Finding a House in France

Actually finding your house is one of the most exciting phases of the whole process of acquiring your French Dream Home.

The doorstep that is two inches too low to prevent the quagmire outside seeping into the house, the drainage system made of two-inch pipe that turns the courtyard into a lake when it blocks, which of course it will do several times every winter, the dripping and split gutters, the multitude of little leaks in the roof, the rising damp and the access road that has turned into a single-lane swamp.

Others have no desire to do this, and will be happy to look for their dream house in areas where a British number plate is so rare as to cause heads to turn, wishing to be close to the “real” France that they have fallen in love with.

However, it is quite common for the same property to be marketed through several Estate Agents, and you may be asked to sign a paper confirming that you will make your offer through the agent who lets you view the property. Indeed, since it is not exactly unheard-of for a prospective buyer to make an offer directly to the owner, in order to avoid paying agency fees, you may be asked to sign such a paper even if the house is exclusively marketed by that agent.

Houses which have remained on the books for a long time, or which the agent really does not think will sell easily, are often relegated to a huge filing cabinet full of dog-eared files. Houses which form part of an estate attract inheritance tax, but no tax is payable so long as the house is being actively marketed. So it often happens that owners who would like to continue to use the house they have been left but who would rather not pay the tax, lodge the house with an estate agent at a vastly inflated price which they have no real chance of being offered. Estate agents are wise to this, and such houses often find their way onto the back shelf. The agent has no interest in repeatedly showing houses to people whom they think are unlikely to buy them.

If you, as a buyer, have no clear idea what it is that you want — just that you want a house for 150,000 Euros, say- then the agent will just take a stab at what might suit you, and the chances that this will be on target are pretty slim. Being able to say “We would like a house in a village, maximum price XX, with X bedrooms, a small garden and a garage” will give your agent much more help and so will probably find you a house more quickly. You will see many houses, you will have endless long chats with pleasant agents, you will learn a lot about the area, and you may even stumble on a house you want to buy. Ask yourself why the house has not been marketed through an agent.

Having said that, the author knows of several houses which were purchased privately, in one of two ways – either by the traditional method of a sign with a phone number in the window, through private adverts, and more recently through the internet.

This presents a grave problem for the buyer who is inexperienced in looking at older houses. Therefore we strongly advise that you pay heed to the above section about bargaining, for the only real guide to the true value of a house is that it is the most you are prepared to pay for it and at the same time the least the seller is prepared to take for it.

This is a synopsis. The full article, with more pictures, can be read HERE.