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Most major French banks lend to foreigners, although non-residents are subject to stricter requirements than nationals. The government's scrutiny of the mortgage system has made French mortgages the safest in the world.

Many banks work with clients in French and English.

Applicants should also consult local notaries as they know all the details of real estate transactions and can offer expert advice.

Lending terms

Interest rates for foreign nationals may reach 1.8–3.7% per annum. There are also compulsory insurance rates amounting to 0.2–0.3%. Mortgages for non-residents are usually capped at 60–70% of the property value with maturity terms of 5–25 years for a minimum sum of €80,000. Loans must be redeemed before the borrower reaches 70 years old.

Terms may vary from bank to bank so a mortgage agreement should be read carefully. It may include a commission fee as well as other hidden charges. Qualified advisers and translators are recommended so as to understand all the details.

Guarantors are seldom required in France as the borrower is asked to provide all the necessary guarantees and representations.

Documents

Mortgage applications in France require the following documents:

  • passport;
  • marriage or divorce certificate (if applicable);
  • pre-sale property contract executed by all parties (buyer, notary and seller);
  • proof of income for the previous two years for employees;
  • bank account statements for the latest six months;
  • proof of payment for other loans;
  • tax returns and audit certificates for the previous three years (entrepreneurs);
  • proof of additional income: tax benefits, rentals, pensions, dividends;
  • proof of property ownership (if applicable) and utility bills;
  • certified lease contract for tenants who are not property owners.

All the documents must be submitted in their original language and translated into French.

Mortgage application processing takes up to one month. Applicants who can provide extensive proof of solvency are more likely to be granted a mortgage.

Even if all the above documents are provided, banks may request additional information: e.g. a health certificate. Many banks also require borrowers to have life insurance: in case of death, the mortgage will be paid out by the insurance company.

Most French lenders will only approve mortgages with payments of less than one third of the borrower's total monthly income.

Banks in France

BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole are the largest French banks. They only lend to clients, so borrowers will be asked to open an account in order to apply for a mortgage.

The French post office (La Poste) has established its own bank (La Banque Postale) that provides mortgages at very low rates.

Тhe application may also be made to one of the banks specialised in mortgages, such as Crédit Foncier or Crédit Immobilier.