Thousands of Brits decide to leave the UK every year for a new life in a new land, and one of the most popular destinations is France. A combination of a warmer, drier climate and a more sedate way of life is enough to persuade people to make such a life-changing move. For many people buying a new home is on the top of their to-do list, but negotiating the French real estate system requires a little knowledge or help from industry experts. There are a few differences to the real estate sector in the UK, and they include the negotiation process and both the written and unwritten rules of making offers.
The property market in France is different to that in the UK; there is no such thing as 'subject to contract'. Making an offer on a home in France is a far more formal process than it is in the UK and other parts of Europe and offers will often be placed in writing with an 'offre d'achat'. Although you have 7 days in which you can change your mind and exercise the right of withdrawal, it is vital that you conduct all your legal checks, searches and due diligence before making an offer. Once the price has been agreed the buyer cannot then return with issues surrounding planning permission, repair or local rates.
Finding a property
Unlike in the UK vendors who choose to list their property with a real estate agent will opt to use several in their search for a buyer. This means that it is not uncommon to find the same property listed several times. The situation can be further complicated if the vendor is open to selling a property privately as well.
Purchasing through an estate agent
If you feel you would like assistance concerning the French property market, or you simply don't have the time to devote to a property search, buying with the help of an agent will probably be the best course of action. Your move to France should be an exciting and life-changing event, and making the right purchasing decisions from the outset will ensure your new life gets off to the best possible start.
Estate agents in France are referred to as 'agents immobiliers'. They are required to be members of a professional body such as the FNAIM and will have a ‘Carte Professionel’ and a ‘Certificat d'Assurance’.
If you are introduced to a property through an agent, all viewings and meetings will be organised through the agent. You are then duty bound to make any subsequent offers through that same agent. You may find that you are taken to a number of properties in your agent's portfolio. If you're unsure of the home you are looking for, this can be a very useful service. In most cases agents are paid by the buyers, and commission is worked out on the basis of the sale price.
The negotiation process
Properties are marketed at a particular valuation, and offers are welcomed in much the same way as they are in the UK and across Europe.
Negotiating directly with a property's owner is a little different and requires a little more camaraderie and some refined interpersonal skills. In France, identifying with the owner and showing respect can help you to get your offer accepted, but only if it suits both parties.
Certain French property owners can take offence at speculative offers that are significantly below their own market valuation. What may seem like a reasonable offer in the UK may be deemed as offensive in France and so it is important to be sensible when making offers directly to owners. Too many British buyers unwittingly offend French property owners by identifying outdated aspects of a property in order to negotiate a large discount. If you draw attention to a kitchen in need of renovation, but the owner is happy with it in its current state, that has the potential to cause offence, and it could halt negotiations before they really get going. They say that an Englishman's home is his castle; in actual fact, that statement is more apt when applied to French property owners.
Respect and a few complimentary words can go a long way during property negotiations in France. Mutual respect could be enough to get your offer accepted.