Written by Alexis Goldberg,
14th June 2023

Buying a property in France as an international buyer is relatively straightforward, but it can sometimes be confusing for those who don’t speak French. 

Whether you choose to be represented by an English or English-speaking advocate for your French property purchase or not, it is important and confidence building to understand at least some of what various terms mean. It can be easy to get confused with certain words which may look similar but have completely different meanings.

For example, a friend of mine who was in the process of buying a house in France told me that her estate agent said seeing the property she was about to view would bring her a mouse! Somewhat perplexed, I asked her what she meant. In fact, the agent had said the property would cause her to have a smile on her face (a “sourire“). She had understood “souris” which is a mouse!

In order to help you along your property buying journey, we’ve created an easy-to-follow glossary of French to English terms you may come across. If nothing else, this should provide you with a good background of key French phrases involved in buying a property.

For confirmation on legal terms, please speak to a solicitor or property lawyer. To be put in touch with a trusted lawyer in France, click here.

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Abonnement – standing charge

Acompte – deposit, amount paid in advance

Acte authentique – legal papers drawn up by legal professionals

Acte de vente – the final act equivalent to completion in the UK

Acquèreur – the buyer/ purchaser

Agent immobilier – estate agent

Arrondissement – administrative district of Paris

Ascenseur – lift

Atelier – workshop

Attestation d’acquisition – certificate that the property purchase was complete

Attestation de propriété – proof of ownership of a property

Attribution de juridiction – formal signing of a purchase contract

Autorisation de prélèvement automatique – direct debit


Bien – a property

Bon de visite – a document an estate agent may ask you to sign to confirm they have shown you the property


Compromis de vente – the first contract, like exchange of contracts in the UK

Cave – cellar

Conditions suspensives – conditions noted in the contract such as a sale being dependent on a mortgage

Copropriété – shared ownership of a building such as a block of flats, usually managed by a syndication or all the owners


Dépôt de garantie – deposit to be paid on signature of the first contract

Détecteur de fumée – smoke alarm

Diagnostiques – survey of information regarding electricity, gas natural risks, termites, lead paint

DPE – energy efficiency rating

Douche – shower

Douche Italienne – walk in shower


Exposition – direction in which a room faces

Entreprise – factory or company


Facade – front of property

Frais de notaire – fees of the notary to be paid by the buyer


Garde-robe – wardrobe


Hypotheque – mortgage

Honoraires – agency fees


Immobilier – real estate


Jardin – garden


Kilometrage – mileage


Liste des meubles – an itemized list of furniture

Loi ALUR – A law introduced in France in 2015 to protect owners and buyers of property within an apartment block

Loi CARREZ – legal surface area in an apartment


Mandat de vente – a contract between the estate agency and the seller confirming the agreement that the agency should sell the property on the seller’s behalf.

Mesure – measurements


Notaire  notary


Ouverture – aperture or opening


Proprietaire – proprietor

Piece – a room

Pret – a loan


Quotidien – daily (something that occurs daily)


Ramonage – chimney sweeping

Ravalement – restoration of a facade


Salon – lounge or living room

Société Civile Immobilière (SCI) – a company which owns a property

Syndic – a body of people who own an apartment building


Taxe –  tax  Learn about French property taxes 


Usine –  factory


Vente – sale


Wifi – Wifi. Pronounced as “vifi” since the French consider W to be “double v” not “double u”.


Y compris – including


Zone – area. In your diagnostic reports there may be reference to a nearby “zone industrielle” for example”.

Buying property in France

Buying a House in France Guide.

Buying a property in France is extremely exciting, but it can be nerve-wracking: in what ways is the process different to the UK, how do you cope with the language difference, what fees should you expect and just who is the notaire? That’s why we’ve put together our France Buying Guide, to help you through the process, step by step.

Written by experts, it covers every stage of buying, from viewing to contracts and fees. Get your copy of the French Property Guide by simply filling in the form below.

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