How to Sell your House in France

A Vendre Sign - Shuppa Shupps (Wikimedia)

Design credit: Shuppa Shupps (Wikimedia)

So you’ve decided to sell your house in France?

For whatever reason you have made this decision, the steps through to a successful sale are not very different from elsewhere.

  • The property is put on the market by whatever means for whatever price and is viewed…….  or not!
  • Offers may be made and one must decide to accept, refuse or negotiate.
  • Once an agreement is made the matter is handed on to the legal people to sort out the necessary documents and the signing of the contract.
  •  Le voilà!

End of story – end of post!

Perhaps not…. so let’s look at the steps in more detail and the choices facing you.

Putting your Property on the Market

Once you have decided to sell your house in France you need to put it on the market.  The immediate choice you must make is which road will your take?  Certainly each one has its pros and cons.  At the end of the day you want to make the most money you can in the least amount of time and with the least amount of work.  When it comes down to it the decision is yours!

With an Estate Agent (Agent Immobilier)

Old A Vendre Sign  Photo by Chris Northwood  (Wikimedia)

Old A Vendre Sign
Photo by Chris Northwood (Wikimedia)

Probably the most common way to go.  Estate agents have the means to advertise in a number of media; their shop, the local newspapers, property magazines and websites.  They are thus likely to reach a wider market than you can yourself increasing the possible number of viewers.  They ought to know the market and are there to give advice on asking prices.  They can help with the negotiations.  If you have already left the area due to a new job, the agent can still bring in prospective buyers.

Lastly they will have contacts with the local notaires, the notary public who deal with the legal side of the sale.

But, they are not cheap.  Their prices will vary with the price of the sale.  Usually there is a fixed amount for low price sales.  For higher priced sales they will charge a percentage which gets progressively lower as the price boundaries increase. See our post on viewing houses.

Don’t forget while they are there to help you sell your house in France they need to make the sales consistently and frequently to run a successful business.  Make your own decisions on the advice they offer.  You too will need to have a handle on the market!

Private Sale

Probably the major reason for taking on this method is to avoid paying an estate agent.  This will give you the chance to reduce your initial asking price for your property and give you extra leeway during the negotiations.  But there may be more work advertising your home.  Two young couples in our apartment block sold privately, easily and quickly.  Both couples simply hung a banner from their balcony that overlooks the road.  Both were gone within a week!

However, unless you are as lucky as these families you may struggle to generate enough views.  Constantly renewing advertisments in the local newspapers, continually being at home to receive possible buyers may be major frustrations.  You will need to have done your homework in terms of the market and levy a reasonable asking price.

At Auction

You may sell your property at auction but these tend to be less popular than in other countries accounting for about 2% of all property sales.  Should your house be repossessed it may be sold in a Judicial Auction.

Purchasers at an auction have to leave a 5-20% cheque deposit that is returned if they are not successful.  Bidding will start at the reserved price which is set at about 60% of the estimated value.  The bidding process is know as ‘vente à la bougie‘ (Sale by candle).  I think that is a lovely way to describe it.  Basically each time a bid is offered a new candle is lit.  Should three candles go out with no further bid the sale is complete.

The purchaser must pay within 45 days or a new auction will take place.  They will lose their deposit and are liable for the excess money should the second auction return a lower value.  On the other hand if within 10 days a new purchaser offers 10% more than the winning bid, a second auction takes place starting at the new bid price.

There are a number of articles on the web about purchasing property by auction.  I have listed 3 here:

  1. French Property
  2. The Good Life France
  3. French Entrée


I guess the same rules apply here in France as to any where else in the world.  The better the place looks the more likely it is to sell.  Well it all depends on what you are selling doesn’t it?  A newish house or apartment that you still live in needs to be clean and dressed whereas a barn for conversion is a very different matter.

The estate agent will be engaged to show the house.  When we sold our Toulouse apartment it was empty and we were living in Switzerland.  Actually we were at our holiday home in the Lot.  We went down to Toulouse one day in the summer engaged an agent close to where it was.  We had an offer within the week from a couple renting in the same block which leads me into …….

Considering Offers

Do your homework!!  Make sure you have an idea of the market and be prepared to negotiate.  Of course if the property is sold at auction this advice is of no use.  But selling through an agent or privately you need to know your home’s real value.  You obviously want the highest price and the buyer wants to get it at the cheapest possible.

The estate agent wants the sale.  They will give you an idea of what they think you should ask knowing that you will have to compromise on that value more often than not.  A major factor in your negotiating power will be ‘how quickly do you need to sell?’  Don’t forget the longer it takes the more money you will spend on repaying your loan should you have one.  I suppose the situations are endless and you will need to have worked out your own bargaining strategy.

Engaging a Notaire

Notaires Symbol - We Live in France Photo Credit: Wikipedia - Utr dragon

Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Utr dragon

Having bought and sold on 4 occasions now in France I would suggest you engage you own notaire.  They are legal professionals who are there to give sound advice.  Twice we have used our own and both times they really looked after our interests.  The other plus side is they are paid in this respect by the purchaser!  There is a total fee from which each notaire is paid.

The notiares will make sure everything is in order legally for the sale to go ahead.

One thing that may come up in the negotiations is ‘taxe d’habitation’, a little like Council Tax in the UK.  Basically whoever lives in a property on January 1st of a year is taxable for living there for the whole year.  So by law if you sell in June you still pay tax for the property up to December 31st.  It is possible for the new owner to agree to pay the remainder to help push through the sale but, make sure you have that agreement in writing!

We have another story to tell you about taxe d’habitation so look out for a future post on renting out a property in France.

Final Sale

As with buying a property the final phase in selling a house in France is signing the ‘acte de Vente’.  Strangely enough this took place in Paris when we sold our Toulouse apartment.  Presumably it was the most convenient for the notaires who had been engaged.  Ours was from near our home close to Geneva.  We weren’t present.  Like the first house we bought we were at work.  That time in Singapore.  This time we were in Switzerland.

Before the acte could be signed and before we could have our money transferred to the bank the outstanding charges owed to the ‘syndic de la copropriété‘ had to be paid.  As we had an apartment we were part of a housing co-operative and thus we were obliged to pay into their funds for running the grounds.  Basically funds were taken out of the sale and transferred to the syndic.

Once it had all gone through we were able to breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to moving into our new apartment in the Pays de Gex where we now live.



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