a house in France
property in France - and selling it - can be a nightmare for anyone who
goes into this operation without first having studied the procedures
and the costs.
agencies / Agences immobilières
The most common way to buy or sell property in France is by using the
services of an Estate Agency, or, as they are known in France, an Agence Immobilière.
Estate agencies can be found in all French towns and cities, and - in
particularly popular tourist regions - even in villages.
There are three types of
agency, and it is best to know which type of agency you
are dealing with, before starting to look for a house to buy, or sell
your existing property.
targeting an international market: these will frequently
advertise properties in French and in English; they tend to be
concentrated in big cities like Paris or Bordeaux, and very popular
tourist areas, and to
specialise in properties at the top end of the market. For this reason,
they are useful for people looking for luxury accommodation, large
houses in the country, or old buildings that have plenty of scope for
development. However, the commissions they charge tend to be high, and
they may also try to keep prices high - which may be good for
the seller, but not so good for the buyer.
chains: these are agencies such as Century 21 which are
present all over France; their advantage is that they have a national
network, do plenty of advertising, and for this reason may get results
where other agencies do not. They tend to charge commissions at the
higher end of the scale.
independent agencies: they will probably have good
knowledge of their region, know how to advertise locally, and often
charge lower agency
there are a number of sites to help people find a buyer or seller for a
gite or operational b&b in France: most of them are agencies,
in one of the three categories above. Some, such as the
Gitelink Gites for sale in
France page are just bulletin boards where sellers can
agency fees (frais d'agence).
The level of fees or commission charged by estate agencies in France is
not fixed; it can vary between 4% of the value of the sale, and 11% -
which is a pretty large variation.
Note that the agency
fees are paid by the seller, and must be included - by
law - in the sale price that is proposed or agreed. In actual
fact, the buyer often has to pay the agency, but when this happens, the
value of the agency fees must
be subtracted from the agreed sale price. This is a subtle way of
reducing the sale price, and consequently reducing the fees and taxes
that are a percentage of the sale price.
costs & lawyer's fees (frais de notaire) :
All real estate or property transactions in France must be drawn up by
(a solicitor); whether an estate agent is involved or not, the contract
of sale has to be overseen by a notaire, and generally the actual
signing of the sale takes place in the notaire's office (Etude
Notaire's fees amount to about 6.5% (if buyer and seller have different
notaires, this sum is split between them), and include all taxes and
fees for registering the change of ownership. These fees are paid by
and are in addition to
the actual purchase price that has been agreed.
Capital gains tax (impôt sur les
must be paid by the seller if a property is sold at a profit in less
than 15 years. But if a property is registered as a principal residence
(i.e. the seller's domicile, and place where he/she is fiscally
resident), then capital gains tax does not apply.
Buyer and seller must agree to a price for the intended transaction, at
which point a "Compromis
de vente" is drawn up and signed by both parties. This is
generally drawn up by the agency or by the seller's "notaire", though
it is perfectly legal for a seller to produce his own "compromis de
vente", and there are models available on Internet. However, since this
is a legally binding document, indicating the price of sale, and will
probably involve large sums of money, it is very advisable to use a
notaire or an agency for this purpose.
It should be noted that the price
indicated in the compromis de vente will not include the agency fees;
so if you have agreed to buy a property for 150,000 Euros, you should
not be surprised to see that the price indicated in the compromis is
put down at, say, 139,000 Euros. Somewhere else on the form it will be
indicated that 11,000 Euros are due to the agency, over and above this
sum (see above).
Yet the buyer in this case may even find that the
price indicated on the document is not even 139,000 €, but
Euros, particularly if the house is sold with a certain amount of
furniture included. Sellers often like to consider a few thousand euros
of the sale as being for furniture, rather than for the house; this can
be to everyone's advantage, as the lower basic cost means less taxes on
the transaction, and for the seller (if selling the property at a
profit) the possibility of less capital gains tax.
Once a compromis de vente has been signed, there
is no going back (without a hefty penalty). In other words, from the
moment a sale is pre-agreed, gazumping is not possible in France.
The notaire (or, if buyer and seller have different notaires,
the seller's notaire) then draws up the contract of sale, and goes
through the necessary formalities involved. Generally, a couple of
months will elapse between the signing of the compromis, and the day on
which the sale actually goes through.
without an estate agent
It is quite possible to buy and sell without using an estate agent, and
plenty of property sales in France are concluded in this manner.
Particularly in rural regions, many "Notaires"
do the job of estate agents, though they cannot charge a commission in
the way that estate agents do. They do however charge an
additional "emolument" for services rendered ( particularly
if they take prospective customers to visit a property), though this is
unlikely to amount to anything like the commission charged by an agency.
Alternatively, it is quite possible for a private
individual to organise the sale of his own property, by advertising in
the local press, on Internet and by any other suitable means. Websites
and small ads media, such as Paru-Vendu and de Particulier à
Particulier (PaP), have large sections devoted to property sales; but
whatever method the seller uses to find a buyer, the actual transaction
has to be drawn up
by a notaire.
unless you have just won the national lottery or money is no object for
you, check out the online property sites such as PaP, or check out
local notaires and local small ads newspapers first; then check out
local estate agencies, or local branches of national chains. If you use
the services of estate agents targeting an international
wary of the prices. It is quite common to find the same property being
offered by different agencies, at slightly different prices.
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