The Best French Mortgage alphabetic glossary should cover most of the terms you will need to understand to obtain your French mortgage.
Our glossary of French housing and property terms includes all the essential words and vocabulary you will need to understand.
We have included many technical and legal terms related to French property purchase and mortgages. These can be very important to your mortgage. If you are not sure you understand the explanation, contact us and we will try to help.
Most terms can be explained in a single sentence because they will be direct translations of terms you already know.
For mortgage terms that require a little more explanation, we have included an expanded explanation of the following terms:
If you come across a mortgage term that we don’t have in this glossary, please let us know and we’ll add it to the glossary.
For Italian mortgage terms that you might come across in the border region between France and Italy please go to our Best Italian Mortgage website.
Abri – a small outbuilding, or shed.
Acajou – mahogany.
Accueil – reception desk, welcome.
Acheteur – buyer.
Acompte – deposit; where the sum is paid by the buyer to the builder, the acompte not to exceed 5% of the total price.
Acquérir – to buy.
Acte Sous Seing Privé – private agreement in writing with no witnesses (pre-sale agreement). See Acte Authentique.
Acte de Vente – a conveyance or transfer of land (confusingly, sometimes referred to as acte d’achat).
Acte (de Vente) Authentique – Deed of Sale. In France, it is compulsory that the sale of real property be signed in the presence of a public notary (notaire). The deed of conveyance must specify the identities of the seller and buyer, the description and origin of the property subject to transfer, certain provisions related to urban planning and the means by which the buyer financed the acquisition.
Action – share.
ADII (Assurance Décès Invalidité Incapacité) – life and incapacity insurance.
Adosser – to secure a loan with a life insurance policy.
Affaire – bargain.
Agence Immobilière – estate agent.
Aménagé – converted.
Aménager – to convert (eg Dépendances à aménager, outbuildings suitable for conversion).
Amortissement – repayment schedule.
Année de la Construction – year property was built.
Annuité Périodique – payment, usually annually.
Apporteur – Someone who expects to be paid a “Ristourne” (see Ristourne below).
Approvisionner – to credit an account.
Ardoise – slate.
Are – land area 100sq m.
A Rénover – in need of renovation.
Argent Liquide – cash.
Armoire – cupboard.
Arrhes – sum paid in advance by the purchaser, forfeited if purchaser withdraws or double the amount refunded if the vendor withdraws.
Ascenseur – lift.
Assurance Perte d’Emploi – unemployment insurance.
Atelier – workshop or studio.
Attenant – attached.
Attestation d’Acquisition – a written certificate from the notaire sent once the property purchase paperwork is completed. A notaire will issue certified copies on request.
Attestation de Propriété – proof of ownership of a property.
Attestation de Signature – see Attestation d’Acquisition
Avis À Tiers Détenteur – notice to third party holder. B – Return to the index of the Best French Mortgage glossary of Property and Finance terms
Baignoire – bath.
Bail – lease.
Banlieue – suburb.
Banque de Consignation – the bank where the notaire places clients’ funds (in France, no interest accrues to either party or the notaire).
Banque de France (d’être) – to be on the Bank of France’s register of unredeemed court judgements for debt (of person).
Barème des honoraires – scale of fees.
en Bon État – in good condition.
Bâtiment – building.
Bénéficiaire – beneficiary.
Bergerie – sheepfold, or barn.
Boiseries – woodwork.
Bon pour Achat – “good for acquisition” a phrase written accompanying signature of contract. See “lu et apprové”.
Bon de Visite – a form the French estate agent requires you to sign before viewing a property. You are agreeing that you will not approach the owner directly if you want to make an offer on the house.
Bord de Mer – on the coast.
Bordereau d’Inscription – a document describing the mortgage which the notaire completes.
Bouquet – the capital paid by the buyer in a viager transaction.
Bourg – small town / village centre.
Buanderie – laundry/ utility room.
Bureau – office.
Cabanon – small stone building.
Cabinet/WC – Toilets.
Cadastre – local town planning register recording details of land-holdings.
Campagne – country.
CAP – cap (maximum) rate of interest on a loan.
Capacité d’Endettement – borrowing “headroom”, taking into account present income and existing repayments.
Carrelage – tiled floor.
Carte Professionnelle – granted by the Préfecture to estate agents to carry out business.
Caution – guarantee or the guarantor of a mortgage. In French, un caution can also mean a deposit (on renting) or an excess (in insurance).
Cave – cellar.
Cave Voûtée – vaulted cellar.
Cellier – pantry.
Centre Commercial – shopping centre.
Certificat d’Urbanisme – land use certificate.
Cession – conveyance.
Chambre – bedroom.
Charges Comprises – service charges included.
Charpente – structure.
Chaudière – boiler.
Chauffage – heating (eg chauffage à fioul = oil-fired central heating).
Chauffage Collective – (shared) heating included in building charges.
Chaumière – thatched cottage.
Cheminée – fireplace.
Chèque De Banque – banker’s draft.
Chèque sans Provision – cheque issued without sufficient funds on the account.
Clause Pénale – penalty clause governing performance of an agreement.
Clause Suspensive – condition suspensive.
Climatisation – air-conditioning.
Code Confidentiel – PIN number.
Coin Cuisine – kitchen corner in living room.
Colombier – dovecote.
Combles – attic or loft.
Commerces – shops.
Commission de Rapatriement – commission levied upon receipt of an international currency transfer.
Commodités – toilet / WC.
Commune – town/village/district.
Compensable – the clearing of a cheque.
Compromis de Vente – provisional contract used for the acquisition of real estate or building land. The contract lists the names and addresses of the seller and buyer, description of the property, its surface area and price. It must also list the conditions which make it possible to terminate the agreement, notably the buyer’s failure to obtain a loan (or planning permission in the case of the acquisition of building land). If these conditions cannot be met, the agreement will be declared null and void. When the provisional sales agreement is signed, the buyer will be asked to pay a deposit (see arrhes) by the seller. If the buyer withdraws from the agreement before signing the legal deed of conveyance, the seller is entitled to retain the deposit. If the seller wishes to withdraw from the agreement, he must pay the prospective buyer twice the sum of the deposit. The compromis de vente should include arrangements for inspection of lead, asbestos and termites, details of the estate agent’s fees and provision for legal fees and a target completion date.
Comptable – accountant.
Compte Courant – current account.
Compte Débiteur – overdrawn account.
Compte à Terme – deposit account.
Compteur – meter.
Concubinage – status of living together but not being married.
Condition Suspensive (also, clause suspensive) – conditional terms in the compromis de vente (eg the acquiring of a loan, the gaining of a positive zoning certificate).
Conservation des Hypothèques – mortgage/land registry.
Constructible – land which is designated for building under local planning scheme.
Contrat de Réservation (also, contrat préliminaire) – the purchase contract used for purchase “on plan”. This provisional real-estate sales agreement is the legal equivalent of a compromis de vente.
Convention – agreement.
Copie Authentique – certified copy.
Copropriété – co-ownership.
Couloir – corridor.
Cour – courtyard.
Cour De Ferme – farmyard.
Crédit Hypothécaire – mortgage.
Cuisine Aménagée – fitted kitchen.
Cuisine Américaine – open-plan kitchen.
Cuisine Équipée – equipped kitchen.
DAB (Distributeur Automatique de Billets) – cash dispenser.
Date d’Expiration – expiry date.
Débarras – box room.
Déclaration de Sincérité – compulsory formula providing that the purchase price has not been increased by a counter-deed.
Découvert – overdraft.
Délai Scrivener – an 11-day cooling-off period before accepting a mortgage offer.
Demandé – required.
Dépendance – outbuilding.
Déposer (de l’agent) – to credit an account.
Dépôt – deposit.
Dernier Étage – top floor.
en Deux (2) Niveaux – 2-storey.
Devise – (foreign) currency.
Devis – estimate for work.
Différé d’Amortissement – deferred capital repayments, giving the possibility of starting to repay a mortgage with lower (interest-only) payments.
Différé Total – deferred capital and interest repayments, giving the possibility of zero repayments for an initial period.
Digicode – security door.
Divers – various.
Double Vitrage – double-glazing.
Douche – shower.
DPE (Diagnostic de Performance Energétique) – Energy Performance Certificate. A Rating for energy use per square metre of floor area, and environmental impact based on CO2 emissions. It’s the same chart you see on fridges and freezers, with BCD as good ratings and FG as weak ratings (A is virtually unachievable).
Droit de Donation – gift tax.
Droit de Passage – right of way.
Droit de Préemption – pre-emptive right to acquire the property.
Droit de Succession – inheritance tax.
Est – east.
Etage – storey.
Expédition – the certified copy of a notarial document showing the date of its registration and the registration duty paid.
Expert de Bâtiment – surveyor.
Expert Comptable – chartered accountant.
Expert Foncier – professional (usually an architect) who checks the state and value of a property.
Expert Géomètre – land surveyor.
Expertise – valuation.
Expertiser – to value a property.
Exposé Nord – north-facing.
Exposition – aspect.
Euribor – interbank 1-12-month interest rate.
Facture – invoice.
FAI (Frais Agence Inclus) – price including estate agency fees.
Fenêtre – window.
Ferme – farm.
Feuille de Paie – payslip.
FICP (Fichier National des Incidents de remboursement des Crédits aux Particuliers) – the Banque de France register of mortgages.
Fioul – heating oil.
FNAIM (Fédération Nationale des Agents Immobilier) – national association of estate agents.
Fonds de Roulement – capital supplied by all flat-owners, in an apartment block, on top of service charges to meet unexpected liabilities.
Fosse Septique – septic tank.
Four – oven.
Frais – fees.
Frais de Dossier – mortgage arrangement fee.
Frais d’Hypothèque – taxes and fees due to the Notaire on a mortgage deed.
Frais de Notaire – notaire fees, total amount paid to the notaire on top of the sale price (includes notaire charges, search fees, mortgage fees, fiscal stamps, registration duty, land registration duty and other charges).
Franchise – A period at the beginning of the mortgage when no capital is paid back (“partiel”) or neither capital or interest is paid (“totale”). The amounts due are added to the original mortgage. Commonly associated with off-plan (see VEFA) purchases and Buy-and-leaseback investments.
Le Garant – company which insures builder against faulty construction claims.
Garantie Extrinsèque d’Achèvement – third-party guarantee (bank or insurance company) against a builder failing to complete a new build property.
Garantie Intrinsèque d’Achèvement – builder’s own guarantee when a property is sold off-plan.
Gardien – caretaker.
Gare – train station.
Gare Routière – bus station.
Géomètre – surveyor appointed by the notaire to certify the dimensions of the property according to the cadastre.
Grand – large.
Grange – barn.
Grenier – attic.
HT (Hors Taxe) – not including (sales) tax.
Huissier – bailiff and process server; a huissier is used to record evidence (for example on the state of property) where legal proceedings are considered.
Hypothèque – legal charge (mortgage deed) on property.
Immeuble – block of flats.
Immobilier – property or real estate.
Immobilière – estate agent.
Impôt – tax.
Indivision – joint-ownership.
Intérêts Intercalaires – interest which accrues between the mortgage funds being released and the first repayment.
IPPD l’Inscription en Privilège de Prêteur de Deniers – First charge on an existing property by the lending bank. The charge is registered at the “Conservation des hypothèques” at the borrower’s cost. In case of mortgage non-payment, the bank can sell the property. New and off-plan loans are subject to an equivalent guarantee, called “hypothèque”.
I.R.A. (Indemnités de remboursement anticipé) – Penalty fee for early redemption of a mortgage. The usual arrangement is 6 months’ interest or 3% of the capital outstanding.
Jardin – garden.
Jouissance – right of possession which must occur simultaneously with the transfer of ownership.
Jumelé – semi-detached.
Juriste – lawyer.
Lavabo – sink.
Laverie – laundry.
Lingerie – linen room.
Local – premises.
Location – renting (tenancy).
Logement – accommodation.
Loi Scrivener – the law protecting borrowers from French lenders and sellers on French property purchases in all cases other than a purchase on plan (see délai Scrivener).
Longère – agglomeration of buildings in a line, normally six metres deep (typical to Brittany).
Lotissement – housing estate.
Lots – land registry plots applied in apartment blocks.
Lu et Approuvé – “read and approved” – phrase written accompanying signature of contract. See bon pour achat.
Mainlevé – release from a mortgage deed, on the sale of a property.
Mairie – town hall.
Maison des Amis – anything from an outbuilding to a separate apartment or cottage.
Maison de Campagne – country house.
Maison de Maître – formal, grander style of house.
Maison Mitoyenne – semi detached, or terraced house.
Maître d’Oeuvre – project manager, the person who manages and supervises the execution of construction work.
Mandat – see bon de visite.
Mandat – power of attorney; when a private individual grants this power to an estate agent, they grant full or limited power of attorney, for example to sign the Acte Authentique on completion day.
Mandat de Recherche – private agreement giving power to estate agent to look for property.
Mandat de Vente – contract to sell.
Marchand de Biens – real estate dealer.
Mas – farmhouse in the Provence area.
Mazet (or Maset) – separate cottage.
Menuiserie – joinery.
Meubles – furniture.
Monument Historique – listed building.
Moquette – fitted carpet.
Moulin – mill/watermill.
Multirisques Habitation – buildings & contents insurance policy.
Mur – wall.
Mur Mitoyen – party wall.
Nantissement – loan security other than property, such as life assurance, valuables.
Niveau – level.
Nombreux – many.
Nord – north.
Notaire – French Notary (Solicitor/Lawyer); a public and legal officer (on oath) responsible for legalising the various judicial documents passing through his/her hands. They are addressed as “Maître …”.
Neuf – new.
Nue-Propriété – reversionary interest where the purchaser has no occupational rights over the property until the death or prior surrender of the life tenant.
Occupation – occupant of the premises (either tenant or occupant without good title).
Offre d’Achat/de Vente – an offer to buy or sell property which is not itself a binding contract.
Offre de Prêt – loan offer; a contract in which the lender grants a property loan to a borrower who accepts the conditions. This offer is valid for 11 days before acceptance. It must specify the identity of the borrower, the address of the real estate financed, and all the terms and conditions of the loan to be arranged.
Opposition – cancellation of payment.
Ouest – west.
Paiement Comptant – cash payment.
Parfait – perfect (eg Etat parfait = in excellent condition).
Parking – car parking space.
Parquet – wooden floor.
Part Sociale – share in a cooperative.
Particulier – individual.
Parties Communes – common parts of buildings.
Parties Privatives – parts of the building restricted to the private use of the owner.
Pavillon – detached house of breeze block construction.
Pelouse – lawn.
Penderie – wardrobe.
Période d’Anticipation – pre-completion period.
Permis de Construire – planning permission.
Perron – flight of steps in front of a property.
Pièce – room, bedroom or reception room.
Piscine – swimming pool.
Placard – cupboard.
Placement – investment.
Plafond – ceiling.
de Plain-pied – single storey.
Plan Cadastral – the town plan showing properties and parcelles of land.
Plan d’Eau – water feature/pond.
Plan de Financement – financing scheme.
Plomberie – plumbing.
Plus Value – capital gain.
Portail – gate.
Porte – door.
Possesseur – owner.
Potager – kitchen garden.
Poubelles – rubbish bins.
Pour – for (eg bon pour achat).
Poutre – beam.
Préfecture – the administrative HQ of the département, found in the main town.
Prélèvement (automatique) – direct debit.
Prêt – loan.
Prêt Amortissable – loan with equal repayments.
Prêt Cautionné – loan for property purchase guaranteed by third party, without a charge on the property.
Prêt in Fine – interest only mortgage.
Prêt Garanti – secured loan.
Prêt Immobilier – mortgage.
Prêt Modulable – flexible mortgage.
Prêt Relais – bridging loan for personal contribution.
Prêteur – lender.
Principal – main.
Prise Électrique – electric socket.
Privilège du Prêteur de Deniers – first charge on a property.
Procuration – power of attorney.
Promesse Unilatérale de Vente – Unilateral agreement to sell; a legal document whereby the seller undertakes to sell while the buyer simply enjoys an option to buy, i.e. he is free to buy or not during a certain period. The sale will be completed the day the buyer takes up the option. In exchange for this option, the buyer must pay a deposit, usually 10% of the selling price, which the seller retains if the buyer does not proceed with the acquisition.
Promoteur – property developer.
Propriétaire – owner.
Propriété – property.
Puits – well.
Quotité – share of capital guaranteed by each party to a mortgage.
a Rafraîchir – in need of decoration.
Rangements – built-in cupboards.
Refait – restored.
Rejeter – to bounce a cheque.
Relevé de Compte – bank statement.
Remboursement – redemption, reimbursement, repayment.
Remboursement anticipé – early repayment; under the loi Scrivener, early repayment penalties cannot exceed 3% of the outstanding capital.
Remise – shed.
Rénové – renovated.
a Rénover – in need of renovation.
Renseignements – information/enquiries.
Rentabilité – profitability.
Réservation – the deposit paid in a contract de réservation.
Réservoir – water tank.
Résidence Principale – main home.
Résidence Secondaire – holiday home, for personal or family use or holiday rental.
Résiliation – cancellation or failure to renew a contract or lease.
Restanques – terraced land, often with drystone walls.
Retirer (de l’argent) – withdrawal of funds from an account.
Rétraction – to withdraw from a preliminary agreement; under the loi Niertz buyers have a 7-day cooling off period.
Revêtement – covering (walls or floors).
Rez-de-Chaussée – ground floor.
RIB (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) – bank account details; needed to send funds to the account and set up direct debits.
Ristourne (Ristorne) – Though a dictionary will translate this as “volume discount”, within the French mortgage broking community it is commonly taken to mean a “kick back” or a “back hander” – often a supplement of up to 2% of the mortgage value which is charged on to the mortgage applicant. For details of how this works expensively against the property purchaser and advice on how to avoid having to pay it see our consumer guide page.
SAFER – (Société d’Aménagement Foncier et d’Etablissement Rural) local government organisation supposed to ensure the proper use of agricultural land; sometimes they will hold pre-emptive rights to buy land.
Saisie Attribution – seizure of funds.
Salon – reception room.
SAM (salle à manger) dining room.
Sans – without (eg sans vis-à-vis = not overlooked).
SCI (Société Civile Immobilière)- a company which can be set up exclusively to purchase property; often used when several families are purchasing jointly.
SdB (salle de bain) bathroom.
SdE (salle d’eau) shower room.
Séjour – living room, lounge.
Sol – ground.
Solde – balance.
Sous-Sol – basement (Garage/Storage).
Standing – high quality (eg Résidence de Standing = prestigious block).
Sur Deux (2) Niveaux – two-storey.
Sur Terrain de … – property size.
Surendettement – excess indebtedness; the lender can propose a different repayment schedule.
Surface Habitable – living space, usually excludes bathrooms and garage – expressed in square metres (sq m).
T – Type (T3, T4) classification of property type and size. The number is usually the number of main rooms including bedrooms, so a T4 will invariably have 3 bedrooms and a living room.
Tableau D’amortissement – monthly repayment schedule; calculated and produced by the lender at the time of the offer.
Tantième – a proportion (an xth part e.g 1/100) of the common parts of a co-propriété owned jointly with other apartment owners.
Taux – (Interest) rate.
Taux de Change – exchange rate.
Taux Effectif Global (TEG) – Annualised Percentage Rate (APR). An interest rate calculated on all the sums paid by the borrower during the life of the loan. It therefore includes the repayment instalments, initial loan administrative fees, expenses related to the surety agreement and insurance premiums.
Taux Fixe – fixed interest rate.
Taux Révisable – variable interest rate.
Taux d’Usure – Bank of France maximum interest rate chargeable on different types of credit.
Taxe Foncière – local annual tax on the ownership of property; in the year of completion, the tax is usually payable pro-rata from date of completion to the end of December.
Taxe d’Habitation – a local annual tax, levied on the owner as at 1st January. Includes television license fee.
TBE (Très Bon État) – very good condition.
Terrain – grounds/land.
Terrasse – terrace.
Testament – will.
Timbres Fiscal – revenue stamp, still required on some official documents.
TME (Taux Mensuel de rendement des emprunts d’Etat) – long-term secondary market interest rate.
TMO (Taux Moyen de rendement des emprunts Obligataires) – mid-market wholesale interest rate.
Toit / Toiture – roof.
Tontine – joint ownership.
Tout à l’Égout – with mains drainage.
Travaux – building works (eg travaux prévus = needing work).
Troisième age – senior citizens (old age pensioners).
TTC (Toutes Taxes Comprise) – including all taxes.
TVA – (Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée) – value added tax.
Urbanisme – town planning.
Usufruit – usufruct, the right to use property.
Valable – valid.
Valeur Locative – market rental rate.
VEFA (Vente en l’Etat Futur d’Achèvement) – purchase of property not yet complete OR homes purchased from plan.
Vendeur – seller.
Vente aux Enchères – sale by auction.
Verger – orchard.
Vestibule – entrance hall.
Viabilisé – pre-equipped with main services.
Viager – method of property sale where the buyer pays rent to the seller until they die, and then takes over the property completely. The initial deposit (see bouquet) and rental rates are determined by actuarial calculations based on the seller’s age.
Virement – transfer, standing order.
Vol de la propriété intellectuelle – theft of Intellectual Property, such as the copying of Best French Mortgage Glossary.
Volets – shutters.
Vue – view.
York (système d’) – payment by piece-work.
ZAC (Zone d’Aménagement Concerté) – development zone supported by central government.
ZAD (Zone d’Aménagement Différé) – a zone where the public sector has the option of compulsory purchase.
ZIF (Zone d’Intervention Foncière) – a zone where the local commune has the option of compulsory purchase.
ZRR (Zone de Revitalisation Rurale) – a development zone in the countryside with reduced property tax on holiday homes.