Experiences of foreign home seekers
with French estate agents.

In France there are many professional, well established and reliable property agents, who are 100% committed to a smooth deal which both buyer and seller feel good about keeping. Unfortunately there are a number who are less concerned with the legal rules and who meddle and fiddle and are only out to line their own pockets. On this page we give home buyers from the Netherlands the opportunity to tell us about their experiences - good and bad. Stories from the field to help prospective homebuyers avoid traps and pitfalls. You can publish your story anonymously, but you should make your name and address known to the editors. Of course the objective is not to drag individual agents or Dutch brokers through the mud. So stay focused and keep a certain distance.


Dutch broker and rotten roof carpentry.

In our first house in France, the roof was very badly affected by wood boring insects and beetles. Something which I had noticed during our visits. I tapped the beams, looked at the holes and asked the Dutch intermediary who accompanied us (on behalf of the French estate agent) whether it was okay. He assured me that it was old damage, which with the proper treatment could do no further harm and that it was all oak woodwork, that can stand a lot. But two years after the sale, when we began the loft conversion and wanted to insulate the roof, we found that 80% of the uprights (chevrons) were crumbling under our hands - completely devastated by the pests. We had to replace everything. Fortunately, the thicker main beams (poutres, faitière) had enough good wood left in the core to remain strong and we were able to keep them after a thourough application of insecticide, so the authenticity of the attic was preserved. But it was obviously a costly affair. The broker probably knew the roof was bad, but since he was working for the seller and trying to get a commission... Anything for a sale, it seems.


Estate agent provided excellent service.

It seems that on this site you just like to bash agents. But some of them are really good. We were well supported by our regional agency with the purchase of our house in the Dordogne. The Dutch contact, Mr. P., firstly showed us a lot of houses, without making us feel for even a moment that we were obliged to buy quickly. He even repeatedly stressed the possible negative aspects. We were also very satisfied with the service after the sale. This agent helped us with the water, electricity and telephone connections, opening a bank account and taking out the necessary insurance. Once when we had a leak, on a Sunday, he even organised a plumber for us. So it can be positive too!


Come for nothing

It has not happened to me, but I heard stories from people I know that there are estate agents who will have you come to France for nothing. Their thinking is: Once they get you here, they can sell you something else. Friends of mine had their eyes on a camp site by a river, in the Morvan. They had asked in adcvance if there was possible flooding. The Dutch agent quite clearly said that the river sometimes sometime spilled over as far as the road, but never further. They went to visit one weekend after a rainy week and who would have thought... the whole campsite was under water. They had to wade into the buildings. These people could drive back to Holland straight away, a 1,600 km journey for nothing. Actually, they were lucky that it had been raining. Imagine you visit he camp site in a dry spell. Then you spend the every season there cleaning up! Other people had done the same thing. A journey all the way to the Pyrenees revealed that two of the houses on the estate agent’s web site which they were coming to check out had already been sold. The agent tried to show them numerous other houses. These people have since found what they wanted, but through another agent. Sometimes the agents just don’t care. They just want to sell.


Estate agents advertising with a vision.

The advertising text of estate agents is not always in synch with reality, we already know. We have often been fore-warned, so we were prepared. Still, we had to live it to believe it. Our journey started on the site of a well known agent: "The park is situated in the Creuse department .." and "the secure park Les Hautes de la Vergne is completely enclosed and ..." it contains approximately 100 chalets ... " and other such descriptions.

It was escribed as "a unique opportunity for those who want to live like a god in France, but who don’t want to invest a large capital," which we had already taken with a pinch of salt. You have to read between the lines, it's the actual situation that counts, we said to each other in advance.

We also asked for an information pack, but unfortunately we never received it. In retrospect that should have made some alarm bells go off, but well, once your mind is set on something you think “let's at least go take a look.”

So when we recently had a week off, we took a journey to central France where we could go and see some interesting cottages. 'Les Hautes de la Vergne' was also in the itinerary.

The moment we arrived in the village, the first doubts hit us: it looked quite different from the pictures.
The country road that was supposed to be the entrance to the chalet park was a narrow gravel path of just wide enough for one car, and had weeds of at least a meter high. Not on the sides, but on the path itself! As if in the past three years not a tractor had passed. It seemed like we had driven to a deserted area.

However, sewage pipes, electrical cable reels, etc. along the road side seemed to indicate that there was work afoot? Actually we were on the point of turning the car around (of course not on the narrow path), when in the distance saw three old run down farm buildings and a white caravan. Upon our arrival some rats skittered away!
The farmhouse was abandoned, it had been boarded up for years and was clearly no longer in use (like a lot of properties you see in France).

Would we be wrong to drive away? But when returning by the same narrow gravel road, suddenly, we saw it: a wooden chalet on a slope. So, once again we turn the car and up the hill we go.

Arriving at the chalet we found some rickety stairs to the porch, and a poster of the Dutch developer behind the window. This was not the name in the adverts (of course not, the broker does not want you to contact the developer directly, to avoid losing his commission).
Through the window of the locked chalet, we can see three plastic garden chairs and two large wall maps of the future layout of the holiday park. In short: apparently only one deserted chalet in an even more deserted area. Nothing like "one hundred chalets in completely enclosed private grounds," as the broker wrote.

Once back home in Holland we took a look at the developers own web site. Here, we get a clearer picture: that there is a development plan, that there are possibilities, options, future reservations. Texts that make clear that it does not yet exist. Although there is still some information about central facilities. A photograph of a pool and a tennis table create an incomplete (and false!) image.

Ultimately, it was still a very enjoyable trip. Just driving across France is a pleasure: something new at every turn, breathtaking views. And so we traveled from place A to B and C and beyond, and the week flew by. Meanwhile we started to compile a new list of must-have-a-look-at properties.


Disappearing square meters

Dutch are fond of large plots surrounding their French homes. French agents are starting to understand this. So what do you do when you are a struggling French estate agent: You invent some extra square meters. Two cases from the practice of the Dutch independant consultants 'Ondernemen in Frankrijk) ‘Entrepreneurship in France’:

Client 1 had seen a house on a beautiful plot of 1085 m2 on the web site of an agent. Thousand square meters of garden is exactly what he was looking for and it was a nice house. The price was agreed upon and the agent strongly insisted that he himself would put together the compromise de vente and that there was no notary required. The clients called us to ask what we think. So we called the agent and found that there was no question that he would deviate from his usual way of working. So we let the agent make the contract and send it to us. The compromise de vente was well prepared and well written, except for one small peculiarity: the cadastral information was not mentioned, only the overall dimensions. Cadastral information will naturally be added at the end, in the final deed (acte authentique), said the agency ... Yeah, right ....

Fortunately the house was already registered in amunicipality that had moved to digital maps, so we could easily establish what the official situation was through www.cadastre.gouv.fr. This showed 805 m2, one fifth less than expected. The front yard that the estate agent had shown our clients actually belonged to the neighbor's house. A notary would have had this sorted out in the drafting of the Compromis de Vente, the estate agent did not, at least not in this case and written in the small print was a clause that the buyer is not entitled to damages or dissolution should the size of the site differ from what the compromise de vente stated. The client still wants te buy but is now negotiating a hefty price reduction for this property.

Customer 2 also wanted to buy a 'terrain' of approximately 1000 m2 and had doubts on the first visit about the reported size of the site. The agent had no cadastral plan at hand. The agent did suggest that any interested party could hire a surveyor to formally measure the site, which he would be happy to arrange. For about € 1,500 the customer could then be completely sure. The client called in asking what I thought of this. Fifteen hundred euros for a surveyor for an area of 1000 square meters! I told him this quite high. So I called around and got a couple of other offers, which were between 500 and 700 euro. The agent reported that the seller only wanted to contribute to a report by the agents suggested surveyor.

Clearly, the agent has a kick-back deal with the surveyor. The result of his shenanigans... The customer is looking elsewhere.....


Your story here?

Do you have a good or bad experience with French agents and / or their intermediaries.?
Send your story to info [at] en-france.nl


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