in France Guide.

The France Buying Guide walks you step-by-step through each stage of the property buying process in France. Additionally, there are also practical recommendations from our experts who have been through the process themselves. The guide will help you to:


  Understand Brexit
  Find your property
  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying in France

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