Glossary of Terms

WHAT IS…

Acte de vente
The final purchase agreement, or deed of sale, for a property. The contract is drawn up by a notaire, who oversees the signing and the administrative formalities of registering the sale. 

Agent immobilier
Real estate agent

Ancien
Old, former. In real estate, usually refers to period buildings, in contrast to modern constructions. 

A rénover
The property needs renovation.

Arrondissement
Paris is divided into 20 subdivisions, known as arrondissements, each with its own mairie, or mayor, overseeing many of the particular needs of that subdivision including permit issues, schools, etc. The 1st arrondissement is in the city center; they spiral out to the right from there, a design that gave rise to Paris’ nickname l’escargot, or the snail. 

Ascenseur
Elevator

Assemblée générale de copropriété
General assembly of the co-owner association in a building. The syndic mails out the agenda several weeks before the meeting to all the co-owners, and voting is strictly limited to the issues listed in that notice. Items include building management fees, approval of the syndic’s management contract, proposed building works, as well as requests by individual owners that require co-owner approval.  

The votes are recorded in the ordre du jour, or meeting minutes, which is mailed to each of the co-owners after the meeting. Absent owners can vote by proxy or give a power of attorney to a third party to attend and vote on their behalf. Strict laws govern the number of votes and the number of co-owners who must be present for certain changes to be made to the building.

This is generally an annual meeting, with extraordinary meetings if pressing issues arise or if a co-owner wants to call a vote on an issue and does not want to wait until the next scheduled meeting.

Bien immobilier
Real property

Buanderie
Pantry

Carte professionnelle
Real estate professional license, required to represent buyers or sellers in a real estate transaction. An “agent” without this card is operating illegally; their fees cannot be included in the sale contract and those fees will not be deductible from capital gains on sale.

Cave
Cellar

Chambre
Bedroom

Chambre de bonne
Maid’s room, usually small rooms (about 10m2 or less) on the top floor of period buildings. That floor is often one above the last elevator floor, or reachable only by a service stairwell or elevator. They can have water hookups, or simply a communal toilet on the floor. Two or more chambres de bonne are often combined to make a larger apartment. If it is at least 9m2, an owner has the right to rent it out as a residence, or sell it separately from the underlying apartment. 

Charges
Building fees for the management of the building, maintenance of common areas, building insurance, concierge, renovation works and other amenities in the building. The syndic sends out an itemized statement, usually on a quarterly basis, to each of the co-owners. The fees for each owner are calculated based on the size of the lot owned, so bigger apartments will owe a proportionately larger share of the total building fees.

Cheminée
Fireplace

Compromis de vente
The initial purchase and sale agreement signed by the seller and buyer of a property. This pre-contract documents the agreed price and conditions of sale. A compromis can be signed either directly between the private parties, or with the assistance of a real estate agent, unlike a promesse de vente, which is the corresponding document when signed under the supervision of a notaire. The buyer will ordinarily pay a 10% good faith deposit into escrow within 7 days after signing the compromis, which the buyer will lose if he pulls out of the purchase without cause. 

Concierge
Building superintendent. Can also be called a guardienne. The concierge manages small maintenance and co-ownership needs including collecting the mail. A live-in concierge has a ground floor apartment in the building for free, plus a small salary. They will often do housework on the side for one or more of the owners in the building. A Christmas bonus is usual and welcome. 

Conditions suspensives
Conditional clauses contained in a promesse de vente or compromis de vente that suspend the required execution of the contract. A conditional clause may concern the buyer obtaining a satisfactory loan, or the seller obtaining required planning or building permission. A valid conditional clause must not depend on pure chance or on the will of one of the parties to the sale.

Conseil syndical
The co-owner association’s advisory board. The board is comprised of co-owners, and the composition of the board is determined at the assemblée générale. The board assists the syndic and generally supervises their management, and often manages some of the smaller details in the day-to-day running of the co-ownership property. Some buildings with fewer co-owners opt to do away with the syndic and manage the building themselves through the conseil syndical.

Copropriétaires
The property owners (commercial or residential) in a building.

Coup de cœur
Literally, love at first sight. In a listing, it should be an apartment that is going to knock your socks off. Often times, that’s exaggerated.

Cuisine américaine
A kitchen open to the living and/or dining room, not a separate room.

Cuisine équipée 
Kitchen sold with the appliances (stove, oven, refrigerator, dishwasher…)

Dépôt de garantie
Good faith deposit, or earnest money, paid into escrow by a buyer at the signing of the compromis de vente or promesse de vente. Ordinarily the good faith deposit is 10% of the net purchase price of the property. If the conditions to sale have been met and the buyer refuses to complete the purchase, he will lose that money to the seller.  

Diagnostiques
Reports that the seller is required to provide to the buyer in a property sale. There are currently 7 reports: the loi carrez size, termites, lead, asbestos, natural gas installation, electrical wiring, natural risks (e.g., flood zones) and energy efficiency. As of 2011, the energy efficiency rating must be included in the sale listing, so now most of these tests are completed together before the property is listed. A new test relating to sanitation will be required of certain buildings – but few if any in Paris – starting in 2013. 

Double séjour 
An extra large living room, often made up of two rooms with French doors in the middle

Enfilade
An apartment with a train car layout, where at least one room is accessible only by passing through one or more other rooms.

Ensoleillé 
Sunny 

Étage
Floor or landing. Often abbreviated as “e” (e.g., Au 2e — “On the second floor”). The ground floor in France is the rez-de-chaussée or RDC, not the 1st floor; 1st floor is one floor up. 

Frais d’acquisition
Purchase costs associated with a real estate sale. In shorthand often referred to as notaire fees, which gives the mistaken impression that the notaire is collecting and keeping that money. Not so, although it does include the notaire’s own fee, about 1% of the purchase price. Other fees and taxes included are the taxes de publicité foncière (land registry taxes, or stamp duties), mortgage registration fees and miscellaneous fees associated with the requisite title search and administrative documents. In France, most residential property is subject to about 7% purchase costs; new-build property is subject to value added tax, or VAT, of just under 20%.

Gardienne
Building superintendent or concierge, who manages small maintenance and co-ownership needs including collecting the mail. A live-in guardienne has a ground floor apartment in the building for free, plus a small salary. They will often do housework on the side for one or more of the owners in the building. A Christmas bonus is usual and welcome. 

Haussmannien
Under Napoleon III in the late 19th century, Baron Haussmann lead the charge to tear down many of the old neighborhoods in Paris to clear the way for large boulevards lined with ornate stone buildings, now referred to as Haussmannien. These are the sought-after ornate, 6-story residential buildings with balconies on the 2nd and 5th floors that line Paris’ larger boulevards. Later pierre de taille buildings in similar style but often smaller are often also referred to as Haussmannien, but technically they are not.

Hauteur sous plafond (HSP)
Ceiling height. Bel HSP means high ceilings, usually 3 meters (about 10 feet) or more.

Interphone 
An intercom system in the lobby of a building for calling up to a tenant to gain access to the apartment.

Location meublée
Furnished rental. All residences rented with sufficient furniture for everyday life are considered “furnished rentals” and subject to a minimum one-year rental term if rented to a Paris resident. 

Location saisonnière
Seasonal or short term rentals, often for a few days, a week or longer. Seasonal rentals are popular throughout Paris, but remain concentrated in high-tourist areas in the central arrondissements

Loi carrez 
The precise square meter size of the apartment, one of the required diagnostiques that must be reported as part of the sale. This figure must be included in the pre-contract to the sale. The buyer has one year to challenge this figure and, if the true size is 5+% less than the size reported, has the right to recover the proportionate value of the “lost” square meters. If a professional company made the measurement error, they are liable for this loss.  

The code governing the measurement is very strict, excluding floor area with ceiling heights below 160cm, doorways and window bays, and terraces or balconies. Many top-floor apartments with slanted ceilings will have substantially different au sol (“on the floor”) and loi carrez measurements.  

Loi carrez (m2) 

The square meter size of an apartment, measured in accordance with strict laws as to what is and is not included. Where the difference between the total size (m2 au sol) and the loi carrez are substantial, listings will often indicate the size au sol alongside the loi carrez measurement. One m2 equals 10.76 square feet.

Mansardé 
Slanted or cathedral ceilings found in top-floor apartments.  

Mezzanine
An elevated loft space accessible by interior stairs, that usually serves as a workspace or sleeping area in apartments with high ceilings. 

Moulure 
Moldings, often in plaster of Paris, that are standard decor along with wood floors and fireplaces in period buildings. 

Notaire 
The notaire is a public official with legal training (but different from a lawyer) who prepares and registers official acts such as wills, marriage contracts, and property sales. A notaire’s primary role is to ensure that the transaction is legitimate and that the official requirements have been met. A good notaire, of course, is also an advocate for his client’s interests. Notaires enjoy a very privileged and highly respected position in French society.

One notaire can represent both parties in the transaction, or each party can have their own notaire. The notaire’s total fee on the transaction is set by law, and is simply divided between the notaires if each party is represented separately. Having your own notaire is ordinarily advisable, and will not cost more than sharing one with the other party. 

Parquet 
Hardwood floors, often oak. The cut and layout of the floors vary in terms of the construction period and/or the prestige of the property.

Parquet flottant
Laminate wood flooring, often snap-together pieces. While they can be found in any property, they are not the original hardwood floors that are highly valued in the market.

Particulier
Private person. In real estate sales, the equivalent of “for sale by owner.”  

Pièces 
The living rooms in the apartment, not including kitchen, baths or a pantry. A “4 pièces” can be an apartment with a living room and 3 bedrooms, a double séjour, a living room with 2 bedrooms and an office, etc.

Pierre de taille 
Buildings constructed of stacked, individual stone blocks, often with ornate balconies and classic interior features.  The most classic of these are the Haussmannien buildings.

PMC
Short for the classic Parisian apartment features of parquet, moulures, cheminées: hardwood floors, moldings and fireplaces. 

Porte blindée
A metal security door with locks, latches and levers that give the most security to the front door of your residential unit 

Promesse de vente
The “promise to sell” is a pre-contract for the purchase and sale of real estate drawn up by and signed before a notaire. The buyer will ordinarily pay a 10% good faith deposit into escrow within 7 days after signing the compromis, which the buyer will lose if he pulls out of the purchase without cause.  

In contrast to a compromis de vente, the promesse is a unilateral engagement by the seller to sell; the buyer can pull out at will and will suffer only the loss of the good faith deposit – the seller cannot force the buyer to purchase the property. 

Ramonage 
Chimney sweeping — must be performed certified annually for fireplaces that are in use.

Rangement
Storage spaces – often in short supply in Paris apartments 

Ravalement 
Cleaning of the façade/exterior of a building. The law requires that this be done every ten years on Paris buildings at the cost of the co-owners, but it is often done far less than that. 

Règlement de copropriété
Co-ownership building régulations, laying out the rights and obligations of co-owners in the building, the method for calculating building fees, and the allowed use of the common areas and the individual apartments. 

Rez-de-chaussée (RDC)
Ground floor (which is the “zero” floor in France). A rez-de-chaussée apartment is a ground floor apartment with at least some windows facing out to the street. Some rez-de-chaussée apartments will have private or semi-private use of the courtyard, which can be a big plus for the property.

Rez-de-jardin 
A ground floor apartment that lets out to a garden or interior courtyard, with no windows facing onto the street. Some rez-de-jardin apartments will have private or semi-private use of the courtyard, which can be a big plus for the property.

Salle de bains 
Bathroom with a bathtub, with or without a toilet.

Salle de douche
Bathroom with a shower, with or without a toilet.

Société civile immobilière (SCI)
A holding company specifically structured for owning and managing properties in France. An SCI is pass-through entity, so its tax treatment is consistent with the residency and tax liability of its shareholders.  

An SCI can be an interesting vehicle for property owned by a family or a group of unrelated persons, and facilitates the transfer of ownership over time. For non-resident buyers, an SCI allows them to ignore the forced inheritance laws in France, providing more flexibility to determine who the property goes to upon death of the owner(s). An SCI must have at least two shareholders, individuals or companies. 

Syndic de copropriété (co-ownership property representative)
A building manager elected by the co-owners to oversee their interests, including  the annual meeting of the co-owners, accounting, building insurance, cleaning and concierge personnel, and building renovations. 

Travaux à prévoir 
The property needs extensive renovation.

Traversant
An apartment layout that “runs through” from one end of the apartment to the other, usually with windows at each end. Elsewhere known as a “shotgun apartment.” 

Vis à vis
Obstructed view, usually of another building very close, across a small street or courtyard.

Voûtée
vaulted (ceilings)

Vue dégagée 
A view that is unobstructed and attractive.

WC séparée 
Toilet that is separate from the bath or shower room. 

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