Selling a property in France differs in one major way from selling a property in the UK: it is the buyer who pays the estate agent’s fees, not the seller. This is a concept which many people find hard to understand, the French included! The main advantage to the seller is that this means he can – and should – put his property on the market with several agents as well as privately: often the more the merrier, as there is simply nothing to lose.
Most agents in France will offer to market your property on a non-exclusive basis and this is far and away the norm here. Whichever agent finds the buyer gets the commission and that is it.
Advertising your property privately and independently is certainly a good idea and as stated, is often done alongside advertising with agents. There is a very popular site in France called “Le Bon Coin” – a little like Ebay with items for sale across the country but a whole property section as well. People also put advertisements up in shops, bars, restaurants and the like and even on lamp posts in some villages. There is nothing to stop you doing this.
Agents in France charge far higher commission than in the UK (paid by the buyer). It is usually between 6% and 10%, the higher figure being for the cheapest of properties. Most advertisements you see in agents’ shop windows as well as on the internet include their fees (FAI) so this is the amount a buyer will pay or make an offer on: you as the seller will receive less. Your agent should explain all this to you at the outset. The property market is different from the UK in that it is a slower market but for their fees, good agents should help you from start to finish with properly showing off your property including decent photographs and detailed descriptions. Not all agents do this so it is worth shopping around to find one or more who are either recommended to you or who you like the look of just from doing your own research.
Some agents will use other portals such as the France Buying Guide's, which will mean you are reaching a wider market than just the French. There has always been a good market for British people buying in France and the present time is no exception, particularly with the British economy having pulled itself up by its bootstraps of late! So do think about targeting this market too.
Remember to register with Smart Currency Exchange so that you get the very best rate when it comes to selling your property, should you be changing your euros into sterling. They will watch the rate for you, let you know when your target rate is reached or sort out a forward contract for you. This is so important since the rate of exchange obviously makes a massive difference when exchanging large sums such as on a house sale. Have an idea of what you want to achieve in pounds sterling and keep to that so that you know what you are in for when you sell and are not disappointed by any great fluctuation in the rate of exchange.
Once you accept an offer from a buyer, your agent will appoint a notaire to act in the legal transaction. You are perfectly entitled to have your own notaire with your buyer appointing his own but one notaire is certainly more common and absolutely fine since the notaire works as an unbiased lawyer, making sure everything is done properly and legally. Your agent or the notaire will draw up the Compromis de Vente and the buyer will sign first. You sign next and the buyer then has a 7 day cooling off period during which time he can walk away. You as the seller are bound to sell to your buyer once you have signed. You have to have a diagnostics inspection done in France which deals with general energy consumption, gas and electrical installations, lead paint, asbestos and termites (the latter lasts for 6 months, the rest longer). You also have to have a report carried out on whether the property is in a zone subject to a natural or industrial risk. If you have a pool, you need to have a certificate showing evidence of compliance with current security measures as well as a drainage certificate of septic tank report.
This all sounds like a lot to arrange but your agent will do this for you. It will cost you a few hundred euros but that is all you have to pay: the buyer pays the notaire and the agent’s fees.
You will be subject to Capital Gains Tax if you are selling a property which is not your principal residence. The amount will depend on how long you have owned the property but you are entitled to offset any amounts you have paid to a French artisan for works carried out to the property (you must have all receipts). We strongly advise taking the advice of a bilingual lawyer to help you through the tax implications when selling your house and can help you with this so do ask.
Prices have not and do not rise as significantly in France as they do in the UK but the market is now gradually picking up. However, be realistic and don’t over price your property if you are keen to sell. Everything does get sold at the right price!
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