Second home in France: how to save on running costs

Tax reductions and aid for renovation work can also help boost investment value

Second homes are eligible for several government grants to improve their energy efficiency
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It has become more expensive to own a second home in France in recent years due to the higher cost of living and new (and old) taxes targeting them, but help is still available. We look at how second home owners can manage running costs and use grants to boost their value.

More than four million people own second homes in France, and certain areas are seeking to limit their spread in the future.

A law has been proposed to the French parliament seeking to prevent the construction of more second homes in areas where the the rate of second home owners is over 15%.

This comes after a series of tax reforms that are apparently unfriendly to second homes, including the suppression of taxe d’habitation (but not for second homes), the taxe sur les logements vacants and the taxe d’habitation sur les logements vacants.

In more than 3,700 communes, second-home owners also have to pay a ‘secondary residence housing surcharge (surtaxe d'habitation résidence secondaire), which can be as much as 5-60% of the municipal share of the taxe d'habitation.

Read more: Tax differences between main and second homes in France

The cost of owning a second home

On average, running a second home costs at least 1-5% of the purchase price each year according to estimates by Le Figaro.

This figure is on top of other running costs, such as potential property wealth tax (l'impôt sur la fortune immobilière) and house insurance.

Neither does it include the cost of extra services such as internet, or maintenance. Indeed, the maintenance costs for a second home can be far higher than for a main home, particularly if the second home is in a touristic area with fewer handymen or building contractors and more wearing weather such as sea spray, damp, sand, salt or snow.

Some authorities in touristic areas also require owners to carry out regular renderings, which can cost around €40/m² for an exposed wall. Wooden facades and terraces also require regular varnishing or painting, as well as fungicide treatment. 

Older buildings - which, with their charm and character, might appeal more as a second home - will also need more upkeep than new builds - and require more specialised contractors

What financial assistance is available for second homes?

Second homes are eligible for several grants including:

  • The Prime Energie - not to be confused with MaPrimeRénov' (which only works for main homes), this bonus is intended to improve the home’s energy efficiency. You can apply on the official website here. The payment is made via your electricity or gas provider, however revenue thresholds apply.

  • VAT reductions for home improvements - certain purchases and building work are eligible for reduced VAT (at 5.5% or 10%), including having a new boiler or kitchen fitted. A full list of eligible improvements is available on the official website here.

  • Taxe foncière exemptions - Renovations that improve the energy efficiency of your second home can make it eligible for a 50% to 100% reduction in the taxe foncière bill for up to three years, depending on your commune. For this to apply, you must have spent at least €10,000 on improving the energy efficiency via a company certified RGE.

Read more: Home renovation grants simplified in France from today 

Other ways to recoup costs

One popular way to manage the cost of a second home is to rent it out when you are not using it. 

Popular websites for this include and Airbnb. 

The latter may be especially ideal if you have an unusual property, as it has categories such as ‘OMG!’, ‘tiny house’, ‘treehouses’, ‘rural cabins’ etc.

Read more: Do Airbnb hosts need a siret number in France?

Sites like The Collectionist, Belvilla, and Villanovo may be good options for particularly charming properties.

If your property fulfils a particular niche, you could try different types of rentals on platforms like GreenGo or Canopy & Stars, which offer glamping-style yurts, chalets, cabins, and shepherd’s huts.

Listing your property online does require work, however; including good quality photos, descriptions, guest communication, gathering reviews, hospitality touches, and taking care of cleanliness and guest turnarounds. 

Many homeowners hire a management company to do this for them. 

Other options include renting your home through holiday cottage companies, which can also take care of the admin and management for you.

Another way of cutting costs on a second home is to own it with another family or owner, and operate your own informal ‘timeshare’ system. This means you both get to benefit from the house at different times, but split the costs. 

This can have its pitfalls, such as agreeing on when to use it, and how to share out repair costs if something breaks while one family is staying, but overall it may help both families to save money.