Useful Vocabulary for your French Property Search

Here's a French property buying glossary which includes the most likely terms you'll come across when you're reading French estate agents' details.

Useful Vocabulary for your French Property Search
Photo by Romain Vignes / Unsplash

I've put together this glossary to help you whether you're browsing casually for French property or looking seriously for 'the one'. As you would expect, French estate agents use highly focussed vocabulary and some rather specific jargon when they're talking about houses. Although you might have learned some basic names of rooms and household appliances at school, I very much doubt that you were taught about septic tanks, half-timbered buildings, and mains drainage! I remember how many times I had to resort to a dictionary when I bought my first house in France, even though I spoke quite good French. This list includes the most likely terms you'll come across when you're reading estate agents' details in their offices, on the portals, or on their websites. I hope you find it useful. Do let me know if you come across any key words or phrases I haven't included!

This vocabulary concentrates on the pre-purchase phase, so I will not include much in the way of legal, planning, and tax terminology. The glossary does not constitute legal or financial advice and you should always seek appropriate advice from professionals.


  • abri – a small outbuilding, literally a shelter which provides shade, so this is likely to have an agricultural bias.
  • acceuil – reception, anything from a porch to a full reception hall.
  • acquéreur – purchaser.
  • actuellement loué – currently rented out.
  • agence immobilière – estate agency.
  • agent immobilier – estate agent. The acronym FNAIM is the Federation Nationale des Agents Immobilier.
  • agglomère – chipboard.
  • alimentation - a supply of services such as water or electricity.
  • aménagement – layout, modification, conversion.
  • aménager – to convert, or to rearrange, e.g., aménager les combles (convert the attic).
  • ancien / ancienne – old.
  • ardoises – slate tiles.
  • assainissement – sanitation.
  • assainissement conforme – compliant sanitation, normally indicates that a sanitation conformity certificate is available for recent works or a new build.
  • atelier – workshop.
  • attenant – attached, contiguous; generally used for land and gardens, e.g., jardin non attenant (garden not immediately adjacent to the house).


  • baies vitrées – bay windows.
  • balcon – balcony.
  • bastide – a bastide is a small fortified medieval town. It is also a term for a manor house, usually in Provence. You'll sometimes see the term 'style bastide' used to define substantial period homes with country style decor.
  • bâtiment – building.
  • bergerie – a barn for sheep.
  • béton – concrete.
  • bilan de santé immobilier - property survey.
  • boiserie – woodwork.
  • bricolage – DIY.
  • buanderie – laundry – usually refers to a laundry room, or what we might call a utility room.


  • cachet – ofeten 'avec cachet' character.
  • cantou – inglrnook fireplace.
  • carrelage – ceramic tiles.
  • carrelé – tiled.
  • cave – cellar.
  • cellier – pantry, larder – may be a cupboard, a room, or even a cellar, but generally a cellier is for wine or food.
  • chai – wine cellar.
  • chalet – a cottage or hut, usually wooden.
  • chambre – bedroom.
  • charpenterie – carpentry (you are more likely to see menuiserie – joinery).
  • château – castle.
  • champêtre – rural.
  • champignons, traitement de – dry rot treatment.
  • chantier – building site.
  • chaudière – water heater.
  • chauffage – heating.
  • chauffage central – central heating (you may also see the abbreviation 'ch c').
  • chauffage fuel – oil heating.
  • chauffe-eau – hot water tank.
  • chaumière – traditional Normandy-style thatched cottage.
  • chéminee – fireplace (usually), chimney – don't be deceived by this cognate, as chéminee is more often used for a fireplace than a chimney.
  • chêne – oak.
  • clos – enclosure, often a walled vineyard.
  • clôture/clôturé – fence/fenced.
  • colombage – half-timbered period homes, typical of Normandy, Brittany, and Alsace.
  • colombier – dovecote or pigeon house.
  • combles – always plural, literally means 'rafters', but used to mean attic, e.g., aménager les combles (convert the attic) – you will also see the word grenier (attic).
  • commodités – local facilities e.g., schools, supermarket, pharmacy, doctor, bar, tabac, restaurant etc).
  • construite – built.
  • copropriété – this usually refers to a co-ownership of an apartment, but you may see it in connection with a house within a development. It is not a leasehold – there is no concept of 'leasehold' in France. Each owner owns the private areas of their property and shares a percentage of the common areas along with all the other co-owners. Common areas can include shared hallways, garden spaces, parking areas, or facilities such as a swimming pool. The legal provisions in the preliminary sale contract are similar to those in a contract for a freehold property, but there will be additional clauses to cover the terms of the co-ownership.
  • cour – courtyard or yard.
  • couloir – corridor.
  • crépi – plaster, render.
  • cuisine d’étè – literally a 'summer kitchen', may refer to a fully functioning outdoor kitchen or just a BBQ area.
  • cuisine américaine – open-plan kitchen.
  • cuisine – kitchen. You will also see the term 'aucune cuisine' (literally 'no kitchen'). This may mean that kitchen facilities are open plan, that there are none at all (e.g., a barn conversion opportunity), or that a kitchen is present but not functional (dilapidated, wiring and drainage not connected, etc).
  • coupe de coeur – literally a 'blow to the heart', this means that you will fall in love with the property on first sight.
  • coup de foudre – literally a 'lightning strike', meaning as above.


  • dallage – paving
  • dalle – flag stone
  • débarras – box room
  • délabré – dilapidated
  • demeure – residence, a slightly old-fashioned word, occasionally used to refer to a larger or more pretigious second home where extended family can gather.
  • dépendance – outbuilding.
  • donnant sur – opening onto.
  • double vitrage – double glazing.
  • droit de passage – right of way.
  • duplex – maisonette.


  • éclairage – lighting
  • écurie – stable
  • escalier – staircase
  • étage – upstairs, the upper floor – as a rule of thumb, 'à l’étage' means on the first floor if you are British, and on the second floor if you are American, however, it can be a bit confusing as it can also be used to mean one storey up from wherever was previously described, or wherever you are now.
  • bon état – good condition.
  • évier – kitchen sink


  • F counts – in Europe it is common to see the abbreviation F4 for example. F counts usually refer only to the living rooms and bedrooms, so an F4 would probably have a sitting room and three bedrooms. You may also see 'T counts' which are more common for apartments.
  • (trois) faces – semi-detached, (may be abbreviated to 3F), see also mitoyenne.
  • ferme – farm. You may also see fermette (little farm).
  • fioul – oil fuel (for heating).
  • fosse septique – septic tank.
  • frais d’agence inclus – estate agent’s fees included. You may just see the acronym 'FAI'.
  • foyer – a hearth, a reception hall, a household living together (depending on context).
  • frais de notaire inclus – notaire’s fees included.
  • frais de notaire réduits – notaire’s fees discounted/reduced.
  • fuelle – heating oil.


  • gouttière – gutter.
  • grange – barn.
  • grenier – attic (see also 'combles').


  • haie – hedge
  • honoraires – fees
  • hypothèque – mortgage


  • immobilier – 'property' or 'real estate'.
  • individuel(le) – detached. A maison individuelle is often the expression used for an estate property, see also pavillon.
  • isolation – insulation


  • jardin – garden



  • lavabo – wash basin
  • lave-mains – hand basin
  • laverie – laundry
  • lingerie – washing room
  • localisation – location, location, location!
  • locataire occupant – tenant in occupation
  • location – rental
  • loggia – covered terrace.
  • longère – a long, narrow house, typically inhabited by farmers and artisans in Brittany and Normandy, which may have living accomodation at one end and a barn or workshop at the other. May be 'en colombages', i.e. half-timbered.
  • actuellement loué – currently rented out.
  • lumineuses – light and bright.


  • maison – house.
  • maison de bourg – town house.
  • maison de campagne – country house
  • maison de maitre – literally a master's house, usually a formal, elegant period home which once belonged to someone of the upper classes. Sometimes translated as a mansion, but they can be relatively modest in size.
  • maison des amis – normally some kind of guest accomodation, from an outbuilding or to complete cottage.
  • manoir – a period residence often described as a small castle, larger and more significant than a farm.
  • mas provençal – a type of stone farmhouse typical of Provence or southern France, often with distinctive crescent shaped roof tiles.
  • menuiserie – joinery.
  • la mérule – dry rot.
  • mètres carrés – square metres.
  • meubles – furniture.
  • meublé — furnished.
  • mitoyenne – attached — generally means semi-detached, but may also mean terraced. Sometimes, but not always, this is clarified in the text, e.g., villa mitoyenne d'un seul cote (villa attached on only one side).
  • moquette – carpet
  • monument historique – listed building
  • moulin – mill.
  • mur – wall


  • neuf – new
  • niveau – level



  • papier peint – wallpaper
  • parquet – wood floorparpaing – breeze-block.
  • pavillon – a type of post-war house built from the late 1950s to the 1980s. Note the spelling – it is not a pavilion! These are generally detached houses set in middle class suburban estates. There are about 20 million pavillons in France!
  • peinture – paint
  • pelouse – lawn
  • permis de construire – planning permission.
  • pièce – room – you may see this abbreviated to 'P'. Room counts, e.g., 4P, usually refer only to the living rooms and bedrooms. See also F counts.
  • pièce à vivre – living room
  • pièce principale – the main room – usually the sitting room.
  • pierre – stone
  • piscine – swimming pool.
  • piscine hors-sol or hors-terre – above ground swimming pool.
  • plafond – ceiling
  • plâtre – plaster
  • (de) plein pied – bungalow, a single storey property.
  • portail – garden gate
  • poutres - wooden beams
  • premier étage – the first floor, see also étage.
  • propriété – property.
  • plomberie – plumbing.
  • propriétaire – owner
  • proximité – close to.
  • prêt immobilier – property loan, i.e. mortgage
  • puit – well.



  • raccord – connection
  • à rafraîchir – literally 'to be refreshed', but means it's in need of decoration. As for estate agents in other countries, this may be an understatement!
  • à rénover – to be renovated (requires renovation)
  • refait neuf – newly restored.
  • remise – barn.
  • rénové – renovated, you may see the phrase 'entièrement rénové' (renovated throughout).
  • à restaurer - to restore.
  • rez-de-chaussée – ground floor (you will also see the abbreviation rdc).


  • salle de bain – a bathroom.
  • salle d’eau – a shower room, usually includes toilet.
  • salon – a dining room.
  • salle a manger – dining room.
  • sans vis-à-vis – not overlooked.
  • séjour – a living room or sitting room. This may or may not include a dining area. Sometimes this is more explicit, and you may see two rooms hyphenated together, e.g., séjour-salon.
  • sol – ground.
  • souillarde – scullery.
  • sous offre – under offer.
  • sous-sol – the basement. This often refers to anything below ground or living level, and may be a semi-basement
  • surface habitable – habitable space, normally shown in square metres. This measurement usually excludes bathrooms and garages.


  • T counts (T=type) – in Europe it is common to see the abbreviation T4 for example. T counts usually refer only to the living rooms and bedrooms, so a T4 would probably have a sitting room and three bedrooms. You may also see 'F counts'. 'T counts' are more common for apartments.
  • tantiéme – common areas of a copropriété, owned with other owners.
  • tapis – carpet
  • TBE – acronym for 'très bon état' – very good condition.
  • terrain – land, grounds.
  • toit – roof.
  • toiture – roofing.
  • torchis – cob, found between the timbers in old colombages buildings.
  • tontine – a type of joint ownership
  • tout à l'égout – mains drainage.
  • travaux à prévoir – work needed (literally 'predictable').
  • trois faces – semi-detached, (may be abbreviated to 3F), see also mitoyenne.
  • TTC – acronym for toutes taxes comprise - all taxes included, including sales tax. If the price isn't TTC, you'll need to add stamp duty to the asking price.



  • à vendre – for sale.
  • verger – orchard.
  • vestibule – entrance hall.
  • viager – a type of property transaction which is very common in France, whereby the seller remains in occupation, and the buyer makes a down payment (the 'bouquet') followed by a regular series of payments throughout the seller's remaining lifetime. Sellers are often widows or widowers, less commonly couples, who need a regular source of income to allow them to keep their homes. For the buyer these are a huge gamble, as you can't tell how long the seller will live and you may end up over-paying, but viagers can be a worthwhile strategy if you want to invest and have no immediate plans to use the property yourself, for example, if you are middle-aged and looking to secure a retirement home for the future. The parties often negotiate the viager with the help of a lawyer and without the participation of banks or insurance companies.
  • verser un acompte – to put down a deposit.
  • villa – a luxurious detached house, often with a swimming pool and a large garden. 
  • sans vis-à-vis – not overlooked.
  • vitrage – glazing.
  • vitre – glass.
  • voisins – neighbours.
  • volets – shutters.
  • voûtes – vaulted ceilings.
  • vue dégagée – open view.





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