Ask the Experts: Estate Agent Transparency

Ask the Experts: Estate Agent Transparency

Tip: Narrowing down your search area early is crucial. Not only will it save you time in the long run, but estate agents will take you more seriously.

Q. I like to check out the satellite or Street View images of a property for sale before deciding whether to visit. But French estate agents don’t seem to provide the exact address of their properties, which is very frustrating. Why don’t they?

A. There are two main reasons. The first is to do with the nature of ‘mandate’ or listing of the property with the agency. In the majority of cases, listings tend to be ‘non-exclusive’, which means the property can be marketed via a number of agencies at once, but also privately by the vendor. Agencies will be reluctant to give out exact village locations or GPS coordinates in case an entrepreneurial buyer goes and knocks on the door of the property, visits and makes an offer – cutting the agency out altogether (it happens more often than you’d think). Typically, all you’ll get is a rough village or town location. Secondly, from a Street View perspective, France is much bigger than the UK and far more rural, so not as much ground has been mapped by those cute little Google cars with cameras on the top.

Q. I have had an offer accepted on a house in France. The estate agent told me I didn’t need to see a notaire just yet and that they (the agency) would deal with all the paperwork. Should I be concerned?

A. Don’t panic. It is completely normal for the estate agency selling the property to complete the initial paperwork, including the Compromis de Vente. Although it is technically a legal document, it is largely a filling-in-the-blanks exercise. The agency will include the vendor, buyer and property details – with description and plan cadastral references, sale price and agency fees, any conditions (clauses suspensives) such as the fact you might need to obtain a mortgage or get outline planning permission, details of the notaire overseeing the sale and the provisional date for completion. Once both parties have signed, the paperwork will be passed on to the notaire who will handle the searches and conveyancing aspect of the process. As the Compromis is typically a pro-forma document, if the agency is used to dealing with non-French-speaking clients, they may have a translated version you can read before signing.

Q. We are planning a two-day house-hunting trip very soon and want to see as many properties as possible in that time. However, we haven’t narrowed down a particular search area. What is the best way of using our time efficiently?

A. House-hunting is always going to be a challenge if you haven’t narrowed down your search area. France is a big country! Trying to see multiple properties with different agents in a short period of time will be hard. Trust us, it will always, always take longer to drive from A to B than you think. So be realistic about what you can achieve – and view – in two days.

If you are planning several viewing trips, try and scope out one area at a time. Also, French agencies are likely to take you more seriously if you have a relatively focused search area.

If you’re lacking in confidence on the French language front, it definitely helps to have someone bilingual acting on your behalf who can help coordinate the viewings and make sure everything is in place with the agencies. The FrenchEntrée team provides a free property search service, which does just that.

Q. We are planning to retire to France and I would like to have my UK pension transferred to a French bank account. How can I make sure I get the same amount every month, despite currency fluctuations?

A We’d recommend setting up a regular payment plan – or forward contract – with a currency exchange specialist. This will allow you to fix a set exchange rate and choose when you receive your pension. A currency specialist will collect the funds from your UK account via direct debit and transfer them to your French account in euros. That way, you’ll always know how much you’re getting and won’t be at the mercy of sudden fluctuations in the currency market.

Remember, FrenchEntrée readers benefit from free transfer fees from currency broker moneycorp. Note that while transfer fees are free (simply quote ‘FrenchEntrée’ to your adviser), setting up a forward contract may require a deposit.

Q. We had planned on moving to France permanently in five years’ time, but with Brexit looming we’ve decided to get a foothold there as soon as possible. As we’re now speeding things up, we don’t have our finances in place yet. What would you advise?

A. This issue is coming up a lot at the moment with our FrenchEntrée property clients. There are a couple of options if you are determined to buy in France within the next 18 months or so.

Firstly, you could look at taking out a French mortgage in euros to cover some of the purchase price, rates are low in France and there are some excellent products on the market. This would also reduce the pressure to release funds in your own country (selling a property, disinvesting etc).

You could also look at altering your criteria, buying a smaller property with potential. This gets you a foothold in France, but also future-proofs you for five to ten years. You could then look at buying something bigger.

FrenchEntrée is more than just the leading guide to property and living in France. We offer a wide range of services designed to help you to buy a property in France. If you need a mortgage or advice on your international money transfer, FrenchEntrée is dedicated to assisting you through all the steps of your property purchase.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, or don’t have time to search yourself, FrenchEntrée has a dedicated Property Team to assist you in finding your dream property. Let us know what you are looking for and we will do our best to select properties matching your requirements.

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