As an owner of french real estate, if you want to sell your property, chances are the broker will explain that he is doing his work essentially for free, because his commission in the end is paid by the buyer. His reasoning is as follows: you set the net price you want to receive for your home. The agent adds his fee plus – if he’s smart – a negotiation margin and publishes the property for the total gross amount. This almost seems like you get all the expertise and service of the AI for free!
The buyer has no interest in paying the agent fees. He has no contract with the agent, who is actually representing the opponent in the negotiations. The agent will not help the buyer to get a better price. He will not actively try to find technical arguments to strengthen the bargaining position of the buyer. The gnat does not work for the buyer. So why should the buyer pay the agent?
The thing that makes it complicated, is that the agency fee is (almost) always included in the published asking price. So when the sale is concluded, the buyer pays the price for the property including the agency fees. But the buyer is signing a contract (acte de vente) with the seller and has nothing to do with the agent. The total amount is paid to the seller through the notaire. The agent immobilier is not involved in this transaction. Only after the amount has been received, the notary will then ‘take’ the agents commission back from the seller to give it to the agency.
So legally speaking it is the seller who is paying the agent immobilier in France. You can discuss about this being a moot point because the seller has to come up with the total amount. True, but if there are any legal issues, for instance when parties try to surreptitiously circumvent the broker, the seller will be held responsible and can be prosecuted in court.
The seller has an obligation to pay the agency, but the buyer has to cough up the extra amount. So actually they pay the AI together, because the 6% is taken out of the budget of the buyer and the profit of the seller. In the end the agency mainly makes the negotiation margin that much narrower.
No matter the legal position, it can be smart for a buyer to ask the agency fees to be itemized on the final deed and thus keep them out of the real estate transaction. As long as they are hidden in the price of the property, they are subject to about 8% transaction tax and notary costs. As an example: if you are buying a house that is costing 200.000 but being sold with 6% extra for 212.000, you pay 8% of 12.000 euros equals €1000 that might have been avoided. So taking the agency fees out of the equations will net you a lavish house warming party.
Another way to save on agency fees is doing business without an agent. Don’t look in the windows of the agences immobilières but use mainly public sources, like online classifieds (leboncoin.fr is excellent) or special sites for private sellers, like www.immogo.com.