The various ways to search
and find a house in France

Look for a house in France through the Internet
On the spot research
A brief outline of the French housing market

Look for a house in France via the Internet

Looking for a suitable house in France begins at home on the computer. The French sellers have now found the Internet as well. Unfortunately many sites focus purely on quantity. Most offer ad space for both individuals and agents, which often makes it impossible to filter the private offers. For example on many sites you find the same interesting-looking houses, only to find out that they have been put online by an agency. These same houses are often also for sale on other sites. Perhaps directly from the seller, but it could just as likely be offfered by the same or another agent. Fortunately, there are a few sites that do allow you to make the distinction in their search engine or that only explicitly accept offers of individuals. We have listed them below. A list that is not complete and hopefully will be added to regularly. We restrict ourselves to sites containing only homes from individuals and only in France, without any relationship to estate agents.

De Particulier à Particulier (F)
This is the market leader in France. A site with a huge amount of properies on offer, which moreover is growing daily with thousands of new homes. The site is a derivative of a classified ad paper found in most kiosks. The seller can choose from different ad formats, with the price rising if you want more text and photos. As a result, the ads are often very short, full of abbr. and with only a few photos. In particular, the cheaper houses are often presented very sketchily.

Entre Particuliers (F)
Number two, with approximately the same system. The newspaper that outgrew the kiosk and went on to the Internet. Lately Entre Particuliers was discredited by the very aggressive marketing of the phone team. Customers were required to take a six-month contract that they could not get out of unless they were able to officially show that their house is sold. Because the company required an automatic money transfer and continues to write off payments, there are now several lawsuits by victims who are still paying for the contract months after the sale of their house. As a buyer, you are not really concerned with this problem.
UPDATE: The French consumer organisation Que Choisir has sharply condemned Entre Particuliers for its aggressive marketing practices and opaque cost structure. Reason enough to avoid this service provider.

Property for Sale in france - PSF (F, NL, E, D)
On PSF advertisers pay €5,95 a month, plus 9 cents per word for professional translations, with an unlimited amount of pictures. The English descriptions on Property for Sale in France are often quite extensive and the ads have sometimes dozens of photographs. (F)
A site with free advertising in many fields. Here, you can advertise as many houses as you want. This means that there are also a lot of house brokers in the pile (about 50%). Fortunately Vivastreet offers the option to list only the houses of private buyers.

3D-Immo (F)
Lots of ads, and again from lots of estate agents. But just as with vivatreet you can filter out the agents to see only the properties for sale privately. The number of offers is a lot less. A small test in department 71 for example delivers only 3 private sales compared to 48 estate agent sales.

Hundreds of properties, for sale by owner only. So no agency fees. The site has the same presentation as PSF, with lots of images and good descriptions.

On the spot research

Perhaps the best way to find the real bargain is searching on the spot in France. We advise you to first select a region or even village where you would want to live. So you can focus your search on that area. A good starting point is the town hall: le mairie or Hotel de Ville. Especially in the smaller villages the mayor or his secretary know exactly what homes and land are for sale or soon will become available. They see it as their duty to the people to help them find a buyer. So if you go asking around, they will be glad to establish contact with the owner. Whom will certainly be very willing to speak to you, since you were sent by the mayor!

Even without a mayor you can go a long way. Stop at the local bar and ask behind the bar: "Je cherche la petite maison blanche, qui est à vendre. Savez-vous où elle est?" Of course they don’t know where the little white house is, because you have just invented it. But they do know about a farm that will probably be for sale soon. From ‘Petit Jacques’. Might that be what you mean? Or are you talking about the ruins in the woods? A discussion breaks loose, and before you know it you will be aware of all the properties in he area that have been for sale, are certainly for sale or might soon be for sale.

Another way to find private sellers is by looking in the regional door-to-door magazines or the regional newspaper. During your quest, just ask about "Le journal avec les petites annonces" at the hotel, at the tabac or even the bakery. There is always a category that includes real estate (immobilier). If there is no estate agent’s name marked, or the words "part. À part.", "Agences s'abstenir" or just a phone number, then it's probably a private seller who wants to do business directly.

The French housing market, estate agents and notaries

This site is intended to help you find a house without an agent, but we should at least mention the possibility. Sometimes the agent is indeed the only one to have a particular house in his portfolio. More background on this profession and the techniques and rates can be found on the page with price comparisons and calculations.

The property agent
Real estate agents are generally wary of direct contact between buyer and seller and will in any case take carefull note of the name and address of the potential buyer. This is to prevent the buyer from slyly making contact with the seller and doing business direct without telling (or paying) the agency. If the agent finds out, it is the seller who has the biggest problem. He is the one who singed the contract and has to pay a commission to the agent if the contact established by the latter leads to a sale.

The notary
For the French notary, the trade in real estate is a major income source. Indeed, some notaries are almost agents in disguise. They advertise the homes of clients through a monthly magazine, the public media (newspapers and door-to-door mags) and on the site At the sale of course the notary is officially simply paid for the deed and such. These are standard costs for the buyer. But the selling party also sometimes has to pay negociation fees (frais de négociation), which of course he just adds to his asking price. Whether there are actual negotiations, makes no difference. Not all notaries are equally smart in this field. If you call and ask what the lowest price is the seller is willing to accept, they sometimes just blatently tell you. Not what one would call ‘to negotiate’! Since notaries often have houses for sale as a result of inheritance and charge less than brokers, you can sometimes find a good deal. So if you're looking for a house in a certain region, in any case go see the notaries and explain your wishes to them. Who knows what it might bring, and it is probably cheaper than buying through an agent.

Author: Gregor Hakkenberg
Former owner Immogo, houses in France FSOB


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