Buying A French Property? Should You Use An Estate Agent Or Notaire?


When considering buying a holiday home in France or a full time residence you may be weighing up whether to use an estate agent or not. Back home you may not but what about in a strange country, where you may not speak any, or much of the language? Let’s look into the options.Should I Buy Privately Or Via An Agent In reality this is not a difference in the legal sense between France and Great Britain, but it becomes a difference because of the possibility that as you are reading this page you are not as yet fluent in French. So this means that you may need to approach the search for your dream French property differently to how you might if you were looking to buy back home.Property in France can be purchased privately, through estate agents or via notaries (public notary). Most British people as well as other non French buyers purchase properties through estate agents. This is not a big surprise as the vast majority of foreign purchasers do not have a sufficient standard of French to deal with one of the biggest purchases that they will make in their entire lives.Reputable estate agents who can speak English and guide you through the process are a choice generally due to necessity brought on by a low level or no French.That said you will have to use a notaire if you do go ahead and buy, so you could consider viewing privately if you felt confident enough to take it up to a point and then employ an English speaking notaire at the necessary time. This may be an option for some people, although many feel happier to use agents.The Notaire’s Role And Fees However although language may encourage a foreign buyer to deal with estate agents, another consideration is the notaire. A notaire is the representative of the French government in these matters and is responsible for the legal end of the dealings. We can translate the word to notary or solicitor, to make it easier to understand.The notary can to all effect conduct the full buying and selling procedure, without any estate agent involved, if this is what some buyers prefer. He or she is legally permitted to deal with the conveyancing in the same way as a solicitor would do back home.Therefore they act on your behalf to check out the various legalities pertaining to the property. It is normal practice in France for both the buyer and the vendor to share the same notaire. However you are perfectly within your rights to have one for yourself if you wish to do so. In the case of not using an estate agent you may feel more comfortable to go that route.It won’t cost extra as the notaire’s fees will be shared between the two notaires. The potential disadvantage is it could slow down the process.Calculated On A Sliding Scale The notaire’s fee usually ranges from 2-8% of the property’s net price and it is calculated on a sliding scale. Be aware that the less expensive the house is, the higher the notaire’s fee will be.The law requires the notaires to be impartial. As such they act for neither party. UK buyers might find this strange but most of the transactions in France are normally handled by a single notaire.Choosing A French Estate Agent When making the important decision of choosing an estate agent in France, the first step is to look for one who is a member or UNPI, SNPI or FNAIM. Never hire their services unless you have visited their office as this information can only be seen in the office.You can expect to be asked to sign something that is called the Bon de Visite. All this is for is to provide evidence that this agent is the one who has shown you property X. This is their way of covering themselves if and when a sale were to go through and another agent tried to claim that it was them who had shown you the property.What Can I Expect To Be Included In The Estate Agents Price? Whether you are looking at prices on the agent’s website or in their shop window, you can expect that they will include the agent’s fee which is normally between 4%-11% of the property’s price. Of course this is a huge variation of what you could end up paying.In order to know that the fees are included as they should be look out for FAI on the property advertisements or brochures, which stands for “frais d’agence inclus”, which means that the agency fee is included. If FAI is there, it means that the vendor is paying the fees, if not it means the buyer pays the fees.

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