Buying a house in france: part 14: housing: your house in the UK

We’re looked at French housing, but what about your house in the UK?

Even if you are absolutely certain that you are going to spend the rest of your life in France, it’s best to retain your house in the UK if you can so that you have a fall-back position in case things don’t work out in France or you change your mind about living here. Not everyone is able to maintain houses in two countries of course and it will probably make finances a little tighter in France than they would otherwise be. However, once you sell your house in the UK you can find it very difficult to get back into the housing market. In our own case, our UK house went up over 40% in less than three years and effectively beyond our reach had we sold it when we moved.

If you are lucky enough to be able to keep it, you should try to rent it out. Not only will this keep the house occupied but it will help pay the mortgage etc. without needing to rely on income from France to pay for the various bills that will arise in the UK.

If you are going down the rental route, you will almost certainly need to change your mortgage to a buy to let one as few normal residential mortgages allow you to rent out your property easily. Your house insurance also needs to change to reflect the fact that you will have tenants in the house and that it may be unoccupied for extended periods of time between tenants (don’t rely on 100% occupancy!).

Although you could try to find tenants yourself, it’s much simpler to arrange the rentals through a letting agency as they can arrange for work to be done and to inspect the house before during and after each tenancy. This service usually costs around 10% of the rental income plus advertising costs of around 100 in advance of each tenancy.

Costs will continue during periods that you don’t have tenants. For instance, you are still liable for aspects of the electricity, gas and water bills. Throughout your ownership you also need to pay council tax / rates and, of course, insurance.

It’s difficult to be definitive about this decision. Keeping a house in the UK does entail a lot of costs from insurance to mortgage not to mention the additional effort that you need to put into managing your house (even if you have a letting agent). However, selling can be quite a permanent thing to do if you live in an area where prices move quickly and, to my mind, it’s best to retain your house as a fall-back should things in France not work out as you expect.

If you do decide that selling is the best option for you, it’s best to get this in motion before you leave the UK as otherwise you could find yourself liable for French capital gains tax on the proceeds of any sale.

Separately, but related to this topic, is the issue of maintaining a UK postal address. This is one thing that is definitely advantageous to do. If you can change the address for several credit cards to that of a friend or family member before you go, this will effectively move your credit history to their address which we have found to be very useful over the years.

Next week, we move onto French banking.

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