Time to sell up? Agent Joanna Galpin explains the sales process, from finding an agent to handing over the keys, even if you need to do it remotely.
So, your French dream might be coming to an end. Maybe you’ve split from your partner or you feel Brexit is making it too complicated to allow you to spend longer periods of time in France. Or perhaps you have simply had a change of heart and want to relocate within France. Whatever your reasons for selling, the choice of a good agent who focuses on due diligence and transparency will help you along the way.
Choose the right estate agent
The first step is, of course, choosing your agent. There are now lots of agencies in the market that offer a Purple Bricks-style service, with estimations online and a strong marketing platform. However, they may not have local knowledge of the market – and a house that is well presented will always command a better price, and be easier to sell. Aside from advice on how best to present your property, ask if your agent will do home staging and house clearance.
Ask your agent how strong their client book (instant potential purchasers) is and how good their reach is on the property portals.
Organise property diagnostics
So, what’s the first thing you need to do to market your property? Organise your diagnostics – this is basically a survey of the functionality of your drains, electrical wiring, septic tank, gas installations, lead and asbestos, and also a review of your energy usage and insulation. The thermal rating you get from the energy review will be declared in any marketing material for your property. It is regulated by new laws that in the future mean that all properties will have to have a good scale rating before they can be sold on. You will have to pay for the diagnostics which will cost around €1,000 for a medium-size dwelling.
Decide on a price for your property
How much will your property sell for? In a sellers’ market, you may achieve a higher price than you think, but ultimately the price you market at is also key to a short sale period. Your agent will carry out an estimation visit and determine the habitable space – something that is particularly important for the French market. At the same time, the agent will discuss with you the history of the property, take reference photographs, and ask for details of any works that you have completed, as well as planning permissions. A guide price range will normally be presented, say, €250,000 to €300,000 – the top end being achievable if the diagnostics reveal no significant snags, and the property is well presented.
If you had any works carried out by French artisans in the prior 10 years, so much the better as it will support your sale price, and your tradespeople will provide a guarantee, which gives any potential purchaser comfort that all is well before they make an offer.
The next stage is for your agent to provide the estimation and draft mandate. An exclusive mandate is similar to a sole agency arrangement in the UK, and will encourage your agent to work hard for you to get the house sold quickly, and earn their commission. Typically, in France it’s the purchaser who pays the estate agent commission – so although you don’t have to pay out, do compare commission rates as it will affect the price that your purchaser will ultimately pay.
A mandat simple will allow you to appoint more than one agent – but with multiple visits from different agents, and the property being marketed online all over the place, that might give an air of desperation. You will also be amazed at the number of ‘tourist’ visits, and that purchase clients will very often keep an eye on the market long before they buy, and can often tell how long properties have been on the market. They will then move in to make an offer lower than the asking price.
A good agent will do the work to resent your property to serious potential purchasers. A bilingual agent is a must, to help you through the process and ease communications with serious investors and international clients.
The agent will review the diagnostics as part of the estimation process and, if there are any remedial works to be completed, should be able to help you with reliable local tradespeople to provide estimates or carry out any essential works. A tidy fuse board might seem a little over the top, but it’s vital to help sell your property, and will be validated by the diagnostics.
Once you have completed diagnostics, you will then agree with your agent the marketing price and sign the mandate.
Get your property looking great
Next, get your house clean and tidy, do a bit of decorating to tidy up tired spaces (if you are selling remotely and won’t be in France for the sales process, your agent should be able to organise that for you).
Professional photos, 360-degree room shots and, for larger properties, drone shots are now in high demand by clients. Gone are the days of poor photography and blurry pictures of the toilet! The agent’s marketing will include a detailed description of the property, including room sizes, and will highlight plus points to your advantage. If your farmhouse comes with land that has been organically managed, this will be more sought after than a fallow field, for example.
Prestige properties may warrant their own advertising – the marketing package will be highlighted in the mandate.
Get regular agent updates
So, it’s now two weeks later, and your agent reports that they have shown around 10 people, two of whom have asked those detailed questions that make you believe an offer is on the way. With any snags that come up from client comments, whether it’s the barking dog next door, the pig farm down the road, or the wobbly electrics of the French countryside, your agent will steer potential purchasers to identify their key requirements.
An offer on the table may be subject to conditions. For example, the buyer might need to raise loan finance or sell an existing property. They might request that your furniture be thrown in to clinch the deal. If there is a problem with the electrics, they might negotiate for the costs of any remedial works to be knocked off. Your agent will handle all of these negotiations for you, and then draw up an offer document to confirm the transaction.
This is then followed by the ‘compromis de vente’, which is effectively the same as exchange of contracts in the UK. Your agent will work with the notaire to draft the compromis – and it’s at this stage that both parties make full disclosure of their situation. For the vendor this will include all the documents to support the property and any works carried out, along with copy invoices, planning permissions and the diagnostics (these can be done after the compromis is signed but it’s better to do them early on). You must also share details of any rights of way, whether they are your right to go through other properties or other people’s right to cross your land (a shared driveway, for example).
The vendor disclosure will also have to include any known problems so that the purchasers do not have recourse after the sale over any hidden defects (vices cachés), that they discover on moving in. The purchasers will also pay a deposit at the compromis stage, which they would lose if they pulled out of the property transaction after the 10-day cooling-off period following the signing of the compromis. This can be an uncertain time, but your agent is there to keep everything on track.
Selling your property remotely
If you are selling your French property from the UK, a lot of the headaches can be removed by a proactive agent. This might include getting the decorators in for you, finding someone to clear the garden that has been left neglected after two years of Covid travel restrictions, organising the diagnostics and also helping with home staging. A recent client was very happy to have her property cleared with help from our agency. Her husband was too infirm to travel to France, and she just couldn’t tackle the task herself. Client visits were then scheduled by the agent and the property sold within a few weeks, at the client asking price.
As you approach the final sale date, especially if you are not in France, your agent can be on hand to check final clearance of the property. Many of the new recycling centres will happily collect unwanted furniture. Your agent will also do any final checks on the property to ensure a smooth transition for the final stage of the sales process, and ensure that the property is looking good for sale day. Finally, you can relax, and make your next move!
Joanna Galpin is an agent and business advisor at Agence Arguenon
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