No matter if you intend to buy a French property to live in or rent out for the tourist trade, the most sensible thing you can do is organise a building survey from a reputed chartered building surveyor with experience living and operating in the country.


Unlike in the UK where full property surveys are conducted as a matter of course before a sale contract is complete, the French system is slightly different. Here, pre-purchase surveys focus primarily on the health and safety of the building, the natural and industrial risks, and its greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact.


These statutory surveys are compulsory by French law and are grouped into a single file known as the DDT, which stands for dossier de diagnostic technique (technical diagnosis file). It is the seller who is responsible for organising and commissioning these statutory surveys before the sale and purchase agreement is drawn up.


Below, we cover what you can expect to find in the DDT, and why you also need a full building survey conducted by a RICS chartered building surveyor on top of the DDT.

What’s Inside the Compulsory DDT?

The dossier de diagnostic technique contains nine survey reports. These are as follows:

  1. Asbestos Inspection– Concerns buildings with permits issued before July 1st, 1997. This report contains a list of any materials found in the property that contain asbestos.
  2. Wastewater Inspection– Applies to all properties that are not connected to the public water drainage system and includes a septic tank survey if one is present. Designed to confirm that the property’s wastewater system complies with regulations.
  3. LeadInspection – Concerns buildings built before January 1st, 1949. The report identifies if lead is present in the property – such as in lead paintwork – and summarises health and safety precautions to take if any is found.
  4. Electrical Inspection – Applies to buildings over 15 years old. Designed to reveal the condition of electrical installations in the property.
  5. Natural and Ecological Risk Inspection –Concerns all properties deemed to be in an area that is subject to natural risks, such as flooding or landslides. Ultimately, this inspection results in a certificate that states whether a property is at risk from a natural disaster.
  6. Gas Inspection – Concerns properties over 15 years old with a natural gas installation. The report outlines the condition of all gas installations in the property.
  7. Termite/Fungal/Insect Inspection – Obligatory for properties in certain areas where insect, termite or fungal infestations are known to be rife. The report details whether an infestation has been found in the building.
  8. Surface Area Inspection –Applies to residential or commercial real estate in a communal property. The report provides a measurement of the total surface area of the living space within the building.
  9. Energy Performance Inspection – Applies to all buildings. Known as the diagnostic de performance energétique(DPE), this inspection provides a diagnosis on the building’s energy performance and its energy efficiency. All properties for sale must display the building’s energy rating as determined by the DPE.

Read more: What Is a DPE Report in France?

Why You Need a Full Structural Building Survey

Though not compulsory, it is nonetheless crucial to have a professional building survey conducted on top of the DDT before purchasing a French property. Property surveys are designed to benefit the buyer – unearthing any structural damage and the likely cost of repairs or any remedial work that may be required post purchase. Depending on the type of survey you choose, you will also receive an unbiased property valuation, as well as advice on how likely you are to obtain planning permission for any improvements you may wish to make.


Read more: An Easy Guide on How to Get French Planning Permission


The three main types of property survey are as follows:

  • Level 1 – Condition Report: Level 1 building surveys are designed to provide the buyer with a brief assessment of the property’s overall condition and identify any urgent defects. Best suited for new-build homes in good condition.
  • Level 2 – Home Buyer Report: Most suitable for properties over 10 years old in reasonable condition, the Level 2 survey report is more in depth than the Level 1 and designed to identify if there are any underlying structural problems with the building, such as damp or subsidence. The Level 2 report also usually includes a property valuation.
  • Level 3 – Full Structural Survey:Level 3 survey reports are the most comprehensive available, providing buyers with an in-depth analysis of the property’s structural condition, as well as advice on defects, remedial works, and maintenance options. The Level 3 report is recommended for older properties or those in visible need of repair.

Read more: The Top 3 Types of Property Surveys to Use in 2023

Charles Mackintosh – RICS Chartered Building Surveyor in the South of France

All surveys are in the buyer’s interest and no French property purchase should be made without one.


If you’re considering buying a home in the South of France, get in touch with RICS chartered Building Surveyor Charles Mackintosh. With over 30 years’ experience living and operating in the region, Charles specialises in giving English language property surveys and advice to overseas buyers.