Savoir Vivre: This attracts many retirees to France

Savoir Vivre: This attracts many retirees to France

Many German pensioners are looking for the “good life” in France. But when emigrating to the neighboring country, they should avoid a few pitfalls.

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France’s diverse climate, from Mediterranean summers in the south to mild winters in the west, makes it an attractive retirement destination. The figures prove this: In 2022, the German Pension Insurance (DRV) paid more than 230,000 pensions to German insured persons living abroad – around 17,000 of them went to France. The country of savoir vivre – the good life – thus ranks fourth among the top emigration destinations for German seniors, just behind Austria, Switzerland and Spain.

The neighboring country also attracts German senior citizens because of its proximity to Germany. Alsace, for example, is particularly popular with German pensioners not only because of its half-timbered houses, tarte flambée and wine production. The widespread German language also makes life easier for emigrants here.

Language skills help in everyday life

Seniors who move further inland beyond Alsace should learn French in order to be able to communicate in everyday life. According to a 2018 survey, around four percent of French people surveyed said they spoke fluent German. A total of around 27 percent of those surveyed said they understood at least some German. However, anyone who wants to be able to confidently participate in official matters and in everyday social life will probably not get very far with either German or English.

If you are a German and want to move to France, it is generally easier. Since 2016, an additional agreement to existing agreements has simplified the situation for pensioners. Since then, they only have to pay tax on their state pension income in the country in which their main residence is registered. However, other income from Germany, such as rental income, is still subject to tax in Germany. The German Pension Insurance (DRV) Rhineland-Palatinate is responsible for questions about pension payments to France.

Regional differences in real estate prices

On average, property prices in France are very similar to those in Germany. So anyone who wants to buy a property in the neighboring country should be able to manage it with a similar budget to that required in Germany: According to the real estate agency Engel & Völkers, an apartment in Germany costs on average around 3270 euros per square meter, and a house around 2610 euros. According to the French real estate portal Seloger, the average purchase price for apartments in France is around 3840 euros per square meter, and a house costs on average around 2480 euros per square meter.

However, there are significant price differences regionally – similar to Germany. The most expensive properties are in the metropolis of Paris, with an average of up to 10,000 euros per square meter. Properties are cheaper in Alsace, where a house costs an average of around 2,481 euros and an apartment around 3,839 euros per square meter.

Challenges for German buyers

Despite all the similarities, there are – not surprisingly – also differences. Anyone buying a house in France should factor in notary fees and property transfer tax. According to the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, buyers of used properties have to pay seven to eight percent of the purchase price in additional costs. So anyone buying a property worth 300,000 euros has to reckon with additional acquisition costs of around 22,000 euros. For new properties, buyers only pay two to three percent because the property transfer tax and the cadastral tax are significantly lower.

When buying a property, all documents are naturally in French and French law applies. It is therefore advisable to know the legal differences – and to look for a French notary who has experience with buyers from Germany and, if necessary, even speaks German. “French notaries often assume that everyone knows the procedures,” says Françoise Berton, managing director of the German-French law firm Berton & Associes.

One procedure that German buyers often misunderstand is the so-called preliminary contract, which the notary draws up. The name suggests that buyers still have time to reconsider their decision. In France, however, a preliminary contract is already binding. Anyone who has signed it only has ten days to withdraw from the preliminary contract.

Anyone who wants to rent in France has to pay more on average than for the average German rent. While the average rent per square meter in this country is 11 euros nationwide according to current data from Engel & Völkers, the average rent in France is currently around 13 euros according to real estate portals. However, there are also significant regional differences here. Anyone who chooses rural life in France will also find cheaper rents. Outside of the cities, the number of people who speak German or other foreign languages ​​is likely to decrease disproportionately – very similar to Germany. The saved budget is then probably well invested in language courses.

Source: Stern

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