This post is the second part of this series about real estate "dos and donts" in and around Uzège. Remember that you can download the full brochure here.
Should I use an estate agent?
The majority of overseas buyers in France buy via estate agents, as this is a familiar process to them, and they are more likely to encounter someone who speaks English. Obviously, only if your French is good enough should you attempt to handle your property search on your own. French estate agents have a duty to provide professional assistance and guidance throughout the buying/selling process, including liaison with notaire. Using a registered estate agent is your guaranty in France that you will have legal recourse in case something goes wrong. Make sure the agent you select is a member of a registered body such as FNAIM, SNPI or UNPI. Do not use an estate agent without visiting their office and viewing the setup.
How much is a house worth?
It is very difficult to value properties in France. There simply isn’t the huge array of statistics and comparable evidence that is available in the United-Kingdom, in the United-States or elsewhere – where most people know the value of their home to within 5%. So home owners in France have to rely on what they read in the press, or hear from their friends, to decide the value of their property. This obviously leads to unrealistic prices more often than not. And it is only after a few months (or even few years...) that home owners understand that if they actually want to sell they need to lower their expectations. This is why you may see the same property on the market for years.
Same property, different prices?
Home owners in France usually ask local agents for appraisals, but in the end they often decide on their own what price they want for their house – known as the “prix net vendeur” (net price received by the seller) – and choose which estate agents will represent them. Appointed agents then receive a written mandate from the owner which describes the house, the “prix net vendeur” and specifies the agency fees, which is usually 4%-8% of the property’s price. This explains how you can find the same house offered at two different prices: if the owner wants €400,000, then one agent charging 4% may have it in his window for €420,000 while another agent next door will offer it for €429,000 because he charges 6% (all prices include VAT at 19.6%).
French property law is strict: agents have to be licensed, and standards of professionalism are normally high. The problem is not the agent, it’s the system. There is no MLS (multiple listing system) in France. For that reason, owners looking to sell their house in France will appoint four or five different agents or more – which translates into lots of confusion between agents – and prospective buyers. Different prices, or waste if time for all involved as when one agent has sold a house, he will seldom go around and inform the others agents. More often than that’s because the owner has not bothered to tell him which other agents they have appointed in the first place.
Who (really) pays the agent’s commission?
The property owner does. French law indicates that the commission is deducted from the sale’s price by the notaire at the time of the final agreement. For that reason, some people say that the buyer pays the agent’s fee. But in truth, it is the owner who hires the estate agent – and who pays for his professional services out of the sales proceeds for his property.
Should I use a property finder?
Property finders work independently from estate agents to scour the market for properties which fit their client's criteria. Their effectiveness stems from their ability to do find your dream property relatively quickly – which is a function of their knowledge of a given market. Unfortunately, Uzège is too small a micro market to justify the time investment of a good property finder. Hence we suggest that you use estate agents as property finders.