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Glossary of French property terms

Following are some of the more common terms associated with buying and selling French property.

2F, 3F, 4F Literally translates as “2 faces (sides)”, “3 faces (sides)”, “4 faces (sides)”. They respectively refer to a terrace house, a semi-detached house, and a detached house.
Abri A shelter. Could also be a small outbuilding (e.g. a shed)
Acompte Deposit
Agence Immobilière Estate Agency
Ancien Propriétaire The previous owner
Appartement Flat or Apartment
Ascenseur Lift or Elevator
Atelier Workshop
Bâtiment Building
Bon de Visite A form that estate agents ask you to sign before viewing a house. It is used to prove that they were the first to show you the house, so that in the event of you subsequently buying from another agent or from the owner direct they can still claim their sales commission.
Bon état In good condition. See also “Rafraîchir” and “Rénover”. In terms of condition, the terms from best to worst are “très bon état”, “bon état”, “Rafraîchir” and “Rénover”.
Bricolage DIY
Cave Cellar. If you want to store wine, this could be important!!
Chambre Bedroom
Chauffage Heating
Chauffage Central Central Heating
Chauffae Central Fuel Oil Central Heating
Cheminée Chimney. Also sometime used to mean fireplace.
Clause Suspensive A conditional clause which is used in the “Compromis de Vente”. For example, you might add a condition that the sale of the house is dependent of obtaining planning permission for an extension.
Compromis de Vente Normally the first document signed between the buyer and the seller. It commits both to the sale of the house. Normally the buyer must pay a substantial deposit at this stage; if he does not complete the sale then the deposit is lost. On the other hand, if the failure to complete the sale is due to the seller, the seller must repay the deposit, plus pay the same amount again to the intended buyer as a penalty.
Cuisine Kitchen
Cuisine Américaine A USA-style kitchen (e.g. large, open-plan, with large modern appliances).
Démenager To move
Devis Estimate for work. It is wise to always obtain a devis before requesting work to be done. Note that this is only an estimate, so in the event of unforeseeable circumstances it is not binding. This is similar to UK and USA law.
Double Vitrage Double glazing
Entièrement Rénové Entirely renovated
F1, F2, F3, F4, etc. A measure of the property size.
Fosse Septique Septic tank. Typically found in rural properties that don’t have mains sewage.
Foyer Fireplace. Also sometimes used as slang to mean house (e.g. “Each ‘foyer’ is entitled to an allotment” would mean that there was one allotment per house. Also see “Cheminée” above.
Frais de Notaire The fees charged by the notaire. These fees are normally in addition to the sales prices and include the fee received by the notaire for his work, plus his direct costs (e.g. the land registration fee that he needs to pay), plus property sales tax. As these fees can be substantial and are normally paid by the buyer, one should confirm the amount before committing to purchasing a property. These fees are regulated by law, so should be the same regardless of which notaire you use. If both the buyer and the seller are represented by their own notaires, the buyer pays the same fee but the two notaires split this fee between them.
Frais d’Agence Inclus (FAI) The estate agent’s fees are included in the quoted price.
Grange Barn
Grenier Attic
Immobilier Property or Real Estate
Impot Tax
Lu et Approuvé Translates as “read and approved”. When signing a contract, one is sometimes asked to hand-write this above the signature. It is intended to ensure that the person signing cannot claim they did not know what they were signing.
Maçon Builder
Maison House
Maison de Maitre Literally translates as (House of Master). The term Maitre is used to describe certain positions of importance, so the house of a Maitre is a more formal, somewhat grand style of house.
Mairie Town Hall
Mètres Carrés Square meter. Used to express the size of a property.
Meubles Furniture
Notaire A “notary”. Every property sale must involve a notaire, who is an official responsible for ensuring that the official requirements associated with property sales are met, that the taxes on the sale are collected and that the legal aspects of the contract are followed.
Permis de Construire Planning Permission
Pièce A room
Piscine Swimming pool
Plan Cadastral The town plan, which shows properties and parcels of land
Premier étage The first floor (in other words, the floor above the ground floor).
Propriétaire The Owner
Propriété Property
Plomberie Plumbing
Promesse de Vente Similar to “Compromis de Vente” (see above)
Proximité Close to
Rafraîchir To redecorate. Commonly in the form “à rafraîchir “, which means it is in need of redecoration. See entry for “Rénover” and for “Bon état”.
RDC See “Rez-de-Chaussée”.
Rénover To renovate. Commonly in the form “à rénover “, which means it is in need of renovation. See entry for “Rafraîchir” and for “Bon état”.
Rez-de-Chaussée Ground floor
Salle de Bain Bathroom
Salle d’Eau Shower room (or shower with toilet)
Salon Lounge (as in living room)
Salle a Manger Dining room
Séjour Living room. Similar to “Salon”
Société Civile Immobilière A company which is set up to purchase property. Even if one is purchasing only a single property, this may be a useful approach in order to avoid tax and inheritance issues. See the articles on tax and inheritance on this site.
Sous-sol The basement. The literal translation is “under-floor” (which, of course, is where the basement is located).
Surface Habitable The amount of living space in a house. Note that this is calculated differently in France than in the UK.
T1, T2, T3, T4, etc. A measure of the property size.
Taxe d’Habitation A local tax, paid by anyone living in a property (either rented or owned).
Taxe Foncière A tax on property (paid by the owner).
TBE Short for “très bon état”.
Terrain Land
Toit Roof
Très bon état Very good condition. See also entry for “bon état”.
TVA The abbreviation for “Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée”. In other words VAT or Valued Added Tax (in North American English: sales tax). As in most countries, this tax is found on a range of goods. If you are discussing prices or asking for a “devis”, ensure that you check if the price includes the TVA or not. Note that most goods have TVA at 19.6%, but if you are having work done on your home (provided it is not a new property) and you have your builders buy the materials, the TVA is normally reduced to 5.5%.

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