My husband, Mark, runs estate agency Med and Mountain, based in Perpignan and selling property in the surrounding area. Having seen a few estate-agent bashing articles recently on local forums, he thought he’d put the case for selling your property through an estate agent! *ducks for cover*
Here at Med and Mountain, we love buying and selling property – it’s a great job which is both people-centric and extremely varied. We take pride in the service which we provide to our clients, most of whom we’d like to think would recommend us!
However one aspect of the job which is not so welcome is the disdain with which we estate agents are treated by so many people. I have always struggled to understand why we are quite so universally reviled. Sure there are the rip-off merchants in the industry, but the same can be said of many industries and you don’t see people writing off all builders or lawyers or shop keepers in the same way as they do estate agents.
Perpignan 1 bed apartment 95,000 euros
I think the answer is hinted at in a comment I read on a local English-speaking forum recently: “Why pay an agency 5-8% for putting it on the net if you can do it yourself?”. This statement makes the common assumption that all an estate agent does is advertise properties on the internet for the vendor, find a buyer and pocket a hefty chunk of commission for a few hours’ work. In fact, the job is so much more involved than this, as many have found out when they sell their properties themselves.
If you are thinking of selling your house yourself, these are the issues to consider before going it alone:
1. Can you afford to market your house effectively?
The property market in France is not exactly thriving. According to the FNAIM, the total number of sales in France last year fell by 5.1% with sales predicted to fall further in 2014. It is possible that you could advertise your property on a private sales site and find a buyer straight away but the odds are against you. The majority of homebuyers in France – 68% according to this article on the L’Express website – still buy through an estate agent.
The best agents will be marketing on numerous sites, both locally and internationally, to give your property the maximum exposure possible. If you were to pay for private ads on as many sites it would cost you handsomely. When choosing an agent, ask them about their marketing policy. You will soon be able to work out the level of exposure they are offering. If you think you can do better, fair enough, don’t give them a mandate.
It would be lovely if it was as simple as someone falling in love with your property from the online photos, coming to view it and making an offer however, after 11 years working in real estate I can tell you that very few people end up buying the house they initially enquired about.
An estate agency works like a shop – the website is the shop window which draws them in to browse and as they do so, they more often than not find different properties that interest them and end up buying one of those. Vendors benefit from the cumulative effect of lots of attractive properties on one site drawing potential purchasers in.
In addition, don’t forget that agents also have databases of potential clients on their books looking for property. They may have buyers waiting for properties like yours to come on the market and systems in place to very quickly let them know about new additions to their portfolio.
2. Do you have time to dedicate to selling your house?
Don’t underestimate how time consuming it can be selling your house at the viewing stage. If you don’t live near the property or you work full-time you will need someone who can be available for viewings. Buyers who don’t live in the area will frequently have a very limited time in which to look at properties. If your property isn’t available to view, they will simply continue their search elsewhere. If you’re not using an agent, you will need someone dependable, available at short notice and who will present your property in a good light.
You should also consider whether they are equipped to answer all the questions thrown at them. Such questions will often not just be based around the property, but will also revolve around the intricacies of the buying process, timescales, the work of the notaire and where the potential buyer stands legally when making an offer especially if there are particular conditions of the sale to consider. If the potential buyer doesn’t get clear explanations and reassurances regarding the process, he may consider the risks of proceeding to be too high.
An agent is a professional skilled at dealing with potential buyers. They will establish whether house hunters are serious and whether they can actually afford to buy your house, weeding out unsuitable ones and saving everyone time and effort. They will also have the answers to buyers’ questions at their fingertips to give them the confidence to proceed.
3. Do you have good negotiation skills?
Negotiation is a skill that surprisingly few people are good at, although most people think they are! Many people are extremely emotive about their own property and find it difficult to accept that another person may not see it the same way. For this reason, vendors benefit from having a third party acting on their behalf in negotiating the sale price. An agent acts as a buffer between vendor and buyer as they bat offers and clauses back and forth.
No French property sale is straightforward – there are always finer points to discuss and resolve whether they concern boundaries, fixtures and fittings, septic tanks, termites or what furniture is included in the sale – the list is endless. Having a professional on board to deal with issues that crop up at the negotiation stage is reassuring for both vendor and buyer and could be the difference between clinching a sale and losing it.
4. Is your French good enough?
If French is not your native tongue, is it going to be adequate to get you through the selling process? Being able to point out the chaudière and the cuisine américaine is one thing, but how will you fare once you have an offer on the table and a potential buyer is asking detailed questions about the minor electrical faults or the presence of asbestos outlined in the reports which a seller legally has to provide to purchasers?
And once a price is agreed, the process doesn’t stop there. You will need to sign a compromis de vente – will you understand what you are signing? Our agency policy is to talk both buyer and seller through both the initial contract and the final acte de vente clause by clause to make sure they are 100% clear about what they are signing. Of course the notaire will be involved by this time but there are surprisingly few who speak good enough English to explain legal jargon in a comprehensive way, if they can even be bothered.
5. Do you have the knowledge of the house-buying process?
A good estate agent will regularly check with the notaire and buyer that everything is running smoothly during a sale. He or she will tell you, and the buyer, when formalities need to be completed and keep in constant contact with the notaire.
Experience has also taught us that notaires need constant badgering and, as in the case of a recent sale where major errors were found in the acte de vente when we checked it through, are not infallible when it comes to the drafting of these important documents. Are you capable of chasing up the notaire if he is dragging his heels and checking that draft documentation is correct?
If you have answered yes to all the above questions, then by all means give it a go selling your house yourself. If you answered no to any, I’d suggest that having a professional estate agent who you trust is a good idea. Rather than resenting then for the commission they will be earning, why not think of the positives that they will bring to the process and appreciate the fact that they will save you a lot of time and stress as well as providing expertise and support throughout the process.
If you would like a valuation of your property in the Pyrénées-Orientales, or have questions relating to the sales process, I would be happy to chat to you. Please feel free to contact me by phone or email.