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French Estate Agents

Estate agents in France - how the system works

Why use a French estate agent?

Only about half of the French use an estate agent when buying or selling their property. Instead, they deal with a notaire directly in an attempt to lower costs. However, British and other international buyers almost always buy through an estate agent. When you don't know how the system operates and can't speak the language, an agent will guide you through the process and save you from getting into a lot of tricky problems. But you should be aware that the estate agency system in France is very different to that in the UK.

How to choose your French estate agent

French estate agents are heavily regulated. This means that the person showing you around a property must be qualified, licensed and insured. Every agent must have a carte professionnelle, which is renewed every year. Even over the internet, the agents should be able to provide proof of this. Ask your estate agent if they have one and if they don't, move on to one that does.

One property, many estate agents

In the UK property is usually sold exclusively by one agent. In France the opposite is true. Most properties will be on the market with many different agents. As a result, an agent will rarely tell you specifically where a property is located - as they'll worry about losing out on commission. Instead they will always insist on accompanying you on a visit (and get you sign a bon de visite, which proves that they showed you the property). As you can imagine - with every visit being accompanied the estate agent's diary can get very full. If you are due to visit France and want to look at properties it is worth contacting estate agents well in advance of your trip to get in the diary. If you just stroll into the estate agents office it is likely that the agent won't be able to show you anything because his diary will already be full. However, make sure you're not going to spend all of your time seeing the same property with different agents!

French estate agencies: particular differences

Generally, French estate agents tend to be very helpful but make sure you give them as much information about your desired property as possible. Be warned that the particulars you are given are quite different to the ones you'll see in the UK. They tend to only provide you with the essential details and do not necessarily include a photo. However, properties in Paris and on the Riviera will normally come with more lavish and in-depth particulars.

Sealing the deal: the legalities and financial implications

Once you've found the home you want, the agent will write up a promesse de vente, which will be sent to the notaire. The notaire will then finish all paperwork and tie up any loose ends so that the deal can be finalised. You should ask in advance who pays the estate agent's fees. In some areas the burden is on the seller while in others it is the buyer who must meet the cost. However, the notaire's fees are always paid for by the buyer.

Buying a property in France - usually a straightforward process

Every year thousands of British people buy a property abroad. Whilst the vast majority of these people experienced no difficulties and were very happy with the result, it is always best to keep your wits about you and be prepared to challenge your agent on any issue you are not happy about, as would, of course, be the case with buying in the UK.

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