5. Selection of French Builder
The process for selection of a builder depends on whether or not you have chosen a package deal that includes a standard design, or you seek a ‘build only’ contract.
If you do not want to design your own house, and you are happy to accept a standard design offered by a developer, (called a constructeur) then you may wish to select a builder affiliated to Union Nationale des Constructeurs de Maisons Individuelles (UNCMI). This trade organisation includes in its membership some of the largest builders in the country.
'CMIstes' (as they are known) have a range of designs from which to choose and, if you are looking for a building plot, they then will also be able to sell you the land!
If you choose the land and build package - sur plan ('off-plan') - you will need to use a specific form of contract called a contrat de futur achèvement.
This is the approach frequently used by the French, because it is cheaper than an individually designed property, and the designs will have a track record as a tried and tested product.
Nevertheless, although some customisation is possible, the designs can lack character, and the specification is not always up to UK standard. The builder is also likely to offer you their own standard building contract, which is unlikely to offer you the protection you need in such an important matter.
A more suitable option is likely to be a builder from the Fédération Fédération Française des Constructeurs de Maisons Individuelles (FFC). This organisation comprises small to medium size companies who can offer both standard designs and individually designed properties.
Affiliation to UNCMI or FFC does necessarily imply that you will be guaranteed a satisfactory performing building contract, although it does seem from our own enquiries that FFC has a stronger consumer orientation and is likely to offer better protection. Those builders affiliated to the FFC are required by the terms of the association of offer full legal financial and building guarantees to the client.
If you want to put your own firm stamp on the design, and ensure you sign a fair contract, then you will need to engage an architect to prepare plans and assist with the preparaton of the contract. They will also be in the best position to advise you about suitable house builders in your area.
Beyond the UNCMI and FFC, general builders who construct new houses on a regular basis are likely to have quality certification from the French quality standards agency AFNOR. If so, they should hold certification NF 294 Maison Individuelle. You should ask to see their (up to date) registration papers.
The Guides to France are published for general information only.
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