While it might seem like child’s play, do ask yourself why and where you’re looking to buy before starting to search for a French estate agent. The investment buyer of a Paris apartment will have totally different needs to someone relocating to an Aquitaine château, so by narrowing down your search you’ll quickly establish a shortlist of agents. Any reputable agent will have a strong online presence and you should aim for a google search that reveals a number of positive web-based reviews. Of course, old-fashioned word of mouth referrals are also invaluable.
Armed with your shortlist, research each estate agent’s track-record in selling French properties to international buyers. Do they speak English or even better do they have British partners? Do they understand the challenges for buyers unfamiliar with buying property in France? Do they have access to banks and legal professionals? It might seem obvious, but check those credentials too. Estate agents in France are legally required to have a carte professionnelle license and should belong to regulating bodies like FNAIM and SMPI. A professional website complete with area guides, comprehensive property listings and regular news updates is also a clear indicator of suitability.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of agents down to two or three, have a conversation to test out their local market knowledge. A solid agent should always be able to advise, for example, whether your buy-to let ambitions are realistic for the area you’re targeting. It will be revealing to see how closely they listen to your brief and how pro-active they are in matching you with suitable properties. Finally, if you’re to build a successful relationship with your agent, you need to feel comfortable with their style, so trust your instincts.
What are the common mistakes to avoid when house-hunting in France?
You might be keen to access as many French properties for sale as possible, but avoid registering with too many agents. Anyone selling French property is entitled to assign multiple agents. For the buyer who then signs up with them, it’s frustrating when each one attempts to show, for instance, the same farmhouse for sale in Provence.
Another point to remember is that regions such as Aquitaine are vast. So don’t make the mistake of thinking you can view properties in Lot, Garonne and Tarn all in the same day. If you’re making a trip especially, pay your agent a visit prior to viewing and establish the finer details.
A formal survey isn’t a standard feature of property sales in France, but Winkworth International advises contacting a local builder, or a "Géomètre-expert" for this purpose. Knowing about structural issues or plumbing problems before completion is always preferable.
Don’t be romantic when buying-to-let; this really is vital. Don’t just engage an agent with knowledge of the buy-to-let market, do your own homework too. Consider the practicalities of the property you’re viewing; it might be attractive to look at, but is it easily maintainable? Is the neighbourhood popular with holidaymakers - with shops, restaurants and leisure activities nearby - and if so, what’s their demographic? Family-friendly holiday resorts, for example, demand family-friendly accommodation, so that top-floor studio apartment is less likely to attract business. How far is the airport and which airlines fly in and out? It’s all too easy to expect rental income without first asking these questions.
What makes Winkworth International different?
We have a network of agents operating across France, from Paris to the French Alps, South-West France, Provence and the Côte D’Azur. We’re a long-established and successful British brand, expert at matching international buyers with their perfect property. We’ve cemented our experience in French holiday properties, forever homes and buy-to-let investments over many years. Everything you’re looking for is right here at our Winkworth France office.