by Simon Newman

Most articles written about house transactions in France cover the buying process. But what about selling? Here are some pointers to keep in mind – and some cow-pats to avoid.

Whatever you are told, estate agents commissions are negotiable – whether you opt for a sole agency or not. And some agents will work on a fixed sum rather than a percentage.

You need to ask yourself the question “Am I prepared to show the house to anyone?” Time wasters abound including people in absolutely no position to purchase, buyers looking for a plein pied when your property is on three storeys and cheeky chancers with a budget half your asking price.

Don’t be afraid to say that a viewing isn’t convenient especially when it’s demanded at virtually no notice. Serious enquirers will always come another time.

When you finally get a buyer on the hook be wary if the agent does not initially disclose the amount offered, first asking “what’s the minimum net figure you would accept?” To be fair to them, they might be considering reducing their commission in order to get you the net price you are looking for. Or they might not. You have a right to know the gross amount that’s been offered.

Take with a big pinch of salt all you are told about a prospective buyer’s position. They might be said to be a cash buyer and this may be true in so far as they are not seeking a mortgage. But they might in turn be selling a property themselves on which your sale could be dependent. And if their buyer needs a mortgage, then all bets are off should it fail to materialise.

Assuming you eventually do agree a price with a buyer and get to the signing of the Compromis de Vente, make sure you’re aware of any special conditions inserted over and above the standard wording – the so called conditions suspensives which override the commitment to purchase that prevails after the seven day cooling-off period.

Ask if your buyer is intending to lodge the 10% deposit with your notaire. I always thought this was a legal requirement but it seems that “by mutual agreement” this can be set aside. There is a big difference between a deposit sitting under your notaire’s control which you have a right to if your buyer later pulls out, as opposed to pursuing them through the courts.

The Compromis de Vente might state that part of your agreed sale price represents the notional value of fixtures and fittings – fitted wardrobes, kitchen units, dishwashers and such like. This reduces the buyer’s stamp duty. It doesn’t detract from your position – nor does it benefit you in any way either. Ensure you are happy with the values proposed – they can be ridiculously inflated in which event you will be complicit in (and let’s not mince words here) a blatant tax evasion device that is only of advantage to your buyer.

Check everything on documents prepared for you to sign. Our notaire managed to get our house number wrong on the final Acte de Vente. A minor detail wouldn’t you say?

Even when you have got to the last hurdle and hand over the keys there are some circumstances where you may have to wait a further 14 days for settlement of your money. Yes, you could be moved out with nothing to show for another fortnight! Check out your position early in the proceedings.

I have talked here about selling through an agent but of course you may choose to market your property direct though I’d have to say I’ve not heard of too many success stories recently using this means. And it’s still very much a buyers’ market with foreigners thin on the ground leaving domestic buyers making up the bulk of enquirers – who still seem to prefer the traditional immobilier option.

Finally, though it all sounds very stressful, have courage – you’ll get there in the end!

Disclaimer. These are observations drawn from the writer’s recent experience none of which should be construed as legal advice. Laws and practice can vary from one part of France to another. Neither the writer nor the publishers will be responsible for any actions taken as a result of information contained in this article. Consult your notaire at every stage.

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