There are pros and cons to selling your French property through an estate agent or privately, so it’s important to understand both options before making your decision. Here are the key points to consider.
What is the Best Way to Sell a House in France?
When selling your French property, there are no laws that dictate that you must use an estate agent—in fact, an estimated 40% of all property sales in France are carried out privately. However, regardless of how you advertise your property sale, there are certain legal requirements that apply to all sales.
First up, all property sales must go through a notaire (although, the good news is that the buyer is responsible for the notaire fees, not the seller), and so it’s a good idea to contact a notaire in advance, regardless of whether you are selling privately or through an estate agent.
Secondly, if you are a non-resident selling a second home, there’s a good chance you will need to appoint a fiscal representative in addition to a notaire. Finally, the seller is responsible for carrying out (and paying for) a number of diagnostic surveys on the property prior to signing the Acte de Vente.
Before you put your property on the market, read our guide to Selling a French Property for an overview of the process.
How to Sell Your French Property Through an Estate Agent
Selling your property through an estate agent is arguably the “easiest” way to sell your property. Not only will the estate agent help value your property and market the property to potential buyers, but they will carry out viewings, liaise with potential buyers, and do all the hard work of selling your French home for you.
This can be a major advantage for foreign sellers, especially if your French language skills aren’t of a good standard, if you don’t live in France and can’t spend long periods of time in the country, or if you are unsure about the French property market and legal requirements. Having an estate agent do the work and hold your hand through the process may well be worth the cost of the agency fees.
Estate agents in France tend to work for small, local agencies (even if they are part of a larger chain) that cover a small area in France, and this means that they will also be able to advise on the local market, recent sale prices, and what buyers are searching for. This can be valuable advice to sellers, especially if you are looking to maximise the sale price, perhaps through carrying out renovations or making small changes to your property to increase its marketability.
Of course, the biggest downside to using an estate agent is that you will be liable to pay the estate agent’s fees or commission, which can range from 4% to 12% (although a good ballpark is 10%) of the sale price. It’s essential when choosing an estate agent that you question not only the fees but who pays them and how they are advertised – the important thing to know is exactly how much you will receive from the sale price.
You should also think about whether you want to advertise with one estate agent or multiple – some estate agents may ask you for an exclusivity contract, but you do not have to agree to this. However, it might not necessarily be in your interest to sign with multiple agencies, especially in smaller or rural areas, where the property market is much more concentrated, and the agents may not be motivated to market your property if they think another agent might snag the sale. In a larger, more competitive market such as Paris, this might be a different story.
When making your decision, it’s a good idea to seek advice from independent parties – perhaps talk with a local notaire, your neighbours, or French friends to get you an idea of ‘common practice’ in your area.
All of this should be detailed in the mandat de vente, the sales contract you will sign with the estate agency, so be sure you fully understand what you are signing before you do.
See our guide to The Cost of Selling a Property in France: Taxes, Fees, & Surveys for more on this.
Are estate agents’ fees negotiable?
Yes, estate agent’s fees in France are negotiable, and it’s highly recommended that you shop around, compare agency fees, and talk with other local property owners to get an idea of the best deal. Agreeing to an exclusivity agreement may be one way to negotiate further, but be sure you understand exactly what this entails before you agree to it – at what point, for example, does the contract expire in the event of a non-sale?
Does the buyer or seller pay the estate agent’s fees?
Depending on the agency, it is possible that either the buyer or the seller will be liable for the estate agent’s fees, and it’s important to understand exactly when and by whom the fees are paid before you sign the mandat de vente.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that even if the buyer “pays the fees” in theory, in reality, this will typically mean a lower sale price for you, as the buyer will deduct these fees from their own budget. In short, if you opt to sell your French home through an estate agent, you are going to end up paying for the service in some way.
How to Sell Your French Property Privately
The second option for selling your French property is to sell it privately. This means that you are solely responsible for deciding the sale price, advertising your property, responding to any questions or requests, carrying out viewings, accepting or negotiating any offers, appointing and liaising with the notaire, and carrying out the required diagnostic surveys.
The obvious advantage of selling privately is that there are no additional fees to pay – the agreed-upon sale price is the price you will receive. Of course, you will still need to pay for the diagnostic surveys and a Fiscal Representative if you are selling in France as a non-EU resident.
Being as the legal procedure of the property sale will be conducted by your notaire, there isn’t really a ‘risk’ to selling privately, at least from a legal standpoint.
However, the downside of selling privately is that, as you can see from the above list, there is quite a lot of legwork to do in selling a property. This can be time-consuming and potentially challenging if you have never sold a property before. If you don’t live in France or are limited to 90-day/180-day stays, it could also be very different to organise viewings and move forward with the sale process.
It can also be extremely difficult if you don’t speak good enough French to use websites such as Leboncoin or SeLoger, some of the most popular options for advertising properties for sale in France. Although it is possible to find an English-speaking notaire (you can search for your local representative at Notaires of France) in many areas of France, the notaire will only be there for the legal part of the procedure – you will still need to liaise with the buyers to carry out viewings, answer any questions and agree on a price.
One possible workaround is to advertise within the anglophone market. For example, you could advertise your property online at FrenchEntrée or in our French Property News Magazine, and directly target UK, American, or other anglophone buyers looking to purchase in France.
So, Should I Sell My French House Privately or Use an Estate Agent?
Ultimately, the best way to sell your French home is the way that works for you and your situation, and there are both personal and financial considerations to take into account. It’s important to consider all of these advantages and disadvantages before making your decision.
One final option is you could do both! Providing you don’t have an exclusivity agreement with your estate agent, you could advertise your property both with an agent and privately. That way, you leave yourself open to take the best offer when it comes along.
Are You Ready to Sell Your French Property?
Whether you choose to sell your French property privately or through an estate agent, need expert advice on the legal procedure or capital gains tax, or want to brush up on your knowledge of buying and selling in France — FrenchEntrée is hear to help! Our Essential Reading guides are the best place to start.
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