Glossary of French property buying terms



When buying a property in France you may be lucky enough to have an estate agent and/or lawyer that speaks good English, but if not there are a number of phrases that you will need to be able to recognise. These are some of the most common phrases that you should be familiar with.


  • Acheteur - buyer.

  • Acompte – deposit, for renovations or new build works, this usually is not more than 5% of the total price.

  • Acte Sous Seing Privé – this is an agreement which has been arranged privately but has no witnesses and is usually considered to be an agreement to buy prior to the sale going through.

  • Acte de Vente – The transfer of the land or property.

  • Acte (de Vente) Authentique - Deed of Sale.

  • Agence Immobilière - estate agent. These work differently in France than in other countries, for example, in France they can inform the prospective buyer on the lowest price that a seller would be prepared to accept.

  • Aménagé – converted. There are a number of phrases that can be used for a converted/renovated property.

  • A Rénover – to be renovated.

  • Arrhes – deposit paid by the buyer which is lost if the buyer pulls out, but the buyer is compensated with double the amount if the seller backs out.

  • en Bon État - in good condition. This generally means that the house is habitable and will not take into account any cosmetic work that may be required.

  • Cabanon – small stone building.

  • Cadastre - local register with the town planning department recording details of land-holdings, used to confirm property ownership.

  • Certificat d'Urbanisme - land use certificate.

  • Compromis de Vente – provisional contract which details all the conditions of the Cour - courtyard.

  • Dépôt - deposit.

  • Expert de Bâtiment – surveyor, some surveys have to be carried out by the vendor but these are not considered to be comprehensive, so buyers are advised to have a complete survey carried out. The surveyor will be able to advise on work that may need to be carried out and will inform you of any planning permissions that you might need.

  • Expert Comptable - chartered accountant.

  • Expertiser - to value a property.

  • Facture - invoice.

  • FAI (Frais Agence Inclus) – price which includes estate agency fees.

  • Frais - fees.

  • Frais de Dossier - mortgage arrangement fee.

  • Garantie Extrinsèque d'Achèvement – third-party guarantee (bank or insurance company) taken out in case the builder fails to complete the work.

  • Hypothèque – mortgage.

  • Installation – fixture, fitting.

  • Immobilière - estate agent.

  • Impôt – taxes on a property.

  • Lu et Approuvé - "read and approved" – to show a contract has been read.

  • Mairie - town hall.

  • Mandat de Recherche - private agreement giving power to estate agent to look for property.

  • Mandat de Vente - contract to sell.

  • Multirisques Habitation - buildings & contents insurance policy.

  • Notaire - French Notary (Solicitor/Lawyer), the services of a lawyer are required as all documents have to be notarised. It is possible for the buyer to use the same notaire as the seller.

  • Offre d'Achat/de Vente - an offer to buy or sell property but this is not considered to be binding.

  • Offre de Prêt - loan offer, for a mortgage on a property.

  • Parties Communes - common parts of buildings.

  • Permis de Construire - planning permission.

  • Plan de Financement - financing scheme.

  • Possesseur - owner.

  • Prêt Immobilier – mortgage

  • Prêt Modulable – flexible mortgage.

  • Prêteur - lender.

  • Procuration - power of attorney, this can be given to an estate agent to authorise them to find a property as well as authorising someone to carry out business on your behalf.

  • a Rafraîchir – in need of decoration.

  • Refait - restored.

  • Rénové - renovated.

  • Résidence Principale – main home.

  • Résidence Secondaire – holiday home, for personal or family use or holiday rental.

  • Rétraction – withdrawing from an agreement within the seven day cooling off period

  • Tableau D'amortissement - monthly repayment schedule – this is produced by the lender when the mortgage offer is made.

  • Taux - (Interest) rate.

  • Taux de Change - exchange rate.

  • Taxe Foncière - local annual tax on the ownership of property.

  • Taxe d'Habitation - a local annual tax, levied on the owner as at 1st January. Includes television license fee.

  • TBE (Très Bon État) - very good condition.

  • Urbanisme - town planning. If you want to renovate or build a property then you will need to apply for various permits and this will need to be done through the local town hall.

  • Valeur Locative – market rental rate.

  • Vendeur - seller.

  • Vente aux Enchères - sale by auction. If buying at an auction ensure you have someone with you that speaks good French to ensure that you do not end up making an expensive mistake. Property auctions are common and bargains can be found.


There are many estate agents in France who are either English or English speaking so language very often is not a problem, and they will usually be able to guide you through the whole purchasing process. Buyers should be aware that all contracts must be in French and while you can have it translated, the translated version is not valid in France and would be for your information only. A translation is useful as you can refer to it when you need information but it is important to have the translation done professionally for accuracy.A translation will not be done automatically and must be arranged.


An estate agent will accompany you to all your property viewings, so you will find that you have help every step of the way and this should help you to become familiar with the terms that you need.

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