Costs for selecting and buying
a home in France

The role of the estate agent
Who pays the estate agent?
What does the estate agent do for the buyer?
A good or a bad estate agent
English intermediaries
Cost & Benefit Analysis French estate agents
Fair price comparison based on 5%

Case 1: Holiday home in Uzès (30)
Case 2: Old farmhouse with several outbuildings in Auvergne
Case 3: country house with pool in the Dordogne

On this page we want to explain the cost difference between buying with and with out an estate agent in France. In the vast majority of cases without an agent it is cheaper. Further more there is a big difference in service. An estate agent works in principle for the party who has contracted him, namely the seller. Good agents know that with an excellent service to the buyer the sale can go quickly. But how do you know if you as the buyer are with a good agent? A recent study by the DGCCRF (the French Economic Control and Fraud Department) has shown that with three quarters of French agents something was wrong ... Also from the anecdotes of buyers of properties in France (and not only foreign buyers!) we can deduced that certainly not every estate agent in France can be classified as reliable. So in a comparison of buying with or without an agency the differences in price as well as the service are clear. In other words, what does the agent do for you?


Services of an estate agent in France

Regardless of how he presents his sales pitch: an estate agent in France is employed by the seller. The owner who wishes to sell his house will normally go with one, two or more agents in his region. The agent will pass, take photos, draw up a description and put the house on the market. If you are a buyer entering an estate agent, he will present you the houses that he has for sale. This means that you do not get a clear insight into the local housing market, but only in the appropriate houses that the agent has for sale. That seems a little obvious, but it is very important to realize. If you let your search be guided by a single estate agent, you run the risk of missing a large part of the housing market in your chosen region.

Who pays the estate agent?

The seller has a business arrangement with the agent. When the house is sold, the seller must pay the agent. The house prices that you see in the window are therefore gross prices, including the agent’s commission. Though the seller settles the fees, they are of course, simply included in the price. So ultimately they are paid by the buyer. Except when you explicitly state in the Compromis de Vente, you pay the notary fees (for most part admin fees and taxes) on the total amount, including the part of the purchase price the seller will pay to his agent. Something to watch out for, because these are costs which you can avoid through the right determination to be careful.

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What does the agent do for the buyer?
The French estate agent shows you the houses in his file that matches the kind of home you are looking for and that fit your budget. Some agents still have an old folder with photos and prints. However, most use the computer to show their selection. Then they take you to the appropriate homes so you can visit with his help. He will show you the house and answer your questions about the house and its surroundings. A good agent has prepared well and can answer (almost) all your questions and if not then he will contact you on behalf of the owner. But even with a good agent the answers come from the seller and are designed to generate sales, not a neutral and fair view about the property. Sometimes you will be asked to sign a "bon de visite’', with which the agent can proove to his client - the seller - that you have come through his agency. The agent acts in this case as 'vendor'. It is his job to sell you the house.


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A perfect or a bad Estate Agent

A perfect agent acts as an objective intermediary who seeks to ensure that you find exactly the house that suits you. He or she will be honest and informative even (on his own initiative) on the less positive aspects of the offer, so you can make an informed choice. The bad agent will try to push a house down your throat, so the commission can be cashed. He or she will try to hide the negative aspects and if necessary even tell lies. The majority of brokers navigate between the two extremes of a perfect agent and a bad agent. Ultimately it is naturally their aim that you buy something from their selection, otherwise the estate agent has done al this work for nothing.

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English brokers

Overall, everything said above also goes for the English brokers who position themselves as ‘Conseiller Immobilier’. They work under the wings of French agents and touch a part of the commission on successful sales. English intermediaries generally have a great advantage for you and a big disadvantage. The advantage is that you can talk in English about the house, you can ask questions in English and get English answrers. The disadvantage is that many English agents are not competent. The majority of these 'consultants' have no relevant qualifications or architectural experience, nor do they have much knowledge of French rules with respect to municipal policies, legal protection of the buyer, zoning or building regulations. They are just hired hands, getting paid to sell houses.

Cost- and benefit analysis

The prices of the agents are relatively high as a result of the French system, the expensive (liability) insurance and the high promotion and housing costs. Though we must point out that a business savvy salesman with a more expensive house can negotiate a lower rate, or even agree to a fixed rate. Nevertheless, the agents in France by Dutch standards are very expensive. Moreover, even by French standards. Therefore we see more and more owners who are trying to sell their homes without an agent. In France, more than 50% of all sales take place 'entre particuliers' (privately). For you as a buyer - who ultimately pays the bill - this is worth even more. For you, the French estate agent does not do much more than present his own merchandise. Possibly supplemented by a reference to a friendly insurance company, bank or contractor and provide a (sometimes false) sense of security. In a comparison of the agency commission of 5%-10% with the level of service for those who must cough up the fee, namely the buyer, it can only be said that the relationship is completely lost. We calmly dare to say that the agency commissions (made even higher by another 19.6% VAT) are ridiculously high in France. Of course, service costs money, but you can for much less money have a much better service, as we shall demonstrate.

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A fair price, based on 5% commission

Below, we discuss the various service providers and their prices. We set those prices against those of the estate agents. The average commission is 6% in France, with peaks above 10% for cheaper homes in areas where relatively few agents operate. In addition, there is already a chain called Quatre Pour Cent (4%), who charges this low percentage. Which incidentally is still twice as expensive as the Dutch real estate market. Even though the French agent will clearly try to tell you that to negotiate is uncommon in France, nothing is less true. Negotiation is in fact quite common in France. Let our number examples in all fairness show that the agents are willing to sink a bit in price for the above services, and start from 5%. Also let us exclude the notary fees. Whether you buy a house with or without an agent, the buyer always pays the notary fees.

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Case 1: Nice holiday home in Uzès (30).
Net asking price owner: €100,000.
Agents commission 5%: € 5,000.

This house which you found by yourself on a person to person website, is with the agent, in his shop window for 105,000 euro. You have taken a special trip from the Netherlands to the south of France in order to visit the house. You become totally in love. But communication in French does not go entirely smoothly. You turn for the help of ‘30 to Vendre’. Who ask for 1.4% plus 10% of the negotiated outcome, but with a minimum charge of 2,350 euro. Let's assume that we are dealing with a very stubborn seller, who will only drop down 1000 euro. You have to pay ‘30 à Vendre’ the minimum amount of 2’350 euro. The price of the house is now 99,000 euro so you finally pay 101,350 euros instead of the brokers price of 105,000 euros. Nice touch. But the real profit is of course that during the whole process you are accompanied by someone Dutch at your side!

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Case 2: Old farmhouse in the Auvergne
with numerous outbuildings.

Net owner asking price €300,000.
Agency commission: €15,000.

Let’s suppose you want to move to France and earn a supplement to your early retirement with the rental of lodgings. You're still busy with the language course, so in any event you need help understanding all that is needed. You have heard from acquaintances that already live in the Auvergne that this building is for sale. It is the home of the aunt of the neighbor of their bakery (this is often how houses are found in France). The owner has not yet placed the house with an agent, but unless you respond quickly, he will do that and then the asking price will go up from 300,000 euros to 315,000 euros. In the short term you can not free your self to travel to the Auvergne so you turn to ‘Check Property Assist’ for a comprehensive investigation of the property itself, the environmental risks, the structural state, a financial budget for the rooms to rent out, a description of the work necessary and research in the community and the DDE to see if a gites or B&B is possible at this site. This report will cost around 2,000 euro.
The research results are good and you go to see the property. The owner comes to you with a price, which is the asking price, but also with a long list of various old materials and equipment that are dotted in and around the old farmhouse. With a little French and some sign language you get by. You take pictures and a description of all materials, just in Dutch. Remember, you are clever enough to own the farm and want to restore it using original materials.
Back in the Netherlands you ask ‘Compromise de Vente’ to continue assisting you in the sale. These advisers charge 1% of the net asking price, ie 3,000 euro. They look for a notary, ensuring that the notary will draw up a good Compromis de Vente, in which all your wishes are accounted for. Of course the all-important list of goodies, for you, the notary and the seller translated into French. Also in a personel meeting they can explain the overall compromise de vente in understandable language and communicate further with the notary on any matters which still have to be settled before the signing of the Acte Authentique, the deed of conveyance and the all agreed dissolving and suspending conditions. The compromise de Vente holds all the deadlines and key dates you need to keep an eye on. You just need to travel to France for the signing of the Acte Authentique and can there by immediately make a start on the renovation.
You have spent a total of 305,000 euros, instead of 315,000 (+ the acquisition cost of movable property) if you had waited until the house was offered to the agent and you were assisted throughout the process by experts who were on your side.

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Case 3: Luxury périgourdine with pool.

Net owner asking price of 600,000 euro.
Agency commission: 30,000 euro.

Let’s suppose that you find this beautiful house in the Dordogne, which is up for sale at 630,000 euro with an estate agent. On the person-to-person house for sale website: Immogo, the owner has put his Périgourdine up for sale at 610,000 euro. If he sells through Immogo he pays 5,500 euro for advertising costs. You start from 610,000 euro.
But you don’t want to buy a can of worms and you want to be sure that all the positive claims by the owner about his house and the location are true. You ask the specialist ‘Check Property Assist’ for a comprehensive investigation of the property itself, its location, the environmental risks and the structural condition. This report will cost you around 1,500 euros.
The research results are good and you decide to actually buy the house. You speak enough French to manage the negotiations with the owner, but not enough to fathom out the legal language of the purchase contract. You want to check that there is nothing crazy in the contract and to have everything explained to you. To do this right you spend 500 euro with ‘Compromise de’ and are reassured that your interests are included in the purchase contract. If you do not negotiate further, you will now pay a total of 612,000 euro. Despite paying for the help of objective advisors you ultimately pay 18,000 euro less than you would have through the agent.
The owner, who at first grumbled about all the investigations and external interference, is finally happy. Because after deducting the cost of advertising, he nets about 604,500 euro. That is 4,500 euro above his original net asking price. You part as good friends.

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