If you break your leg, you would naturally go and see a doctor, when you want to change energy supplier you’d consult a comparison website to find out your options. Either way, you are looking for an expert and a one-stop shop to solve your problem. That same logic applies when purchasing overseas (often in a country where you don’t speak the language and aren’t familiar with the banking, lending or purchase process); you’d be wise to consult a specialist French mortgage broker.
Why use a French Mortgage Broker
Saves you time and money
First and foremost, using a French mortgage broker will take the legwork out of looking for a French mortgage. There are no comparison websites for non-resident French mortgages and most banks don’t even advertise the fact that they will lend to non-residents so the only way to search the whole market and compare the deals that are available to you is to use a French mortgage broker – and one that has established relationships with national and local French banks (as a lender’s appetite to lend to non-resident really does differ from branch to branch and on location). Moreover, a good broker should be able to negotiate exclusive rates, discounts on fees and also assist you with other aspects of the purchase – like liaising with the notaire, (check your broker is bilingual) your estate agent and any other third party to ensure your purchase completes on time.
It’s a big investment – take the expert financial advice
All UK-based French mortgage brokers should be FCA-registered and CeMap-qualified (the professional certificate required of all mortgage brokers). This means they are qualified to give tailored financial advice and they have a duty of care to you to give the best advice possible. By going direct to a French bank, you will only be talking to sales staff – who are not qualified to give advice, will not be familiar with UK mortgages and income and won’t be able to explain the nuances between the two systems nor advise on the most suitable product based on the client’s circumstances. Plus they are only incentivised to sell their product. You also wouldn’t have the recourse to complain or seek compensation, like you would if you used an FCA-regulated broker.
Greatly improves your chance of success
Using an experienced French mortgage broker will materially improve your chances of success in obtaining a French mortgage and ultimately purchasing your dream French property. It is important to note that you can only ever make one application to a French bank – if you are then refused, you cannot re-apply, even if you decide to purchase a different property or your circumstances materially change. You literally do only have one shot. (Our approval rate is 97%, compared to 50% from the banks’ own sales teams). Couple that with the fact that there are only a limited number of banks that will consider lending to non-residents so each refusal you get narrows down your options considerably. An experienced mortgage broker should know all the different banks that will lend and their criteria and how to present your case in the best possible light. They will also have dedicated underwriters at those banks that only deal with their files. This allows the broker to hypothetically discuss your case and any potential issues before an official submission – ensuring that once your application is received by the bank it is almost guaranteed to be approved.
If you have chosen to work with a French Mortgage broker – well done! You should be well on your way to securing that dream French property. However, not all French Mortgage brokers are created equal, so make sure you ask these 6 key questions to any broker you approach, to make sure you really are giving yourself the best chances of success.
- Do you work with the whole market or just a couple of French banks?
Ascertain how many different banks they work with, and whether they also deal with local banks in the area you are purchasing. Check that they are also working with both private and retail banks to ensure that you are being given access to the whole of the market. We work with over 30 different private and retail banks and local branches across France, Switzerland, Monaco and Luxembourg and have got relationships dating back over 10 years. You should also ask your broker whether they will tell you which banks they will be applying to. Some brokers submit your paperwork without telling you which banks they have sent it to. Once you are a client of ours, we will always fully disclose which banks we are are going to apply to on your behalf.
- Are you FCA-regulated, independent and is my advisor CeMap-qualified?
We were the first international mortgage broker to become FCA-regulated and all our advisors are CeMap -qualified. We are also registered with ORIAS, the French regulator (although please note that ORIAS is not as stringent as the FCA, so any purely French-based mortgage lenders will not be held to the same level of compliance and customer protection as those regulated by the FCA). You should also be aware that unless a broker does a thorough “fact find” with you they will not be able to provide you with any guaranteed terms nor accurate advice. If you only have a brief discussion and they send you rates, these will only be indicative and will not be based on your personal financial situation and individual circumstances.
- How many French mortgages have you completed this year and what is your approval rating?
The approval rating here is key – ours is 97%, so if we say we can get you a mortgage we can. If they don’t know what their rating is, then it’s unlikely to be high. (And bear in mind the banks’ own sales team who usually operate at around 50%). Our direct line to the underwriters and the fact we aren’t motivated by mortgage applications, only if your purchase completes, means we are much more likely to get your mortgage offer issued. We go through all your paperwork and pre-underwrite your file according to the different banks’ criteria. We will then identify the most suitable lenders and prepare your file in accordance with their specific criteria. Many other brokers fire off multiple applications to a range of banks, without tailoring any to each individual lender. Whilst you may think this ‘scattergun approach’ gives you a greater chance of success you’d be wrong – in fact you risk getting a refusal from every lender and then not having any alternatives. Also, you may wait a long time (up to 3 months in some cases) for that definitive answer as the banks know which brokers send in these ‘speculative’ files and de-prioritise them accordingly. Whereas, all the lenders we work with know that if we send them a file, the client is 99% likely to accept the mortgage offer. Quite simply our files are looked at before any other brokers’ (we typically get a response from the banks within 7 – 10 working days, often sooner) and are far more likely to be approved.
Many of the banks, notaires and even immobiliers do not have a fluent grasp of English. Which when you are negotiating or trying to present complex financial situations, can mean things get lost in translation. You’d be amazed at how much more amenable people can be if you speak to them in their native tongue. All our team is bi-lingual so we understand your language, and we can still ensure your purchase completes smoothly in France.
- Do you have dedicated underwriters at the major lenders to fast-track your French mortgage application?
Quite simply, if they don’t, then you risk your file getting put to the bottom of the pile. It also means we are the first to know if the bank changes their eligibility criteria, or starts to offer new products or rates which if you are mid-way through a mortgage application with them, can be crucial. We also get to discuss your case hypothetically with the credit team. Which means we can then understand what we need to do to ensure your file is approved.
- Do you have access to discounted fees and exclusive products?
We broker more non-resident French mortgages than any other company in the world! And because of that, we benefit from discounted bank fees, exclusive products – we are often the ‘guinea pig’ that the banks use to trial new non-resident mortgage products on – and rates that are not available on the open market. In fact, due to our relationships with the leading lenders, they develop new products based on our client’s needs and our feedback.