You’ve decided on the type of property you’re looking for and narrowed down the best place to buy your French house. Maybe you’ve even inquired about a French Mortgage and set up your currency account. But where’s the best place to start your French property search?
Here’s what you need to know about your buying options in France—from French estate agents to private sellers.
Where To Start Your French Property Search
Most French properties are sold through estate agents or realtors, known in France as ‘agences immobilières’, and the majority of overseas buyers choose this option for their purchase. Although there are agency fees involved, it does pay to use a professional service and can be especially reassuring to those unfamiliar with the French property market.
Other options include buying from a private seller, at property auctions, or via a local notaire, but this can be more difficult if you are not based in France or do not speak French.
Most properties are advertised online, as well as in local newspapers and property magazines, but naturally, the best place to start your French property search is by browsing FrenchEntrée’s property listings.
Using an Estate Agent for Your French Property Search
Most towns and villages throughout France will have several estate agents or realtors, but it’s important that you choose a reputable agent. Make sure they are a member of a registered body such as FNAIM, SNPI or UNPI—this should be displayed in their office.
Although you are not obliged to use a single realtor, it’s not generally advised to use multiple estate agents, especially if you are looking within a small search area. Local agents often speak amongst each other and may be wary of clients who they don’t see as being serious candidates for a sale. A better approach would be to narrow it down to one or two estate agents in the area and be honest about meeting with other agents.
Give your estate agent as much information as possible to enable them to help with your search. Be realistic about your budget (factoring in all the extra costs and fees), provide as many details as possible about your search criteria (especially any must-haves or deal-breakers), and offer as much insight into your likes and dislikes. The more they know about what you are looking for, the more they will be able to help with your search and also to show you properties that are not yet on the market.
Another important factor for many foreign buyers is the language. Depending on where in France you are looking to buy, you might be able to find local agents that speak English. Otherwise, it could be useful to employ the services of a property advisor or translator.
Browse our directory of English-speaking estate agents in France.
Buying French Property From a Private Seller
More and more sellers are opting to sell properties privately in France and recent estimates indicate around 40% of annual sales are carried out privately. The most obvious benefit to buying from a private seller is that there are no estate agency fees, and being as every property sale is dealt with via a notaire, there is little to worry about in terms of the legal sales procedure (just be sure to make all payments and sign all contacts through your notaire).
For foreign buyers, the main obstacle to buying privately is the language barrier, so it can be worth finding an English-speaking Notaire (you can search for your local representative at Notaires of France) or working with a translator.
Another obstacle is finding properties for sale. In France, many private sellers use websites such as Leboncoin to advertise. Alternatively, FrenchEntrée’s property listings include many private sales, including many from anglophone sellers.
Buying French Property at Auction
Property auctions, known as ‘vente à la bougie’, are not as popular in France as they are in many other countries. However, they do occur, most notably for sales of public buildings or state-owned properties, repossessed properties, or by private sellers looking for a quick sale.
Auctions include public sales and judicial auctions, and are often advertised by notaires, or in local and national newspapers. You can also search online for French property auctions at Encheres-Publiques or Paris Notaires.
The Role of the Notaire in Your French Property Search
All French property sales are required by law to pass through a notaire and because of this, your local notaire can be a mine of information. Don’t hesitate to contact a local notaire and let them know about your property search criteria.
Notaires often advertise private properties for sale in the region and can also advise you on your property search, prices, new build projects, and any planned changes in the area (a new train line or school being built, for example).
Get Started Hunting for Your French Property
Of course, the best place to start your French property search is on FrenchEntrée’s Property for Sale section! Not only do we list more than 14,000 properties, but we don’t charge fees, so it is no more expensive than if you went directly through an agency.