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How to build your own house in France?

The construction of a detached house is a serious project. Among the many possibilities of construction, development and financing, each can find the solution adapted to his desires and his needs.


To build a house: how should the project be financed?

Having a property built often resembles an assault course. First of all the buyer should prepare a plan showing how the project will be financed. It should take account of the scope of the project: whether or not the buyer needs to purchase a plot of land; how the work will be paid for; the contractors who will undertake the work; any cost of connecting to the drainage system, gas and electricity grids, etc.; the cost of the loan, etc. It is possible to take out a loan, but a personal contribution will always be welcome. The buyer should check whether they can claim any assisted loans.

In this regard, the PTZ (interest-free loan) enables buyers to finance the acquisition or construction of a property that is intended to become the borrower's principal residence. This loan is granted on a means-tested basis to finance its first principal residence.


How should the plot be chosen?

Choosing the plot is an essential part of the process. Before signing anything, the buyer is strongly advised to arrange a meeting with their notaire or the notaire with responsibility for the sale. They will do all the necessary research so that the buyer can make a commitment with full knowledge of the facts.


How do you apply for a building permit?

Unless the circumstances are exceptional, any person who wishes to build a house on a plot of land must apply for a building permit. This process is intended to check that the project is in compliance with town planning rules in force.

The application (which must be made using the appropriate Cerfa [official French] form) must be filed by the owner or the owner's representative at the town hall (or sent by recorded delivery letter with acknowledgement of receipt).

  • If the application is accepted, the mayor's decision will be issued in the form of a municipal order and the person concerned is also informed by letter or e-mail.
  • If the application is refused, the decision may always be challenged. It should be noted that in the absence of a reply within two months, this means that the town hall is not opposed to the project. However, it is recommended to request a certificate of non-opposition.

Is it mandatory to employ an architect?

The use of an architect is mandatory when the floor area or the footprint of the future construction exceeds 170 m2 (a decree should soon set this threshold to 150 m2 in accordance with French Law No. 2016-925 of 7 July 2016).

Below, the owner can draw the plans of his house alone ... at his own risk. The architect is responsible for any defects in construction during a period of ten years after completion of the work.


How should one choose a builder?

It is a good idea to start by asking friends and relations: it is highly likely that you already know someone who has used the services of a company that builds private houses. Having found a suitable contractor, you should read the whole of the proposed estimate with great care, along with all the provisions of the contract.

Which type of contract should be signed?

Many private individuals approach a specialist builder directly. Builders of this type offer turnkey houses at a cost that is fixed at the outset. There are two possibilities:

  • A contract may be signed with the builder for the construction of a detached house (CCMI) with plans included: in this scenario, the builder provides the plans and assumes responsibility for the construction;
  • A contract may be signed with the builder for the construction of a detached house (CCMI) without plans: it is then up to the owner to have the plans drawn up by an architect (or to prepare the plans themself), in which case the builder will only be responsible for carrying out the work. In both cases, it is better to reach a decision with full knowledge of the facts

The contract must mandatorily include certain information that is intended to protect the owner. You should therefore check that this information is included in the document before signing it, or ask your notaire to check it for you. The most important items of information include: - the identification of the plot of land and information regarding the title deed; the references of the builder's liability insurance policy; evidence of the builder's delivery and refund guarantees; the dimensions and technical features of the house to be built (connections and various systems and grids; internal and external equipment); the price of the construction; how the price will be paid; the planning permission; the timeframe within which the work will be completed. It is advisable to mention any loan that has been taken out, in the contract. It will then be possible to withdraw from the contract if the loan is refused.

Finally, you should know that the owner has the right, by law, to withdraw within seven days. After this time, the owner is definitively committed.


Can the construction become to buy off-plan?

If the builder also offers to sell the land, the operation will become an off-plan sale [VEFA]. In such case, you should also seek the advice of your notaire before signing anything, as the operation must be supervised by a notaire, on pain of being held null and void.

Frequently asked questions