How to buy your house in France – some options


1. The internet
A great way to start but also a great time waster; it is very easy to idle away many hours of time you haven’t really got looking at houses that frankly are not going to suit your needs. In France there are no multiple listing sites so you will need to trawl through hundreds of sites to come up with a list of potential properties and then spend many more hours trying to persuade agents to return your calls or emails and arrange viewings. If you manage that, the likelihood is that 95% of the properties you make the trip to view will be nothing like their descriptions and photographs and you will have to start all over again which is fine if you have all the time in the world…

2. Estate Agents Windows
This is a method that works in many countries but France does things differently. It is not usual practice to turn up to agencies in France and get given a handful of property details that you can go and scout from the outside or arrange to view then and there. Here, an estate agent will expect you to make an appointment in advance, lasting half a day or longer and will then show you what they have for sale by driving you around to what may turn out to be a variety of unsuitable properties. Remember that the estate agent is there to sell you a house and it doesn’t matter which one; he gets paid just the same. No agent in France will tell you the exact location of a property and let you go and have a look yourself – they are too worried about being cut out of the deal and that is just not the way things work here. And don’t expect them to keep in touch with you once you have left their office either.

3. Magazines
Not a bad way of narrowing down areas of France that you think you may like but, as a method of finding property for sale, these are becoming less useful as national agents will often advertise together properties they have for sale all over France and for all different budgets so the likelihood of finding the one for you in such a narrow selection is very small. Also, beware private advertisements in magazines because the owner’s pricing of their property can be a long way out from actual prices in the area.

4. Notaires
A Notaire deals with the property conveyancing side of buying a house but they can also act to sell properties and currently 15% of French property is sold via Notaires. However, while being good at the legal side of a property purchase, they are less good at the marketing so very few display property they have for sale or advertise them so you need to go in to their offices and ask them what they have for sale – and don’t expect glossy brochures or photos; usually they have a typewritten list with very few details at all and again, you will need to make appointments to view any that they have to sell on a day which suits them which may well be in three weeks time.

5. Property Finders
Property finders work exclusively for the buyer not the seller. They will start by asking you for a list of your most important criteria for your French property and they will then spend a few weeks, doing all the time-consuming research outlined above including looking at agency sales, notaire sales and private sales until they have a short-list of houses that meet your requirements. They will write up detailed reports on each possible property, provide you with expert advice and keep your search on track (it’s very easy to get carried away), arrange viewings to fit in with your timings and advise you on each area and village when you view. And finally they will negotiate the deal for you, ensure that you buy the right property at the right price and in the right location and hold your hand throughout the buying process.

Of course I am biased and it is clear which of these methods above I would recommend for anyone looking to buy a house in France so let me just finish by saying that the French property market is very specific; it is not the same as any other country in the world and it is very easy to waste a lot of time, energy and money looking for the perfect house in France if you don’t have a professional helping you through the process.

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