Buying guide part 5: French property viewings and price negotiation
PUBLISHED: 18:35 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 11:01 28 October 2015
Karen Tait offers 10 top tips to help you get the most out of viewing trips in France and negotiating the best possible price
Having spent hours online trawling through property details, physically viewing houses can be a heady mixture of excitement and nerves. After all, this is an important decision and one you want to get right. But if you follow these common-sense tips for viewings and making an offer, you should be well prepared to make a successful purchase.
1. Be realistic about how many properties you can see in one day, especially if you’re covering large distances. Even if you’re househunting in a relatively small area, it’s easy to underestimate how long it can take to travel between viewings. Apart from the time issues, it can get very confusing if you try to see too many properties too quickly. Even if you only view a couple of properties a day, take photos of them and make notes, as it’s easy to get them mixed up later on.
2. If possible, avoid trying to combine a holiday and a househunting trip. That way you can dedicate as much time and attention to the task in hand. It can also make sense to plan your viewing trips out of season; not only are the agents and vendors more likely to be available then – and willing to give you more of their time – but travel and accommodation will also be cheaper and easier to book. What’s more, if you fall in love with a property when viewing it on a grey and windy day, just imagine how much you’ll love it when the sun’s shining. Winter viewings can also sometimes highlight any maintenance issues that may not be as visible on a dry summer’s day.
3. Plan ahead – don’t expect to just turn up and make appointments. In France, agents tend to accompany you on viewings so they need time to plan the visits and coordinate timings with the vendors. They also give out a lot less information about properties for sale, such as the address. Contact estate agents before you travel to France – preferably before you’ve made any travel arrangements.
4. Sometimes, viewing properties makes it clear to you what you want; you may even completely change your mind. But as much as possible, give your agent a clear brief of what you’re looking for, including must-have, desirable and deal-breaker features. It is also advisable to have a clear idea of typical prices in the area before you leave home – it’s easy to research prices in advance via the various agency websites and property portals.
5. It may be worth choosing one agent and building a relationship with them – it can certainly be counter-productive to use too many. In France vendors can opt for a mandat exclusif giving one agent sole responsibility for the property sale, or a mandat simple, whereby several agents can market the same property, perhaps at different prices, especially taking into account verying fees. If you’re using a few agents, take care they don’t try to show you the same property. When you go on a viewing, the agent will ask you to sign a bon de visite – this is a simple form showing that they have introduced you to the property first (to avoid you buying it through another agent or directly from the vendor).
6. Although you obviously need to do your own research and make your own decisions, listening to your agent’s advice can be really helpful too. As well as being a font of knowledge about the area, the agent is likely to have a good idea of the price a vendor will accept and can advise you at the negotiation stage – although do bear in mind that the agent is mandated by the vendor. Always use a qualified agent; they should have a carte professionnelle certificate to show they are correctly qualified and insured.
7. Be honest with your feedback to the agent – if you don’t like a property, tell them, and vice versa. That way they can ensure further properties they show you will be suitable. Don’t waste an agent or vendor’s time by being polite about a property if it’s not what you want, and equally, while perhaps not appearing too keen, give positive feedback for any you’re seriously interested in.
8. When in France looking around beautiful homes, it can be very easy to get carried away. Take care not to be tempted by properties that are impractical or over your budget – and don’t be pressured into signing the sales contract for a property unless you’re pretty sure it’s the one. That said, don’t dither about making an offer if you are sure – you wouldn’t want to lose out to another buyer. Once you’ve signed the compromis de vente contract you have a seven-day cooling-off period if you change your mind, after which the sale becomes legally binding.
9. When deciding what price to offer for a property, it helps to understand if any work will be required and how much it would cost – and also whether the sale price already reflects this. This will clearly have a bearing on any negotiation you make.
10. To ensure you’re in the best negotiating position should you find ‘the one’, make sure you have your finances sorted in advance. Unless you’re a cash buyer, this means getting a mortgage agreed in principle beforehand. As well as giving you an idea of the budget you have available and ensuring you can move swiftly should you need to, it also shows the vendor that you’re a serious buyer.
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