The FrenchEntrée Property Team answers your questions
Q. I am looking at properties in Paris and my agent is recommending I sign a ‘Search Mandate’. What is this, and what are the pros/cons of such an arrangement?
A. In some markets, there are more clients than properties. For example, in cities and major conurbations like Paris and Lyon, there is so little supply of property that buyers have to move quickly and think laterally. Often agencies will work in partnership with one another to get access to properties that have been listed by another immobilier or ‘oﬀ market’ properties. By signing a Search Mandate with an agency, you are committing to them representing you exclusively in your search for a certain period – usually three or six months. The fee for a Search Mandate is typically an additional three per cent on top of the agency fees, so it isn’t a cheap option, but might be the cost of getting access to more properties. The advantages are, in theory, you have an agency working hard on your behalf to ﬁnd a property that matches your requirements. You also get a head start on properties that have not yet come onto the market, as well as a full hand-holding service. The downsides are the cost, and that you would not be able to deal with other agencies during the period of the agreement. Let’s just say it works well with the right agency!
Q We own a property outright in the South of France, but don’t use it as much as we used to. We’d like to sell 50 per cent of it to gain access to some of the equity and only use it ourselves for half the year. Will that be possible under French law?
A. You could look at either a timeshare arrangement or you could sell, say, 50 per cent of the freehold of the property. This is possible under French property law where a property can be held in ‘indivision’. You could retain 50 per cent of the freehold and sell the remaining 50 per cent to someone, or two lots of 25 per cent if that made ﬁnding buyers easier. This is likely to be attractive to potential buyers with a limited budget, but who want a foothold in France, without opting for a timeshare arrangement. If you want to go down this route, you should speak to a law ﬁrm that specialises in French property transactions to get advice on the best solution.
Q. We’re interested in a property that has been on the market for over two years. Surely something must be wrong with it – what isn’t the agent telling us?
A. If you’re looking at properties in rural France, this can be quite normal. It isn’t that there is anything necessarily wrong with the property – it is simply that there isn’t enough demand. A perfectly good property, marketed at the right price, with no major problems or nuisances can easily take one to two years to sell. If you’re used to a more dynamic property market, then the suspicion is understandable – but in rural France these time frames can be the norm!
Q. We are looking for a property with potential to generate an income for our family. What are our chances of generating a living, as we have heard the gîte/bed and breakfast market is saturated in France?
A. France is always going to be one of the most visited countries in the world. The tourism market in France is vast, so there will be no shortage of potential customers for your business. That said, if you go down the ‘mainstream’ route for your property or accommodation, and nothing stands out about it in a crowded market, then you are likely to struggle to generate the income you might be looking for. We recommend you think about niche markets to target, or look at properties where you could convert part of the property into a real destination holiday. Have a think about trends in the marketplace that are likely to increase your visibility and probably have less competition – maybe a carbon-neutral, sustainable property? Or you could oﬀer courses to improve mental health and wellbeing. Convert a barn into a yoga studio or oﬀer survival courses if you have woods or a large piece of land. The more niche and specialist the better – particularly if the accommodation has been ﬁnished to a very high standard. Mediocre will not build you a return customer base or a solid reputation. You should also think carefully about where and how you market the property.