6. French Building Estimates - 'Le devis'

Many disputes between client and builder arise because a detailed estimate has not been obtained and there is ‘wriggle room’ for the builder.

This may be either because some items have been omitted or the specification of materials and fittings does not meet expectations.

Clearly, the best way of reducing the risk is the preparation of a detailed specification by your architect against which several builders offer a price.

The specification itself needs to be precise – the use of ‘or equivalent’ in the specification of materials is a recipe for later dispute.

The most detailed type of estimate is called descriptif-quantitatif et estimatif.

There is no escaping professional assistance if you want this kind of precision. It is not something you can do yourself, whatever your level of competence in French.

The specification of relevant building standards is essential, preferably for each main item of work, or at least as a general statement.

You will find that French building standards are not as comprehensive or as generally tough as those in the UK, and controls over enforcement of these standards is noticeably weaker.

So do not rely on a building control officer to keep an eye on the builder because you are unlikely to see one!

If you can, get at least three estimates, and make sure you fully understand what it is you are asking for.

Do not necessarily select the lowest estimate, but select your preferred builder and negotiate on the price – a task your architect should be able to help you achieve.

If language is a problem, then use an interpreter and/or make use of English language internet sites to understand some of the technical issues involved.

Unless, this part of the process is handled well you substantially increase the risk of price overruns, or the use of materials of an inferior quality to that which you seek.

Ask to see examples of some of the proposed materials and fittings so that you can be satisfied they meet your requirements.

If you are unable to finalise on the choice of fittings or other materials to be included in the property then the builder will need to include a provisional sum for each item not finally specified.

As part of the discussions about the estimate you should also consider the techniques and working methods to be used by the builder.

The price of constructing a new home will, of course, depend on many factors, not least the size and standard of specification. An indicative price range for 2021 would be €1500 to €1900 per square metre for building costs. So an initial budget of €1600 per square metre might be a good starting point.

In addition, you will also need to budget for land costs and professional fees.

VAT at the rate of 20% is payable on all new construction work.

Next: Types of French Building Contract

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