I posted in my Facebook group ‘Houses in France without a real estate agent’ article about how house hunters often ask too general questions, so the sellers don’t know what information to add. One of the comments was an extensive story by Walter Oeyen, a Flemish man who responded with a litany of complaints about the bad information he received as a house hunter from both professional sellers (real estate agents) and private homeowners. His story seemed broad and interesting enough for anyone looking for a house in France. That’s why I provide the answers here on the blog. The bold and italic texts are by Walter Oeyen. The ‘normal’ text is mine.

Here we go…

Why are real estate agents in France so afraid to provide information?
Why are private sellers (sometimes) no better?
Why do people show so many (or few) meaningless photos?

What do I want to know when I read an advertisement? Let’s start with…tadaaaa….”Where is it”. That is the evidence. An explanation that it is x km from city A and xx km from city B is of no use to me. The right address and Google Streetview will make a lot clear. Driving a thousand miles without knowing what and where is not something I’m going to do. A photo of the facade on the street side also says a lot, it is very often missing (because then you can use Streetview), and if it is available, it is sometimes framed in such a way that I cannot see where the house is located in relation to the neighbors. That is very disappointing when it turns out that the beautiful house is located next to a ten-storey apartment block. Is it a detached house? Rara.

This is a known problem on the housing market in France. Because people can list their homes with several brokers at the same time, those brokers keep their cards close to their chest. If they take a nice photo of the street side, the competitor can easily find the house, ring the doorbell and ask if he can also put it up for sale. The same actually applies to private individuals. If you prefer not to hire a real estate agent yet, you also do not want real estate agents to come to your door with a sales pitch.

As a buyer, you can try to call the selling agent and ask for the address of a house, but you won’t just get that. Who knows, you might be (a spy of) a competing real estate agent. Der Feind hört mit! Or who knows, you might want to go there unaccompanied and then buy the house directly from the private individual! Then the loose-lipped real estate agents earn nothing.

The private sellers who list their homes on Immogo are somewhat protected against this type of practice, if only because the site is less widely shared than, for example, LeBonCoin. Your house is literally on the street there. Moreover, I validate all emails that come in, in order to filter out the brokers (and the many scammers on the internet). I’m sure one slips through every now and then, but I think I can catch 90%.

As a private house hunter, you are of course free to contact the sellers and ask specific questions. The first question will probably be: “Tadaaa, where is it?”

So the photos. Sometimes just laughable or should I say sad. A photo of a beautiful vase with beautiful flowers, a corner in a room with grandma’s photo on the wall, a photo of the living room where you can see the curvature of the floor tiles because that photo was taken with a special lens to make it very clear. to make it look big, etc etc … The description says rooms like this and rooms like this with a photo of the garden, a view to the mountains and a ‘view’ of the corner of the shower cabin, … very useful . No photos of the garage, the bedrooms, the attic, …, which apparently are there, … bye bye advertisement, I will continue looking elsewhere.

With private sellers it is difficult to expect a professional approach to photography. Not everyone is equally talented and not everyone has a modern camera or smartphone. Some real estate agents are just as good at it. But they don’t want to invest in a good photographer either, because imagine you put a few hundred euros in and another real estate agent undercuts your price and sells the house… Some houses are in the window of 5 or 6 real estate agents. So no one really dares to invest. Moreover… if they do hire a good photographer, you will get complaints about “photos taken with a special lens to make it look very large.” It is never right or wrong. In any case, OG photography in France is highly underdeveloped for the reasons mentioned (haha, pun intended). In the Netherlands, even the simplest home is completely styled, so that only beautifully tidy homes are offered on Funda. But then you have to learn to see through that again.

How much is it?
Yes, the price is included. The price difference between advertisement X and advertisement Y is sometimes large. The largest difference found so far was almost €12,000 (twelve thousand), yes for the same home. Does that say everything? No. Buyer’s costs, seller’s costs, that is always stated. Quite useful of course. You can look up the notary costs and taxes on a special notary website. Very useful.

One real estate agent asks for 6%, another settles for 3% and the private seller does not have to pay any commission at all. On a house worth 200,000, 6% can easily save 12,000 euros. The private sellers on Immogo often use the public broker’s price, so as not to offend their broker. I always advise them to simply put their own net price in the advertisement. More chance of sale, and let that real estate agent prove that he is worth that extra 6%! But even if you see the same price at Immogo as at an estate agent, you still know that there is 6% extra room for negotiation. By the way, Immogo has a useful function: Lowest price guarantee. If the seller clicks this, a yellow label will appear in his advertisement. He or she promises not to offer the house cheaper anywhere else. So then you know you don’t have to look any further.

We say here the “taxe foncière”, cadastral income, which is almost always missing. The financial condition of the village/municipality/city, on the other hand, is often stated in great detail, which is of little use to me. Sometimes that tax is mentioned, strangely enough, for example, one broker says € 750 and another talks about € 1600. That’s really useful information. That annual cost is interesting to know.

The taxe foncière is comparable to what is called the ‘rental value lump sum’ in the Netherlands. You pay a tax on the potential rental value of your property. Even if you just live there yourself. The annual amount can indeed be significant. I pay approximately 180 euros per month for this tax. You can simply ask the seller about this.

What about the “fosse septique” or is there a connection to the sewer? Very often unknown and not considered renovation, but bringing that “well” up to date can be a very expensive affair. During my visit, an estate agent was surprised that I already knew that the fosse septique was not in order (yes, I do a lot of research) but reassured me that with €1000 it would be fine. A specialist charged me a possible cost of more than €10,000 for that house, new well, new filters, excavation work, etc. So you can see what the real estate agents (want to) know/say about it.

Unfortunately, not all brokers are equally honest. Some lie whether it is printed in order to sell a house. This is also encouraged by the system. In the Netherlands, every house is for sale through one real estate agent. He will certainly sell it eventually and can then count on roughly 1.5% commission. There is therefore much less pressure, which promotes objective information to the buyer.

Why not start the advertisement with the statement that the property is already rented or is being sold on an annuity basis. That saves time. If it is only mentioned at the end of a very detailed text about how ideal that home is….. grrrrr.

This does happen, but is very rare. You can usually tell by the price. If the principal amount is implausibly low, it may involve an annuity sale. But these types of sales don’t happen that often, so I don’t think this is a daily annoyance for the home seeker.

A real estate agent had placed a nice advertisement, clear photos, was very helpful in sending more information WITH the correct address AND the honest statement that the house and the entire neighborhood flooded two years ago. Google Streetview made it clear why. Behind the garden is the river and so … I understand that it is not a promotion to put something like that in an advertisement, but in the end I found out anyway, so it was a waste of time, but thanks for the honesty, Mr. real estate agent.

That’s how it can be, and that’s how it should be.

I think the demand for more information is ‘Chinese’ for many sellers. I receive exactly the text and photos that are already in the advertisement. Very useful bye bye. Some want you to call them for more information. However, in my request for information I always say that I live in Belgium and do not want to make a pointless journey of 1000 km there and 1000 km back. Are they going to read the ‘technique file’ to me over the telephone? Are they going to ‘describe’ more photos to me over the telephone?

It also depends entirely on how you formulate the question, as I wrote in my article. A seller cannot do anything with “Send me more information and photos”. Information about what? Photos of what? It is not complicated for a private seller to take some additional photos of the garden, the surroundings or the attic upon request. However, the broker sometimes has to drive half an hour for this. He is less eager to jump into the car straight away. Especially when the request for more information and more photos has been asked very generally by a Belgian, who he knows will not be coming to see it for a while. Then he prefers to wait for a Frenchman, whom he can drag to the house and possibly even show him some other houses from his portfolio.

Another problem apparently. The “Dossier Technique”. Only 1 (one) broker forwarded it to me. The rest know nothing or don’t want to give it because then I would find out too much and ….. yes and then what. It is an obligation That file was only going to be given to me when the deed was signed.

The technique file with all research is mandatory at the time of sale and should be included in the compromise de vente. But it rarely happens that this is done when a home is put up for sale. It is a significant investment, and some parts are only valid for a year. The seller therefore prefers to wait until there is a serious candidate. By the way, the energy balance is mandatory upon publication, but keep in mind that we are in France. Here the regular soup is rarely eaten as hot as it is served.

And then there are private individuals and real estate agents who simply do not respond to a question. Regrettably. Why?

Good question. Some just aren’t very good at their jobs. Some private sellers think they already have enough requests and no longer respond to new customers. As webmaster of Immogo, I always emphasize to people that they are their own real estate agent and that they must therefore also behave as a commercial agent. Respond quickly, provide the correct information, inquire if the buyer does not hear from him after an initial round of information. By the way, this is the case with 80% of requests, and it is quite rude. If you don’t like the offer, try to have the courage to inform the seller. What I’m saying is… the effort has to come from two people.

I sold a house, with many photos and a lot of explanation in the advertisement. Had 12 visitors in one day and sold the house on that one, first day. A lot of work to create a good site and a good advertisement? No. I continue searching.

Bravo to you! But not everyone is as handy with digital tools as you apparently are. Drawing up a good advertisement and creating a website is a major, if not impossible, task for many people. That’s why I once founded Immogo, where people pay a very reasonable amount (one can pay whatever one wants) receive the most professional possible presentation of their house based on their own input.

Met dank aan Walter Oeyen voor de vragen.

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