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How to sell your house in France

It took me three years to sell my farmhouse in France. Firstly, to begin with I naively expected the estate agent to do it for me and secondly: well there were lots of reasons I don't need to bore you with... but I learned a lot from the experience, mainly out of sheer desperation!

This is what you need to do to help your sale along:

  • Tell your mairie you are selling – we got quite a few referrals.
  • Tell your notaire you are selling - they have a lot of contacts.
  • Tell all your friends – give them a leaflet (see below by Creme de Languedoc) for them to pass to visiting family & friends.
  • Find ex-pats clubs of all nationalities in your area - see if you can put a small ad on their website or just let them know you have a house for sale. Check out www.BritsNimes.com & www.bca-Montpellier.com
  • Find relocation companies on the 'net. Let them have your details. ( e.g. www.FrenchHelpServices.com)
  • Look for local foreign language printed magazines. Check out:
  1. www.LanguedocSun.com (local to the Herault & Gard)
  2. www.blablablah.org (local to Pezenas area)
  3. www.ConnexionFrance.com (nationwide)
  4. www.French-News.com (nationwide)
  5. www.medlivingmagazine.com (South of France)

More than 50pc of houses in the Languedoc are sold directly 'particulier a particulier' – so advertise in:
  • Annonces Verts – it's a newspaper you buy in your newsagent – it's localised and it's free to advertise. Email them on: annonces@annoncesvertes.com and layout out your advertisement like so:

    Anduze, maison de village en pierres F3 & mezzanine 85m2 jardin 64m2. Annexe. Belle vue. Bcp de cachet, cuisine equipee. tres bon etat. Chauff. gaz. SDB, 2 WCs, cave, proche tous commerces. 169,000 € - urgent Tel xx xx xx xx

    and add your address (won't be printed, but they need it for their paperwork)

Webwork:

  • Advertise on The Languedoc Page's Forum for free incl photos. Or a more extensive advert on The Languedoc Page in the property section, more detailed with more photos for 25 euros until the property is sold.
  • Crème de Languedoc offers 1 month's free or advertising for until it's sold for 49 euros. They have a very clever idea on their site that produces a three fold leaflet free for you to print off and hand out to potential buyers.
  • FrenchEntree Languedoc offers 95 euros to advertise your property for six months. One month's free trial (if you are not happy to can ask for your money back).
  • Angloinfo Languedoc: You can advertise for free on their forum (no photos) or if you would like to include pictures, take a commercial classified ad. The classified stays on top of the forum for seven days and in its relevant section of the forum for three months: it costs 25 euros HT + 5 euros HT for one picture and 3,5 euros HT per additional picture. More details here

You'll be frustrated with the quality of the photos that a lot of estate agents use. The lack of information that agents give to buyers will, at least once, be the reason a potential purchaser returns to their car without even entering your house. So by all means make your own website with photos and description, but don't expect the agents to use your photos or show your site. Having your own site means it will contain the essential contact details that potential buyers need to get in touch directly with you and not via the agent (and their commission).

In your advert on the above websites, mention the URL for your own site– this way more people have the opportunity to look at your photographs. Use your own site to sell your property to overseas buyers and individuals – mention it to the agents in case they feel inclined to download your far superior photos (done when the house is immaculate and well lit and taken with time and care (maybe even a professional photographer? - see contacts below). (NB The printed newspapers above won't let you use URLs in case they are pornographic!) Building a website won't necessarily cost you anything - idiot-proof webpages can be put together on sites like www.blogger.com or via your own ISP.
If you don’t want to do this yourself - www.FrenchHelpServices.com can create a site for you for a small charge.


Tip: always include a photo of the front of the house.


Do It Yourself:

Make a pack to give to potential buyers. Hand these out as people leave after a viewing - remember, they've probably visited 5 houses that day – your information pack will remind them of all the good things they have seen when they looked around your property! Include in the pack:
  1. A plan de cadastre of your house and garden from your mairie – make loads of copies. Highlight around your property and garden for clear reading. Also mark on it where south is. You can ask for this at your mairie.
  2. Copies of your tax fonciere bill - people will always ask for it.
  3. Copies of any bills for major work you've had done. Eg for roof work or pool installation.
  4. Include distances to boulangerie, doctor, schools & supermarkets.
  5. Include a plan of your house with measurements if possible. Add a few photos to remind them of which house they've visited.
  6. Include distances to train stations and airports and possible connections that can be made
  7. A copy of your house insurance bill - to give an idea of the cost.
  8. If you have a fosse septique - mention when it was last emptied and how old it is.
French Help Services can put a pack together for you for a small charge

Even French agents are now putting advertising boards outside houses
marking them for sale. So why don't you do that yourself?



Agents

In France, agents work mainly on a non-exclusive basis - meaning you can use as many agents as you like. They charge between 5 and 10pc commission to the buyer or seller (depending on which way you read the contract or how they sell it to you...). I'll leave it up to you, but I wouldn't sign an exclusive contract with an agent - binding you to only them, and still charging the same amount of commission - it'll just take longer to sell.

If you've had a low offer, the agent should / will usually offer to drop their commission slightly to bring down the price too. If they don't - ask them to - nothing is fixed in this business.

After you've put an ad in one of the newspapers above - you WILL receive a dozen or so calls from agents looking for new properties (unless you write agences abstenir on the ads) – its up to you whether you do business with them. BUT, beware of taking on too many agents - potential buyers will see the same house advertised at slightly different prices (due to slightly different commission levels) on all the different websites - this will smack of 'desperation' to sell.

  • Choose a select number of agents – this is the most difficult – check out the ones who advertise the most and who you feel has the strongest selling desire when they visit you. Do they advertise properties abroad? In Paris? In glossy mags? Do they speak English? Dutch? German? Maybe take on a maximum of 5 agents?
  • Contrary to popular opinion the biggest buyers in the Languedoc aren't the English / foreigners - it's the Parisiens or those from Northern France. Take this into account when you choose your agents.
  • If you have yet another agent on the phone, swearing they have a client wanting to visit your house - tell them you will sign a 'mandate' at the same time they bring the client along. You will then see if (i) they really do have a client (ii) if they are really that keen to try and sell your property. (NB officially agents should have a mandate before they visit – they also could just kid you and bring along a friend acting as a client...)
Once you have your adverts and agents in place. Don't just leave them to it. Every couple of weeks, pick up the phone and call them - ask them:
  • Where they have advertised your property this week?
  • How many clients have they recommended your house to?
  • Do they have your house displayed prominently in their window? Go check yourself.
  • Do they immediately remember your house / name when you call them? Alarm bells should ring here - if they are truly trying to sell your house, they should remember how many houses they have in each village / type of house and so on, without too much prompting.
  • Do they have any suggestions for you to help you sell your house. i.e. is the house correctly priced for the market?

You'll find that after Agents have visited three or four times with clients, they may lose interest if the clients are telling them the same things: i.e. too many stairs, neighbours too close, too isolated and so on. It's very difficult to weedle this information out of the agents. Ask each agent to give you a feed back call after every visit (if they don't, call them).


House Doctor?

I've been looking at houses more or less constantly for 10 years now. I can tell you that at least 50pc of the houses I've seen are either empty, or agents or owners don't bother to turn on the lights or even open the shutters. The gardens are overgrown and the pools are cruddy. So don't go breaking your neck to make sure that your sofa cushions match. It just doesn't work that way here. However, I do suggest that you:

  • Turn on all your lights and open the curtains and shutters fully. Clean the windows.
  • If it's cold, put the heating on - even if it's just for a half an hour visit.
  • Make it smell nice / open a window, especially if the house has been shut up for a bit.
  • Make sure the bathrooms and kitchens are nice and clean (wash up those dishes.)
  • Make sure little jobs are done - if a door handle is hanging off what does it mean about the roof?

The Visits

  • I personally don't like to be followed around by the house owner - I prefer to ask the embarrassing questions of the estate agent first. Let the potential buyer come to you after the visit for additional questions.
  • Leave the agent (if you are using one) to do the talking/price negotiations. (They know the potential buyer better than you do.)
  • Put the dog out and amuse the kids - turn off the TV or radio. Don't have a house full of people during the visit - potential buyers won't feel at ease if they are disturbing your lunch party. Don't let anything distract your potential buyer.
  • Mention how nice the neighbours are - point out the nice views.
  • Hand out your packs - agent or no agent.

I hope this information helps you sell your house in this currently slow market


www.FrenchHelpServices.com can help you with every stage
of selling your property,
if you do not have the language skills or the time to do it yourself. Our tariffs start at 40 euros an hour. We also offer a package of 6 hours for 225 euros

French Help Services
20 Esplanade de l'Europe
34000 Montpellier
Tel 04 67 71 79 10
www.FrenchHelpServices.com
Email: info@frenchhelpservices.com

No job too big, too small or too bizarre!



Contacts:

Professional Photographer:

Mary Gaudin (BA hons)
photographer//designer
mail@marygaudin.com
www.marygaudin.com
+ 33 (0) 954 97 57 01
9 rue Louis Roumieux,
34000 Montpellier

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