3 French Mortgage Options by Romeo

French Bank

The Classic French Mortgage: Lock in long term value

The standard mortgage option in France is repayment. You pay both principal and interest which means that the loan will be repaid in full by the end of the term. Repayment mortgages are available on second home purchases, buy-to-let investment properties and main residences. This type of financing provides the most security to the borrower. In fact, it is very easy to budget for the payments as French lenders can offer fixed rates for the entire duration of the mortgage.

For those looking at holiday lets, the break even point is generally around 50%-60% loan to value (LTV). This means that the rental income covers the mortgage payments and you will own the property outright in 20 years time. Property is a great store of value; so, investors in their mid 40s can reasonably expect to triple their money by retirement age.

The Lesser spotted French Retail Banking Interest Only Mortgage

In our experience a finance professional will generally opt for an interest only mortgage – you only pay the interest and will owe the same amount of money to the lender at the end of the term. This option frees up capital and allows investors to seek higher returns in financial markets as well as lowering the cost per month. This means the property rental income covers the mortgage with less capital employed. For instance, a fund manager that can achieve a 7% annual yield will have nearly double his investment in 10 years time. If he makes 10%, interest payments on the French mortgage will be taken care of as well. Rental income on the property can be used to rebalance the portfolio or make early repayments on the mortgage thereby mitigating risk. Again, this option has some serious wealth building potential but requires a bit more skin in the game and is not suitable for the risk averse.

The Private Banking Mortgage

It is possible to get a 100% LTV in France. In this case, the borrowers only have to pay for taxes and fees upfront which are not financeable. This type of loan is offered by private banks who are keen on building relationships with high net worth individuals (HNWIs). The borrower will place a minimum of 30% with the lender as a collateral. The industry standard is around €1m in assets under management (AUM), though we can find options with a lower amount. Private banks can be flexible with the way they invest your money and clients can choose from a large range of securities as long as the overall asset allocation is deemed appropriate. This means that borrowers can potentially transfer an existing portfolio and keep the collateral in its original currency. So, disregarding the taxes and fees, you could get yourself a brand new property without any changes to your current financial position.

Paris 8ème: €370,000 Mortgage, 70% LTV, Fixed Repayment, 1.35%, 20 years


The Profile

Property price: €520,000
Buying in: Paris 8ème
Mortgage amount: €370,000
LTV: 70%
Mortgage type: Repayment
Rate: 1.35% Fixed
Term: 20 years

The Context

Some banks, especially in the region of Paris, can be reluctant to work with non-residents.

They require the clients to have some history with France and a plan to live in France on the short-term. Basically, they have no issue financing a main residence but become hesitant for holiday home or investment properties. It is a shame as some banks have wonderful terms that could just create a whole new dimension on the Parisian property / finance market.

The client, a French entrepreneur who lives in the UK, was buying the last 2 floors of a Haussmann building to convert them into a duplex loft. The project was ambitious.

Our Approach

We were looking for the best rate possible at a high loan to value.

We have several contacts in Paris who could lend to our client with fixed rates ranging from 2% to 2.4% over 20 years. However, we found one who could offer 1.35% fixed for 20 years but solely to French nationals. We played the card that our client, though now living in the UK, was born and bred in France, that part of his business was made in France, that he already owned a couple of properties in France and last but not least, his father and grandfather each have had successful businesses in France. One could say that we provided the family tree, but guess what… it worked!

Having kept in touch with our client, he now informed us that he is selling the flat for 640,000 €. That is almost a 25% profit investment in less than 2 years. Well done sir!

Courchevel / French Alps: €603,750 Mortgage, 70% LTV, Fixed Repayment, 2.15% for 20years


The Profile

Property price: €862,000
Buying in: Courchevel
Loan Amount: €603,750
LTV: 70%
Mortgage Type: Fixed Repayment
Interest Rate: 2.15%
Mortgage Term: 20 years

The Context

The clients are avid skiers with a young family. They have been going to Courchevel for many years and dreamt of owning a property there for years. The project that our clients decided to buy was an off-plan property with a rental option included. This rental option meant that the clients signed a lease with the property developer where they are going to manage and rent out the property for 9 years. This is even more popular practice in the French Alps, because the local authorities fear the investors will not want to rent out their properties in already supply-deprived ski resorts. This is why a percentage of these properties will be sold with a lease.

Whilst these practices ensure a steady increase of beds in the resorts, it is generally met with a more conservative approach from the lenders. They put the management companies through a scrutiny to see how they have managed properties previously. Their concern is that the property and project must retain, if not increase, in value over time. Moreover, in an event of a client default, it is much harder for them to sell a property with rental obligation or lease attached. This is the main reason why some banks choose not to lend on projects where the property developers and/or management companies are deemed not to have sufficient track record.

Our Approach

The client had more leeway in terms of deposit than usual and so we were able to secure financing on 70% LTV of the pre-VAT price. This means that the client had to put down a little bit more up front, but the overall mortgage was on the pre-tax price as the rest is organised by the developer. This meant that the mortgage amount was smaller and the repayments less, which in turn means that the mortgage payment is close to being covered by the income from the rental.

Saint Gervais / French Alps: €280,000 Mortgage, 70% LTV, Fixed mixed Interest Only & Repayment, 2.05% for 20years

Saint Gervais

The Profile

Property price: €400,000
Buying in: Saint Gervais
Mortgage Amount: €280,000
LTV: 70%
Type: Interest only mortgage transitioning to repayment after 7 years
Rate: 2.05% Variable
Term: 20 years

The Context

This property professional borrower was looking to buy a piece of land and undertake a substantial new build project. The bank was asking for all the signed renovation contracts from each builder before printing the mortgage offer as it liked to have a good understanding of the whole project before releasing its funds. However, some works were only going to start  in 6 months time so the client could not/did not want to decide and provide these quotes before purchasing the land and getting started with the groundworks.

Our approach

With the clock ticking, and the risk of the property slipping through his fingers, we decided to finance the purchase of the land now and deal with the financing of the build later on. For this we required a bank that is happy to finance land only, which is a rare breed.

The client chose a mixed mortgage on a variable rate. For the first 7 years, the loan is on an Interest Only basis. After 7 years, the loan switches to a Repayment Mortgage over 13 years. As the client had other financial commitments, we wanted to keep the outgoings as low as possible on the French mortgage while still applying for the highest mortgage amount to help reduce any perceived loss on the exchange rate. This was made possible thanks to the interest only part and the high loan to value. The monthly payment on the repayment part of the loan was quite high but as the client would have paid off other loans before it kicks in, he was happy to proceed on this basis.

Cannes / South of France: €285,000 Mortgage, 60% LTV, Fixed Interest Only, 2.55%, 7 years


The Profile

Property price: €475,000
Buying in: Cannes
Mortgage Amount: €285,000
LTV: 60%
Type: Fixed Interest Only
Rate: 2.55%
Term: 7 years

The Context

This retired private equity investor was concerned about his ability to secure a mortgage with a French bank. With multiple income streams including remuneration as a board member of 3 different companies, he had heard about how strict French banks can be on borrowers with complex financial affairs.

Our Approach

FPF went the extra mile to ensure the file was presented in the simplest manner to the lender. This meant a lot of back and forth with the client to ensure it was easy to understand for a foreign bank. The analyst had no questions on the application, a dream come true for any broker in the world of French credit risk assessment. The client was delighted with the speed of the application once we had the application in order.

Furthermore, the property agent was impressed by our level of service as we kept him updated throughout. He went on to sign a partnership agreement with French Private Finance.

Tourrettes-sur-Loup / South of France: €1,172,325 Mortgage, 70% LTV, Variable Repayment, 1.75% capped, 15years


The Profile

Property price: €1,674,750
Buying in: Tourrettes-sur-Loup
Mortgage Amount: €1,172,325
LTV: 70%
Type: Variable Repayment
Rate: 1.75% capped at + 1% for the first 7 years
Term: 15years

The context

Having made a gentleman’s agreement to pay the vendors in Sterling, speed was of paramount importance to this HNWI.

Our approach

We applied for 70% LTV to waive the life insurance requirement and secure the offer in just over a month.

The standard mortgage in France is a 20 year repayment fixed rate. However, our advice was to go for a 15 year term to reduce total interest paid. Such adjustment can easily save borrowers tens of thousands. So, it is definitely worth looking at shorter durations for second purchases when income is available.

Furthermore, the client opted for a variable rate to not have any early repayment charges. The capped rate allows you to reap the benefits of low interest rate while still providing security against future interest rate movements.

Newsletter December 2018

Season’s greetings,

In this month’s news we see how the French property market is holding up well with enquiry levels increasing as the winter season gets going in the Alps. We also find out that discounts are harder to come by, indicating a relative price strength in popular areas.

Rates are holding steady as you can see in our case studies, with some exceptional new low rates which are available if you place some savings with the French bank.

We also set pulses racing with our update on how to value your French Property for wealth tax purposes and the chances coming for the Impôt sur la Fortune Immobilière.

We hope you enjoy this update and the festive break.

All the best,

John Busby
Director, French Private Finance

Here is the link to access our Newsletter December 2018:

Finding a solution for a HNWI buying off-plan in the Trois Vallées, French Alps

French Alps

The Profile

Property price: €1,720,000
Buying in: Courchevel
Mortgage amount: €1,720,000
Loan To Value: 100%
Mortgage type: Fixed Repayment
Rate: 2.15%
Collateral: 30%
Term: 15 years

For HNW clients, it is worth considering a private banking loan. Generally, the lender will finance 100% of the purchase price and require AUM (Asset Under Management) as collateral. The industry standard is €1m in lending in value. In fact, private banks are in the asset management business; hence, the loan is mainly a way to attract HNWI with the goal of extending the relationship.

Our Approach

We have several contacts with private banks where barriers to entry are less exclusive. Also, these banks can finance VEFA (off-plan property projects) which is rare in the private banking world. One of them was a great fit for this Ultra HNW client looking to buy an apartment from a prestigious developer in the Alps.
With over €85m of real estate investments and complex financial affairs overall, we could not apply for a classic loan with a French retail lender because they lack the know-how, and would not be comfortable lending when the borrower’s profile is not straight forward as well as the fact that the paperwork burden would be excessive. In contrast, private banks focus on the big picture. That’s not to say that they do not do their due diligence but the additional collateral gives peace of mind to the bank. In this case, it took 4 months for them to issue the mortgage offer.

The Process

Having done much larger property deals, the client was getting concerned at times throughout the process. However, it is no secret that things move slow in France and the process generally takes longer for non-resident buyers, especially when their situation is outside the box. By maintaining constant communication with the client and educating him on the underwriting process, French Private Finance kept his trust throughout and he was very pleased after meeting with the private banker.
The client opted for the security of a long term fixed rate mortgage as this is one of the most attractive options available in France.

New French Property Wealth Tax: Why not to under value your property?

French Property Wealth Tax: How to value your property?

The latest iteration of the French wealth tax in France, L’impot sur la fortune immobiliere (IFI) came in force in December last year focussing this tax on net property assets only and excluding financial assets from the overall French wealth tax calculation. This tax will generate far more that the predicted 850M initially. French sources suggest 1.2BN this year and 1.5Bn in 2019! Good work it seems from Monsieur Macron.

The main reason for this increase is that property owners are increasingly likely to reevaluate the declared value of the property which will lead to the tax windfall. The main driver for this comes from the upcoming anti-fraud law due to be passed in 2019 which will penalise owners for undervaluation of their property to reduce their tax bill.

What are the main ways to value a property in France?

The main and preferred method to value a property is the comparison method which establishes the market value by looking at recent sales of similar properties in the area local to the property. For buy to let properties, the rental yield can also point to a value for the market value by looking at what the property is renting and taking the average yield from similar properties and extrapolating the price at which a property could be sold in this manner.

A simple valuation of the property costs in the region of €1000 to €2000 depending on the purpose of the valuation. The survey is usually undertaken by chartered real estate professional in France who could be either an estate agent, surveyor or even a Notaire, though it is important to note that a professional valuation is not required for the wealth tax declaration. It is possible to simply ask an estate agent for a report on value which can usually be procured without payment.

What allowances are made?

It is normal practice for properties held in either SCIs or SARLs to benefit from a reduction of 10-15% in the value of the property as the property is deemed to be slightly less liquid. It is important to check your declaration and any reductions with a tax specialist.

What are the potential risks?

If an error in the valuation is found during a check of the property by the tax authorities then the size of the gap will be important. Less than 10% and all should be fine, more than 10% and penalties can be imposed not only for the year in question but the previous three years. In addition to late fees, a further penalty of 40% to 80% of the amount of tax which is being recovered may also be levied. If you have failed to declare the property at all, then the sanctions can be even greater with the tax authorities going back 6 years and the likely additional penalty being nearer the 80% mark especially in cases where bad faith can be established.

French property price discounts harder to come by in major destinations

New released figures in France from the Se-Loger french property portal indicate that the margins for negotiation on property prices have never been so low. The study has been done on the prices the property was listed for versus the eventual sales price recorded at the Notary’s office. The differences are now very slight across many regions of France with home sellers reluctant to reduce prices further.

For apartments in the Rhone-Alpes region, the reduction seems to be a maximum of 2.6% compared to perhaps 3% in the Paris region. Other regions of France have a more substantial average margin, when looking for the market for houses. In Britanny you can expect a possible reduction of 5.5% and up to 9.1% in Champagne-Ardennes.

Our view

The effect of a slightly weaker demand leading to lower initial pricing of the property has lead to this situation where sellers are not willing to drop their prices any further. In our experience we have seen some very large discounts in the past whereas more recently the amount of discount a client has had has been less of a topic of discussion.

Location, Location

As we can see from the above data, this is another example of the way in which the location of a property drives both its liquidity and its value. Properties for sale in Paris do not stay on the market for long and are usually snapped up by buyers from either local or international markets often with buyers competing for the apartments. On the other hand in the less populated areas, houses can sit on the market for years, especially if the house is unusual or very large and requiring maintenance. After a few years on the market 10% would probably be the minimum you might expect by way of discount and you may also encounter problems obtaining finance as the banks may worry about lending against a property that has been on the market for such a long time.

Méribel / French Alps: €945,000 Mortgage, 50% LTV, Fixed Repayment, 1.95% for 15years


The profile

Property price: €1,890,000
Buying in: Méribel, French Alps
Mortgage Amount: €945,000
LTV: 50%
Type: Fixed Repayment
Term: 15years
Rate: 1.95%

The Context

For all purchases valued over €1.3m in France, you might be liable for the wealth tax – now based on the property value only rather than your total assets based in France since the changes in legislation in 2017.

The calculation for how much you will pay in tax is based on your equity in the property. Hence, potential cash buyers may consider taking a loan out against the property to reduce the equity in the property. Whilst a loan is usually more expensive than the cost of the wealth tax, there are additional benefits to taking out the loan particularly for a currency hedge or if the property is to be rented out, the interest only the loan is usually tax deductible.

More in depth information on the Import sur la fortune immobilière can be found here

Our client choose both a mortgage and an SARL de famille for the acquisition. His intention was to have his children has shareholders so that he has a tax efficient way to transmit the property to his children in the future. However, children can only own a very small percentage of the company and must be able to afford their share of the loan if they are adults.

Our approach

Therefore, after discussions with an accountant the client decided buy as a joint shareholder with his wife for the purpose of the mortgage application. The clients always have the option to transfer shares to their children later on at a small cost particularly as the equity transfer is low while the mortgage is in place.

The mortgage we put in place was a long term fixed rate to keep the risks and interest costs down, with a low level of loan to value which meant the rental income would come close to paying the mortgage costs.

FPF work very closely with a notary in the French Alps who can assist you in setting up a company, opening a French bank account and arrange a power of attorney to sign on your behalf as well as accountants and tax advisers to help optimise your purchase in France

French mortgage trend: ‘Nantissement’ deals back in fashion with ski buyers

French mortgages new trends

Old school French mortgage lending is making a comeback. Non-resident buyers are opting for French mortgages with additional collateral or ‘Nantissements’, which are paving the way to lower mortgage rates and enabling investors to make money off their Nantissement side investment. This structure also provides access to 100% financing, thus potentially avoiding buying euros.

Nantissement deals are where, instead of giving 20-40% of the property price as a deposit secured on the property, a buyer takes a loan at a 100% loan-to-value rate and then places a side investment in cash collateral with the bank, usually equating to 20-40% of the property price.

With a standard fixed term product at 2.15% with an 70% loan on a 500k purchase, in theory investors put down a €150,000 deposit, therefore getting a €350,000 loan and paying €81,000 in total interest over the term. With a Nantissement product at 1.55% and 100% loan (€500,000) investors pay the same interest over the term (€82,000) but the big difference is the additional investment of 20-40% that’s put on the side. These investments would accrue interest, depending on what type of product was chosen for it.

“Nantissements are old but they’re become more attractive to buyers, especially those who are au fait with France’s low long-term lending,” says John Busby of French Private Finance. “In effect, the amount of money the buyer is putting down remains the same but the rate on the mortgage is lower. The client can also obtain a return on the money placed with the bank.”

“Given the current exchange rate, the 100% lending option is also attractive as it may be possible to not have to convert sterling into euros if there is a portfolio of stocks or shares which can be transferred to the bank.”

“The cash or portfolio collateral provides more security for the bank and in return the banks lower the rates, which provides an instant guaranteed return on the money placed with the bank as the overall cost of the mortgage is reduced.”

“Private banks have long attracted clients with this structure so it is refreshing to see this kind of offer for loans both below and above €1m, especially as retail lenders can offer extremely low rates fixed for the long term anyway.

Eze / South of France: €900,000 Mortgage, 100% LTV, Mixed Interest Only and Repayment, 2.3% fixed and 1.16% variable, 9 years

Eze South of France

The Profile

Property price: €900,000
Buying in: Eze
Mortgage amount 1: €750,000 interest only
Mortgage amount 2: €150,000 repayment
LTV: 100%
Type: Part Interest only & Part repayment
Rate: 2.3% Fixed + 1.16% variable
Term: 2 year interest only + 7 years repayment with 2 years on low start repayments

The Context

The client is a retired Doctor who has some property investments in both the UK and France. He was eager to buy a new villa in a small village town near Nice. He already had a mortgage-free property in the same town, but had decided to upgrade. He did not want to sell the existing property immediately as the rental of the property was going well.

The client was already banking with a large French retail bank with a branch in Nice. However, he struggled to obtain an interest-only mortgage as he did not have enough net assets. This only left us with a capital & interest repayment option and the main initial concern for the lender was the client’s age. He asked us for help with speaking to the head office of his existing bank.

Having discussed the options with the client’s existing bank, we confirmed that the bank could not offer an interest-only product as in their view the net assets in his portfolio were not sufficient to match their strict criteria. Furthermore, they refused to consider a mortgage on a 20 years on repayment basis as the client would be over 80 years old at the end of the term – the maximum repayment age.

We tried decreasing the duration of the mortgage, however, it was not possible due to the affordability ratio.The shorter the duration, the more the monthly repayments. As a result, the criteria of below 40% debt ratio was not met to support the new mortgage.

Our Approach

At that moment, we decided to apply for a mortgage with a private bank in Monaco. The private bank in question has no limit on age criteria and their attitude to debt to income ratio is more relaxed. Here, the bank looks at all the committed expenditure vs income too, however, when the ‘rest-a-vivre’ is more than a couple of thousand pounds a month, the bank will be satisfied that the client has enough money left over.

Moreover, speed was of the essence as the client had little time to complete the purchase after fruitless application with his original bank. Here, the private banker asked for far less documents when compared to retail banking counterparts thus, speeding up the process.

This private bank offers up to 100% LTV with a side investment of 30% to be deposited with the bank. Moreover, we could look at a short-term interest-only bridging loan, as the client is intending to sell his other apartment in the same village. Because of the so called ‘promesse de vente’, the bank was happy to lend on an interest-only basis as they were satisfied that this part would be paid off by the client when selling the property. This has been provisioned for 2 years with a possibility of extending for another 2 years if the criteria were met.

With the private bank, a charge is put against the property to be purchased as well as up to 30% LTV of the loan amount is asked in cash collateral. This acts as an additional security, but the idea is that the bank can show the client how they can grow the invested capital with the bank. Private banks look for the longer term relationship with their client’s and want to impress the client with how they manage their portfolio.

In the end, we’ve managed to place the mortgage with the private lender on split basis where the majority of the loan was put on to a interest-only part on a two-year renewable deal. As long as there is a secondary property to be sold in the near future, the bank is happy to renew the deal at their discretion. The 7 year repayment had a low-start initial period of 2 years – essentially an interest-only period before the mortgage switches to repayment. After that the month payments were increased.

September 2018 – French mortgage transaction of the month


This month’s French mortgage transaction of the month involved an unusual situation where this British captain of industry was purchasing the completed shell in Meribel for €2.4m with an additional amount of €1.2m to be funded for the fitting out of the interiors.

Usually, this type of construction is either carried out using one provider, however, in this case, the client had to reserve the property before the shell was complete and before all the estimates for the building work had been obtained, therefore increasing the number of parties involved and making it more complicated as a result.

We worked initially to ensure the client had a watertight agreement in principle in order that he had enough confidence to move forward. Once the reservation was made we completed the French mortgage application in 8 weeks working on a tight schedule and negotiating a 0.15% discount to the rate.

Overall the rate we secured was 2.5% for a fixed rate interest only mortgage with an LTV of 75% across a term of 14 years.

New income law in France: what does this mean?

As a result of the law that has just been passed regarding income tax in France, it is understandable that taxpayers are wondering whether or not the French mortgage market will be affected.

Until now, France has had a system in place for income tax collection that requires taxpayers to pay their tax in a retroactive way, meaning that they pay up to three times a year (the following year) and not on a monthly basis. Emmanuel Macron has now confirmed that from January 2019, tax will be automatically deducted from taxpayers’ salaries each month in real time, known in French as ‘le prélèvement à la source’, the same as the UK system.

With this announcement, some concerns have arisen with regard to purchasing power for real estate purchases. Until now, banks have calculated potential borrowers’ affordability capacity regardless of the income tax, measuring the capacity to borrow using net income and deducting monthly charges as a case by case.

Now that income tax will be deducted directly from monthly salaries, there is concern that there will be a loss of purchasing power due to the banks’ new calculations, though any move to this new calculation does not yet have a large take-up.

HSBC have started adapting to this measure and promised to take into consideration the  after-tax take-home pay when the new regulation comes into place in January 2019. However, we haven’t heard from other banks so far.

From a psychological perspective, buyers may feel less well off which could dampen the enthusiasm in the market that we have seen in the recent months due to the low mortgage rates during summer.