French estate agents ask 4 to 10% of the value of a property sale.
So it is important to know who is picking up the tab.
The seller? Or the buyer?
If you are the owner selling your property, the estate agent will most likely tell you that the buyer pays the agency fees. You fix the amount you want to receive for your property (‘prix net vendeur’), the agent adds his fees plus a negotiation margin and publishes the house for the total amount. This makes it sound like you get all the agents’ expertise and service for nought.
For whom does the agent work?
But as a buyer, you have no obligation at all to pay the agency fees. You have no contract with the agency and the agent is not representing you but the seller. The agent is not trying to help you get the price down, nor doing his best to finds faults in the offer to strengthen your position in the negotiations. He does not work for you, so why would you pay him?
The notary takes the agency fees from the seller
The tricky thing is, the fees are almost always included in the published price. So once the sale is concluded, the buyer pays the price of the home including the agency fees. But the buyers has a transaction only with the seller. Without any legal link to the estate agent. So the entire sum is paid through the notaire to the sellers name. The agency does not have part in this transaction. It is only after the notaire has received the entire sum, that the commission is ‘taken back’ from the seller and given to the agent.
The seller pays the agent
So legally, it is the seller who pays the agency. You might argue this is a moot point, since it is the buyer forking over the total amount. And you are right. But when it comes to a litigation, for instance when the agency has been wrongfully circumvented in a sale, it is the seller who is responsible and risks to be attacked in court.
Are you buying? Ask to put the agency fees on your invoice!
All this legal hair splitting notwithstanding, once you have reached an agreement as to the price of the house, ask the notaire to specify that you as a buyer are paying the fees. The transactions costs are a percentage of the net value of the house. So when the 6% of the agency are taken out of the equation, you pay less legal fees. It might not be a large amount, but can still add up to several hundreds and even thousands of euros. The price of a luxurious house warming party!
Or try to do business without an agency
Finally, you can save on agency fees by doing business directly with the seller. The best way to do this is to steer clear of the agency sites and shop windows and rely mainly on open sources during your search for the right French home. Sites where only private sellers advertise their property ‘entre particuliers’. Like Immogo.