House-hunting tips from the experts

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Here are five house hunting tips from my colleagues in The French Property Finders network:

1. The internet is a handy research tool and a place to begin but there is no substitute for getting out there and viewing houses – lots of houses. Usually our property finders will view up to 80 houses before narrowing down to a short-lit of about eight. In my experience, all those hours trawling property sites on the internet so often turn out to be a waste of time as, more often than not, the houses shown are no longer available (sometimes they never were) or are pictured carefully cropped so as to hide the noisy road, railway line or sewage farm. 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 – 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. Agents operate very differently here too; you won’t be given a handy map with the exact location of the property marked on it because agents are far too worried that they will be cut out of the sale so property details will only give a very vague location, often not even the name of the closest village. Plus most agents give out only the most basic information about each property; certainly no ‘to-scale’ floor plans, nor even many photos (again so as not to give away the location or because photos are more likely to put off potential buyers). Which means you really do need to view a large number of very unsuitable properties here before finding ‘the one’.

3. A professional on your side – The seller has the agent working for them, on their side. Property finders work exclusively for the buyer not the seller. They will spend weeks doing all the time-consuming research, 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.

4. Private sales – buying privately can be an appealing route to take but it’s important that you understand the French property market first. 30% of people buy French property privately (entre particuliers). This rises even higher when you take just French buyers/sellers into account.  Websites like or are widely used. The most common reason people buy French property privately is to avoid estate agency fees. These vary between 5% and 10% depending on the the sale price.

5. Local knowledge and expertise – We are here, on the ground, tapped into the local property market with local knowledge and contacts knowing people, properties, prices and understanding what’s going on. Moreover, we know what the market is doing, where prices are going, what is good value and what is not.
Many think that we provide our services only to the super-wealthy.  Not true, our clients have budgets ranging from €100,000 Euros upwards and we find and secure for our clients any type of property from renovation projects to manoirs, barns to châteaux, holiday homes to businesses and everything in between. If you want the best choice of property for sale in France within your budget, then you need a property finder.

In an increasingly busy, competitive and international world, engaging a professional property buying agent to find your home in France is just good common sense and probably the best decision you will make this year if not ever.

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