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What problems have you had/ expect to have when buying ?


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No, I'm trying to see if there is job here - not create one, but perhaps we mean the same thing.

Aside from that, I'm genuinely interested in prospective buyers' opinions - all that have been shared here are from those of us who've "been there, done that" etc.

And before Internet and cheapie flights it was harder to buy a house and did require a good level of intelligence. Do you believe that the buyers looking acros the water now are of the same calibre as yourselves ? And (I repeat myself) even if they are capable, perhaps they don't want the hassle and are happy to pay to avoid that ! Grannies are only there to help after the sale, agencies will go out to meet prospective clients but still no-one is available, once a property has been chosen, for advice and help (if requested) just until the property is theirs !

I don't want to get into prperty maintenance / refurbishment - that's a minefield but I persevere and insist that currently, no-one is offering independant advice to buyers BEFORE the sale ! It's a shame that even one instance happens which sours the dream of someone !

Maybe I'm not being realistic - we'll see :-)


Still be nice to hear from propsective buyers or those who are only just thinking of buying - are there any on this forum ?

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[quote user="Seanie"]

And before Internet and cheapie flights it was harder to buy a house and did require a good level of intelligence. Do you believe that the buyers looking acros the water now are of the same calibre as yourselves ?


I don't believe it was harder. And please don't underestimate buyers' intelligence. Now, as a few years ago, there is a mixture of highly educated; knowledgeable people and those who know little (and, I suspect, would be even less inclibed to pay for a service such as you suggest). What there is in the current market is a great shortage of potential buyers - ask any French agent.

[quote user="Seanie"]

Grannies are only there to help after the sale,


Not true.

[quote user="Seanie"]

...agencies will go out to meet prospective clients but still no-one is available, once a property has been chosen, for advice and help (if requested) just until the property is theirs !


Maybe true for some agencies, but many continue to offer help and advice to their clients well after the sale is confirmed, even well after the acte de vente is signed. Why try and act as a mediator between client and agent? In most of France the agent works for the buyer.

[quote user="Seanie"]

...currently, no-one is offering independant advice to buyers BEFORE the sale !


Again, not entirely true. There are property search services, some even advertise in Living France etc.

Best of luck, anyway. If you are being realistic you will need to cost your time and expenses very carefully, I suspect you will need to charge at least 20€ per hour, more like 30-40€, plus mileage etc expenses, in order to offer a truly independent service (i.e. not dependent on commission from house agents, notaires, mortgage providers, insurers etc). You will also need professional insurance or to cover yourself somehow against unforeseen problems, unless you really do know everything that can go wrong and guard against it.


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"A bit of simple research and comparison and asking pertinent questions

when you get to the agency offices will give you an idea of what sort

of agency you are dealing with - as TU says we are all adults with a

degree of intelligence. Even if you use a 'property finder' the

ultimate decision still comes down to you. I'm not quite sure how you

would get 'independent advice'; even something like the 'granny

network' wants to make a sale to you at the end of the day.

Paradoxically, using an agency that employs salaried negotiators,

rather than agents commerciaux on commission, is perhaps the nearest

you will get to 'independence'. But then I am biased, and probably

would say that."


I would agree totally with your comments on this thread, but hopefully

you are not suggesting that a commission-only agent commercial is less

‘independent’ than a salaried negotiator.

It may well be different in other areas, but in our area those

negotiators that are salaried are on a minimum wage, slightly above

SMIC - the balance of their earnings come from the agency commission on

the properties that they sell.

Again, in our area, there are ‘salaried’ negotiators that offer a lousy

service to clients and also commission-only agents commerciaux that

provide both before and after sales service that is second to none.

As in your case, I am biased, but perhaps your comment needs clarification.

Kind regards,

Bob Clarke


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"Bob, not wanting to go off at a tangent as this is a different issue

altogether. All I can say is that not all agency employees are

fortunate enough to get more than the SMIC, let alone commission on



I am not sure that I am going off at a tangent - you raised the issue

of salaried negotiators being more ‘independent’ than commission-only

agents commerciaux in your posting of the 22nd.

I cannot believe that there are any negotiators who are actually selling property that are working for SMIC.

My wife works for a French Immobilier with a number of offices - the

only employees working on a fixed salary are those carrying out

office-based admin work.

The salespeople either work on a minimum salary with commission on sales or as agents commerciaux on commission only.

Your reply does not answer your comment that salaried negotiators are more ‘independent’ than agent commerciaux.

The quality of service is down to the personal ethics of the salesperson and the company that they work for.

Kind regards,

Bob Clarke


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It must be hard to keep to high standards of ethics when bills must be paid and most of, if not all ones' salary comes from the sales of houses !

I'm curious, what is the % charged by agents to sell, there is one near me charging up to 14% !

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Bob - with all due respect this is going off at a tangent. The question under discussion is what problems people have had or might expect when buying a house in France, with a secondary theme of whether there is a need for an independent service which could help avoid these problems.

I happen to believe that a good agent will ensure such problems do not arise. There is an implication that because the agent gets a fee from the sale of a house, then the service is not truly independent - this seem like a valid argument to me. The only way that an agent can counter this argument would be if sales are conducted only by salaried negotiators who did not have a financial incentive to making a sale, even if a house had problems. Even then of course the agency as a whole depends on fees from sales (exactly the same applies to buying through notaires), so it is a bit of a hypothetical question anyway.

You brought up the question of the SMIC, and doubted if any agency would employ negotiators depending only on this minimum wage. I can assure you that some do, in fact not only that, the negotiators have to supply their own vehicles, mobile phones etc and meet all associated expenses themselves. OK, most of the expenses can be offset against tax (though not social charges). The employer's defence of this policy is that there are queues of English people in France waiting for a job like that - and looking at forums like this I can believe it. Your wife is evidently fortunate enough to work for a more considerate and enlightened employer. 

Seanie. A normal agency commission in France is around 7% (often with a minimum fee to cover cheaper properties). In practice agencies can charge what they like, although their scale of fees has to be displayed in the office. Many in popular areas, such as the coast, find they can charge considerably more, as you have seen. Just out of interest when buying through a notaire you will pay a sales commission (negotiating fee) of 2.5% to 5%, plus 19.6% TVA. So although it is cheaper to buy through a notaire you can only avoid these fees altogether by buying privately - when I would imagine there is a very real need for a service such as you propose.

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[quote user="Will the Conqueror"]

So although it is cheaper to buy through a notaire you can only avoid these fees altogether by buying privately - when I would imagine there is a very real need for a service such as you propose.[/quote]

But I guess most properties are in the hands of agents and notaires, so if all the foregoing is true then we're looking at a service with very limited niche market.  Or have I got the wrong end of the stick (as usual)?

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What I'm proposing is not to avoid the buying fees but to reduce them ! How ? :

a negociation on the selling price between buyer and seller (or in the most part - sellers' agents, whether it be a notaire or estate agent)

in order to negociate, valid points must be found (agreed ?), hence a property search (similar to a survey) AND a research via the mairie and elsewhere to ascertain whether or not there may be complications with the house.

This would also serve to determine whether prospective buyers wish to continue with their purchase of the house THEY THEMSELVES have found ! I don't want to offer a house-finder service - that's part of the fun and joy of owning and in any case is well covered by agents and also house-finding 'grannies' !

I will of course remain entirely independant and as I may base my fees upon money saved between the asking and eventual selling price, it is entirely in my interests to better serve the buyers ! Should this be scary to estate agents ? I hope not because the more confidence (and fewer stories of 'woe') that  there are in the market, the more buyers will buy which is good for everyone !

This may all seem very specific to you all and as suggested, serve a limited sector of the market - we'll see :-)

Of course, estate egants and notaires could offer this form of research themselves but so far haven't !

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Why do you think Notaire's do not do searches?  So you are going

to do a search/survey, with your expert knowledge and experience,

finding out information that is not available to an intelligent buyer

or at the  Marie or to the Notaire  and then advise the buyer

to make a reduced offer on a house and share the  savings on a

sale that they might not now want because you have found loads of

negatives that have put them off? This of course is totally missing the

reduced offer that could be achieved by a structural survey which of

course you cannot offer as you are  not qualified or insured to do


 I wonder if you keep posting to kid yourself you have a wizzo

scheme or others.  Me I am convinced, you can call your service

Buying Houses for English Dummies, because that is what you obviously

think most people who buy in France are.  Seanie, if your scheme

is so great , why not just get on with it?????

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Half the fun of buying a house in France is NOT to know too much about the property you're about to buy. It's never going to be perfect anyway. Think of the hours of entertainment of going to the bricolage and not knowing much French. Finding out how eveerything works etc... Just imagine knowing beforehand what you are going to be in for when you buy a particular house.

No thanks! 

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We're all experts when we've been here and bought and if not experienced problems, we've heard all about them happening to others !

Err, a structural survey doesn't warn you of grazing/water or use of certain outbuildings' rights; it doesn't warn you of plans to build a by-pass at the end of your back-garden or a lotissement/supermarket  next door - is that what is meant by half the fun of not knowingabout the property you buying ? Must be a right laugh to spend hours on a DIY project that could have been avoided or paid for by money saved...

I definitely do not consider most people who buy in France the dummies mentioned here, most I'm sure are forward thinking, intelligent people who've learned French and accepted that s**t happens and one must get on with it !

I do consider that not everyone thinks as you all appear to (you represent those who have bought and not with the intention of buying) and also that many people don't have the time to spend hours visiting everywhere and everyone - their 'fault' if you like but don't call 'em dummies :-) !

I expect them to pay for the privilege of having their 'johnny' do their groundwork for them and I am getting on with my scheme !

Is what I'm proposing so terrible for you to swallow ?


At least I'm re-learning English - thanks for the lessons !

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The only bit of research (or 'search') that a notaire has to do is find out what the current situation is on the day of contract signing. The responcibility falls upon the buyer to find out if there are any future plans in the pipeline. Below is a literal translation of a final contract as used as a general template for all notaires.


Undersigned Notary gives a reading to new owner who recognizes it, of a Note of Information of Town planning - which will remain joined and annexed, after mention, the minute of this act has delivered by the proper administrative authority on <Date the notaire received this information from the DDE office>.


<Here will be any special notes, for example if the house is built in a flood zone.>


The new owner declares in to have taken perfect knowledge and to make its deal of these regulations without resort against the former owner.



The present change likely of to be the subject of a right of pre-emption to the title: DE LA SOCIETE D'AMENAGEMENT FONCIER ET D'ETABLISSEMENT RURAL: S.A.F.E.R.. of <Regions name>, <address of S.A.F.E.R office>.

The present change was notifies with the holder of the right of pre-emption <Date>, whose reception shows it is in date from <Date>.

This sum of money gives up implicitly the exercise of its right of pre-emption in the absence of response within the time has imposed by the law.


<The above is restricted to land within a rural community. S.A.F.E.R has the right to compulsory purchase the land at the time of sale and for a maximum of six months after the purchase. This time period is indicated by the two dates that will be given above.>

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Seanie, I have tried to offer constructive advice, and can see where you are coming from now that you have explained it further.

As far as I can see there is one flaw. There is a mere fraction of the number of English people currently buying, or looking to buy, houses in France compared with a year or two back, (and the vast majority of those are on a very low budget, unlikely to be able to afford your services).

That might explain why all the response here seems to be from people who have bought rather than are considering buying.

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Thanks Will - and others !

All constructive and critical advice welcome. I read somewhere that this year 600,000 houses were bought by British and Irish and that it was forecast that a further 800,000 were expected to be bought in 2006 ! If this is a fraction of buyers a couple of years back........

Well, if they're on a very low budget (and I think we're talking of less than 150,000 euros are we not ?) - I agree with you, then my services may appeal as I will calculate them to suit such people ; less of a fixed fee, more as a % of money saved !

Why have they less of a budget - all the credit taken since a few years costing more - wish to pay it off.....no longer willing to live it up in a large French manor house but enjoy a simple life ?

Why have / are people buying new in France ? The new laws to eventually force heritage properties to be sold after a fixed term, despite one or more children being against the sale (for whatever reasons) will liberate more properties ! This plus your forecasted drop in buyers, especially the well-endowed ones should see a burst of the bubble of price increases no ? Like we saw in the South East in the UK in the early '90s ? I don't think house prices will ever drop to those values of say, 5 years ago, but a plateau will endure for the next 18 months !

What say you ? And HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone !


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I think those forecasts must be based on taking forward the increase in French house sales to the British over the past few years. Forecasts are often not borne out by reality, as any meteorologist will agree. I think if you ask any notaire or agent immobilier you will get a different story from the forecasts.

Certainly from the perspective of a small agency here in Normandy, there is no shortage of property for sale, it is the shortage of prospective buyers that is the problem. Whereas a year or two back it was very difficult to juggle the timetable to fit in all the clients, now agencies are lucky if there are two or three bookings per week. And even more fortunate if they actually turn up. Where sales agreed might have averaged out at one per week for the agency in question, it is now more like one per month. And most are looking in the sub-100,000€ bracket (and expecting ready to move into, with a few hectares and outbuildings).

I do thoroughly agree with you about asking prices. Vendors seem to applying the same logic as whoever was responsible for the forecast quoted above, and because prices have risen, say, 15% per annum over the past two years, they think the rise is continuing. So maybe you can do everybody a favour by persuading sellers to accept realistic offers, you will earn your fee I can assure you.

I still think you need to do some very careful sums. For a business like yours you probably need to multiply what you expect to live on by three (one third for you, one third cotisations, one third taxes and other fees). That might amount to a rather high percentage of what savings you may negotiate.

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Seanie, I suppose what I don't get is where you are going to do this either. Are you really in an area where there will be that many sales, or if not how far are you prepared to travel. There is one certainty, France is a big country.

Also, I don't understand the savings bit as far as the vendor is concerned. Many a french family will have picked a price au pif and really don't care that much if the place is sold or not.Not saying that they don't care at all mind you, just that they may see the place as a potential gold mine where some one naieve who has more sense than money eventually will make them a canny sum. And from that perspective could well be prepared to wait to sell.

AND those brits who have perhaps already paid more than they should and then paid a lot to get a place done up, would they really be prepared to drop prices that much to get the buyer.

We should be selling in 2006. It will be interesting to see what our local estate agents say our property is worth  and how much they would be charging etc and then we will decide how we are going to sell. Our buyers will likely be french and that is the market we will have to aim at.

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I don’t know if I am being a bit naive here but certainly from four years ago up till today the agencies I know about or have come in direct contact with have negotiated their fees with the seller and they have been included in the price. So the price you see in the agent’s window is what you pay (be you English, French or Chinese), or less if you negotiate a lower price with the seller.

So seeing that most of the agents I know sell along the same lines as houses in the UK is it not for the seller to negotiate the fees? Notaires fees are fixed for doing their work and a buyer should be shown the table of charges so what is there to talk about. I know this system is newish and that before the buyer paid the fees and could probably negotiate a price but that seems to have gone now.

Very few people who buy in France have never bought a house in their own country so they all know how to ‘get a deal’. I know of one person who offers a service similar if not identical to what has been discussed here; they have now packed up because they got very few takers and it wasn’t really worth the effort.

With regards to utilities etc, the contract clearly states that it is the responsibility of the seller to sell the property clear of all debts and encumbrances and that the notaire is responsible for ensuring that the respective bodies are informed as to who the new owner is and that includes the local tax office. It’s all there in black and white within the standard contract written by the notaire and signed by both parties and o make it absolutely clear it is also read out and the signing.

So I can’t really see the point of all this really but then that’s me.

As to who has got more money to spend, I am reliably informed it's the Irish. Lets be honest, the best stuff in our area has gone now as I suspect it has in other areas in France and all thats left is the type of thing that really needs flattening and a new house built. Indeed this is what we are seeing more of now, people buying land and getting a house built. But even the good land is running out and one reads that there is a movement afoot in France to try and stop this current upsurge in urbanisation.

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I don't see the interest of the seller to negociate the agencies' fees  -they don't pay them so why should they care ?

I agree that most (if not all) people who buy here have already at leats bought before. THEY believe that they are getting a deal, it's easy to compare prices here with over there and think that the 150m², delightful cottage here is a bargain at £140,000 when they can sell their 3 bedroom semi for £360,000 ! The fact that they could negociate and get it for £125,000 may well pass over their heads and also their ability to negociate in a (still) strange land where they are not completely at ease and easily over-awed !

No, I'm not treating buyers like morons but we are as a nation, nice poeple who don't want to make a fuss, and the price is cheap, the agency person is pleasant, speaking their broken but understandable English and they will help us to organise the utilities too :-) !

There is still loads of 'good stuff' in our area and land is always being released for building too !

As an aside, what do you all consider as the likely results of Frances' attempts to release capital in peoples' homes by allowing them to re-mortgage to spend how they wish ? We've had that phenomenon in the UK for several years now !

And is is that common for people (French or Anglo-Saxon) to buy a property, demolish it and rebuild new ???

Happy New Year and above all good health to all !

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I don't see the interest of the seller to negotiate the agencies' fees -they don't pay them so why should they care?

Because most of them now see it as coming out of what they will get for their house. The way houses are sold now, or at least in my area, is along the same lines as in the UK. The agency says that’s the price including his fees. The seller then says that he wants the fees reduced. This is and does happen and now fees are around 5% here. If an agent wants more and raises the rate then the people don't put their house with them.

Yes I know that in the end it's the buyer that really pays but sellers do negotiate because they perceive it's coming out of their pocket. Houses are not moving that fast down here so agents have learnt that they have to be more flexible, after all a sale at a lower price is better than no sale (or commission) at all.

People buying more are probably much more 'savvy' than they used to be and I have seen prices negotiated down from 245,000€ to 195,000€. Ok this was a very big drop but others are negotiating at least a 10% reduction in price.

And is that common for people (French or Anglo-Saxon) to buy a property, demolish it and rebuild new???

There have been two or three houses knocked down and rebuilt in my area but it is at present very rare. Most of the good land has gone so serious levelling has to be done to create an area to build. What with then protecting the house from land slip it gets very expensive.

No, I'm not treating buyers like morons but we are as a nation, nice people who don't want to make a fuss.

Well I think you are wrong. A lot of Brits in my area see the locals a peasants, badly educated, bordering on being idiots and hold them in total contempt. To be honest from my experience it's usually the Brits that fit this description and not the French and I actively encourage Brits to go buy somewhere else, the further away from here the better.


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