agents in France are called agents immobilier and the person who
handles the legal aspects of the transaction of buying a French
property is called a Notaire. (Follow the link on the top menu for more
about Notaires). Rather confusingly, some Notaires also have books of
properties for sale. This is because traditionally the French purchased
their properties through the Notaire.
The creation of the European Union, and the subsequent exponential growth of foreign buyers into the French property market, appears to have been the catalyst for the spread of immobiliers.
F.N.A.I.M. (one of the associations of French estate agents) reports that in 2009 - 2010, 60% of older properties in France were purchased through immobiliers; a 15% rise on the 2000 figures, so you will have no trouble finding the offices of agents immobilier on the high streets of most major French towns.
this influx of foreign buyers, looking for houses in France, has
resulted in immobilier's agencies opening even in relatively small
towns. Many of these immobilier in France are bilingual or employ
speaking staff and there are also a fair number of British estate
agents working in France.
Tracking down the offices of French Notaires to look for property is more difficult; they are frequently tucked away in an obscure back street, and often do little or nothing to advertise the fact that they have properties for sale.
On the question of commission, it is normal in France for the
purchaser not the vendor to pay the fees and this includes the
immobilier, and the notaire. Fees from the immobilier can be as high as
5%-10% of the net purchase price.
The displayed price of the property sometimes includes the immobilier's fees in which case they will be marked F.A.I., (Frais d’Agence Inclus). In that instance, the vendor will have paid the immoblier's fees, although you may still in effect be paying for them if the price of the house has been jacked up by the same amount to cover the fees. If the price has not been marked as F.A.I., you will be responsible directly for the immobilier's fees. So it makes sense to verify with the immobilier before making an offer that his total fees are included in the displayed price of the house.
If you chose to go through one of the Internet French property web sites to look for your house in France, they will normally book appointments with French estate agents, on your behalf, to view the properties displayed on their web sites. (Some of them can also provide discounted ferry prices). The Internet company I used did not charge me a fee for this service and so was presumably paid from the commission of the immobilier that I bought my house through. If you are purchasing an expensive property it would be as well to check whether this results in a higher overall fee from the immoblier in order to cover the commission of the internet company.
Don't assume if you are paying the immoblier's fees that they are
working for you. They aren't. They have initially been engaged by the
they are in business to sell property. I found that, as in England,
they had a tendency to play down the defects in a property and talk up
the virtues in order to secure a sale, and in the infamous phrase,
they can sometimes be: "Economical with the truth."
We had one agent, as we were standing in the front room of a french property, swear blind that the house was on a quiet road even as their words were being drowned out by the regular rumble of artics trundling right past the front door.
Another agent, a Brit this one working in France, tried to dismiss a leaning gable end as merely the outside stone wall pulling away from the inner leaf. A visual check inside the property quickly revealed that, by the gap between the floorboards and the wall, the whole gable end would need rebuilding.
This same agent, when later on asked how long a property had been on the market, somewhat evasively, replied vaguely, "Not long." Checking with the Internet property company revealed the exact answer to be two years. While two years may not be an abnormally long time for a property to be on the market in France, as a Brit he would have known that this was a misleading statement to someone used to the quick turnaround of the British market.
Be aware also, that France does not have an equivalent of the strict disclosure laws relating to property sales that exist in both Britain and the United States. So take note, the usual applies:
CAVEAT EMPTOR - BUYER BEWARE.
When buying in France, you could get the opinion of the immoblier about whether to offer less than the asking price for the house. Some French internet estate agencies state that, "Too low an offer could be considered as an insult by the vendor". Whether this is in fact true, or merely a statement designed to keep prices (and thus commission) higher, I leave for you to judge.
However, it is common in Normandy, and this may be true across France, for the vendor to indicate to the agent a minimum price he is prepared to accept when the house goes up for sale. If the property has been on the market for some time he may be ready to sell the house at that stated lower price so always ask the immobilier what the minimum price is.
NEXT PAGE: NOTAIRES IN FRANCE
Acknowledgements: images used on the left in the text area are mainly from morguefile.com, my thanks to biberta, missyredboots, rosevita, doctor_bob, cohdra, mconners, kairily, clarita, scott. m. liddel, and anyone else from morguefile whose image appears here. All the images in the right hand column on each page have been taken by me during my various travels in France and are copyright of buyahouseinfrance.info.