Even if you don’t need to borrow, and have building skills, you still need to be aware of the different work methods and sequence of trades here. Remember that any future purchaser may require sight of all the warranties before signing. It is for this reason that unregistered builders, UK or French, are to be avoided.

planning permission – permis de construire

toppingoutIf your renovation makes any changes to the outside of the building, you need permission of one sort or another. The good news is that this permission is almost always granted. The planning permission system in France is much less strict than in the UK. The bad news is that the application has to be made in a very exact form and you must take great care to fill it in correctly or you run the risk of it being sent back as inadmissible. You may be in a conservation area; there may be grants available if you are moving to France full time, so it is important to find out about these in advance. Careful thought and research now will make sure that you get the best value for the money you choose to spend.

project management

oakwoodIt’s often said in the building industry that a day’s planning will save you a week on site. Nowhere is this more true than in France, where the pace of life and the pace of building projects is noticeably slower. This is primarily due to the fragmented nature of the industry, allied to the fact that each artisan takes legal responsibility of his work. He accordingly has the right to prevent others from touching his work until he is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so. As a result, a house will typically take a year to build rather than the six months it might take in the UK.

As a fully registered architect in France, with 20 years’ experience, I am qualified to undertake the overseeing of the project on site, through to completion. This includes detailed financial control and regular updates for the client, wherever in the world they may be.

Checks need to be made that tradesmen and builders are registered, insured, available and solvent before we allow them to tender. We check that insurances are up to date and valid for the scope of their involvement, we check (as far as possible) that he is not in financial trouble, and always take up references.

It is unlikely that you will find a general contractor to do all the work: most domestic projects are built by half a dozen separate tradesmen, who then need coordinating. Most people need backup for this, as you have to have a thorough understanding of the technical and regulatory issues involved, as well as a command of French technical vocabulary.

Again unlike the UK, most artisans ask for a deposit before starting work: hence the need to check them out before signing on the dotted line. The convention here is also that bills are paid on presentation. This can cause problems for UK clients who are trying to juggle exchange rates and transferring money to French banks.