How to find and use a good estate agent
- Credit: Archant
A good estate agent can save you time and money when searching for your dream French property. Use our tips to help you find a good estate agent and make the most of them
BEFORE YOU CHOOSE AN ESTATE AGENT
1. Narrow down the type of property you are looking for. Ask yourself why are you coming to France and what do you want to do when you are here? Is it a permanent move requiring an income, a holiday home or something in between? The answers will, to some extent, help to define the type of property that you may be looking for. A holiday business may require additional buildings and land, whereas a private holiday home with substantial buildings and land could result in some pretty exhausting holidays.
2. Narrow down your search area. France is well over twice the size of the UK (with about the same population) and the landscape ranges from mountains to salt flats and everything in between, with climates ranging from continental to maritime. It is therefore essential to decide upon an area.
Read more: How to decide where to buy in France
3. Use the internet to learn about different areas of France but don’t take everything at face value, be aware that the author of an article may have had a vested interest in writing about it. Thoroughly research the area and if possible visit it several times in summer and in winter.
4. Attend a property show – you will get a glimpse of what is on offer and will meet with professionals who know their area.
5. Research the prices and be aware that generally the price will reflect both the desirability of the property itself as well as the area. It’s not unusual for prices to vary widely within a relatively short distance. There will be a reason if the overall prices in one area are substantially lower when compared to the neighbouring area – and the reason may not be immediately apparent.
HOW TO CHOOSE A GOOD ESTATE AGENT
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1. Do you need an English-speaking estate agent? If your French isn’t very fluent then it might be easier to use an estate agent who speaks English.
2. Find an estate agent with good knowledge of the area. Use the internet to research agents in the area you are interested it – local knowledge is invaluable and a good estate agent based in the area will be able to give you much more information about the area.
3. Get recommendations. If you know anyone who has already bought a property in France then find out which agent they used and whether they would recommend them. Many agents include reviews on their websites or you could just try using Google to find out more information about them.
4. Research the agent. Check whether the agency has a carte professionelle licence and if the agents are members of a professional body (FNAIM and SMPI are the main ones). The industry is firmly regulated and an agency needs a carte professionelle licence proving they have certain qualifications (the licence number is usually prominently displayed on their website). Explore their website – does it look professional and do they have a good range of properties that you like?
5. Speak to the agent. Contact your chosen agent and see if they are the right person for you – do they sound knowledgeable and helpful, do they respond quickly to your messages, do they listen to you and understand what you are looking for and do you trust them?
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR ESTATE AGENT
1. Make contact with an agent well before any house-hunting trip. A good agent will take your search criteria and propose a variety of properties and possibilities – some of which you may not have considered. You may already have picked out properties from the internet and the agent can talk you through them, send you more details, photos and so on.
Read more: 10 insider tips for successful househunting
2. Try and choose just one or two estate agents. While the temptation is to plan your own detailed property-hunting itinerary based upon making contact with a number of agents and telling them which property you want to see and when and where you want to meet, it is often an impractical approach. The timetable to see six houses in one day with three agents is a recipe of missed appointments, late visits and frayed tempers!
3. Meet the estate agent before booking any viewings. Arrange to meet the agent at their office, discuss and explore the properties through photos, maps, aerial views, weed out inappropriate houses and add new ones to the list. Ideally, visits should only take place after this important meeting. It could involve spending the entire day with one agent, and this approach is almost guaranteed to save a great deal of your precious time and potentially money too.
4. Build up a good relationship with your estate agent. If an appointment is made with an agent, keep to it. If there is a need to cancel, this should be done at the earliest opportunity. It is a very bad idea to simply not turn up to an appointment without cancelling – agents may be less willing to work with a house-hunter who has left them waiting in the rain (or baking sun) for 45 minutes with no phone call.
5. Once you have found your property, leave it to the agent to guide you through the entire offer and purchase process – a good agent will try to ensure that the process runs as smoothly and with as little stress a possible.
Information from Charles Miller, director of Charente Immobilier estate agency
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