France has always been a strong market for British buyers with something to suit everyone, from ski chalets to rural retreats, from the glitz of St Tropez to the glamour of Paris.
French banks are keen to attract a non-resident market and specialist divisions with bilingual staff to facilitate the processing in English are relatively common. As well as French lenders there are private banks so the choice of lender is good, resulting in competitive pricing and a range of products not common elsewhere in Europe.
High loan-to-values of up to 80 or even 85 per cent are available, apart from on châteaux where 50 per cent LTV is the norm. The lowest rates are always on a repayment basis, with very few lenders offering interest only. When they do, a premium is paid and the rate is higher.
In view of the affordability criteria, security is a key element so long-term fixed rates (up to 25 years) are very competitively priced and virtually the same as variable rates. Variable products come with no early repayment charges so suit some better, while capped products offer some of the protection of a fixed rate.
Private banks do not generally offer stand-alone mortgages because they are relationship-driven so require assets to be pledged. But they make a judgement based on the overall financial position and future potential of a borrower so can be more flexible with even 100 per cent loans and the cheapest margins available. Typically, lending would be over a shorter term – five or 10 years, but as standard with interest only.
There are no age restrictions or requirements for life assurance and more complicated ownership structures are usually acceptable.