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How to sell your Languedoc home privately

Posted by Chez de Chez on December 2, 2014
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Over 40% of houses are sold privately in France, so what are the benefits and how easy is it?

Firstly it’s surprisingly easy, in fact far easier than selling a home in the UK.  This is because Notaires having the same ability as Immobiliers to process the sale transaction.

There are two key benefits of using a Notaire instead of an Immobilier

  1. They’re contracted by the state and they’re impartial (I know this is technically two but lets not split hairs!!)
  2. They are often cheaper.  This alone makes this option worth considering.

However they are not guaranteed to be cheaper. So this shouldn’t be the primary reason for selling your home privately. Yes we all know how high Immobilier fees can be (anything from 5%-10%) but by bypassing them, the Notaire will have to manage the sale process and will rightly charge fees for doing so.  They do tend to be less though  – around 3%-5% but check this out first, as we’ve heard stories of some charging as much as the local Immobilier.

If you can find a good Notaire who’s sales charges (not to be confused with the conveyancing charges) are around 4% and your local Immobilier fees are 6%, then 2% saving’s not to be sniffed at!

So whilst these sales fees are paid for by the buyer, if you can show them a cost saving of between 1%-3% in fees you’ll make your property far more attractive to your prospective buyers.

However, before you go rushing off to your local Notaire, there are a few things you need to consider which might mean that for you it’s still best to advertise with an Immobilier.

Here’s a link to the Notaires.fr website where you can search for a Notaire in your area.  Select the department and the language you’d like them to be able to speak to see a list in that area.  Quite useful if you’d ideally like an English speaking Notaire.

Who do you think would be most interested in buying your home?

If you know your property is most likely to sell to an overseas buyer, then advertising with a local agent who only targets the French market might not be the best option for you.

If you’re pretty sure your buyer will be from overseas, then you need to find a way to market to this type of buyer.  In this instance, specialist on-line sites such as Chez de Chez, or magazines targeted at your type of buyer such as French Property News would be your best option.

However, if you’re not sure then you can always hedge your bets and run with both a local agent and oversees marketing.  Just make sure the contract you sign with your Immobilier allows you to do this.

Do you mind dealing with time wasters and coping with insulting feedback about your home?

This will happen and it can be unpleasant.

Naturally by selling privately you’ll be doing the lions share of what you’d normally pay the Immobilier to do.  So if you’re not comfortable with talking to strangers about your home and hearing their sometimes negative feedback, then maybe getting an Immobilier to do this for you is worth their fees.

We sold one of our houses privately and had to deal with a lot of time-wasters.  They’d contact us, really keen on viewing our property, so we’d drop all our plans in order to clean the house to within an inch of its life then wait for them to arrive.  Sometimes they would and sometimes they wouldn’t.  Then even when they did, more often than not, this was for them, something they’d decided to do on a whim to fill in time whilst on holiday.

We very quickly leaned to appreciate how hard Immobiliers have to work to secure one sale and as most are on a commission only basis, it became clear to us why their fees are so high.

Questions to ask prospective buyers

It’s a good idea to have a list of questions that you can ask prospective buyers.  You don’t want to waste your time or theirs if your property really doesn’t fit with what they’re looking for.  This will also help to weed out the time wasters.  If you suspect someone isn’t really serious about buying in France you can still choose to show them round your home but at least you won’t have raised your hopes and you might get some valuable feedback to enable you to hone your sales skills for when a serious buyer comes along.

Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  •  How did you find out about our property? This is useful not only from a marketing point of view but how they answer this might give you more of an indication as to how serious they are.
  •  How long have you been looking? 
  • Are you looking for this department specifically? If not, it wouldn’t hurt to ask what other departments they’re interested in.
  •  What sort of property are you looking for?….or are you just generally looking at this stage?
  •  Are you planning to move to France?, If so, when?
  •  Are you viewing properties with any agencies too?  This is important if they’re using an agency that you might also be registered with. Some agencies get prospective buyers to sign a Bon de Visite to cover all the properties they intend to show them in advance.  If the buyers then end up signing a Bon de Visite for your home by mistake, even if the agency doesn’t conduct the viewing, the agency will be entitled to charge their fee.  So by knowing in advance you’ll be able to warn the buyer to be aware of this.
  • Have you got a particular day/week you’d like to book your viewing?
  • When can I book you in to come and see our property? Try not to leave the conversation open ended.  By asking this  you’ll have a better idea how far into their search they really are.
  • Can I have your contact details?  An easy way to get this is to offer to send them further details about the property.  They’re probably speaking to many agents and private owners and it would be easy for your details to get lost in the mix, therefore if you have a way of following up your conversation with more information you’ve got far more chance of securing a viewing.  It might also be that they initially discount your property but then further down the line their search criteria changes, so having your details to hand might mean they come back to you a few weeks or months later.

Have a list of questions prospective buyers may ask you

By having answers to these questions and any others you can think of in advance, will save you a lot of time and means you’re also unlikely to be put on the spot.  You might want to think about preempting these by either having a printed sheet with the details on or better still, adding them to your marketing leaflet.  Contrary to popular belief, good sales people don;t think on their feet, they only appear to do so because they are better prepared.

Here are some of the more common ones to get you started:

What the house energy rating?

What are the taxe foncière  and taxe d’habitation costs? 

Are there any additional fees I might have to pay?  If selling via a Notaire rather than an Immobilier, whilst it’s the purchasers responsibility to pay these, it would be a good idea to have this information to hand in advance.  You might also want to show the prospective purchaser the difference in their overall costs by buying privately.

What are the utility/running costs?  

Do you have your diagnostics certificates? This question is worth a whole article in itself but basically since 2011 there are a whole raft of tests that need to be carried out and reports written prior to selling your home.  The reports are then collated into a dossier, Dossier Diagnostique Technique, or DDT.  To find out exactly what’s required and find accredited experts (they must be accredited) you should ask at your prefecture, your Notaire or Immobilier and they’ll be able to supply you with a list.

What’s included in the price?  Have a pre-prepared list of what’s included and what’s up for negotiation handy, it’ll save you being put on the spot on the day and give you the chance to think about the value of these items so you can make a bit of a song and dance about some key items.

Do you have a floor plan? It would be a good idea to have one of these drawn up, along with room dimensions.  This doesn’t need to be professionally done.  You could create it yourself on your computer, or even with a ruler and a pen, then scanned in and added to your marketing leaflet.  Or just photocopied and handed out separately.  It really will help people to visualise how they could live in your property and may be the difference between securing a viewing or not.

Where are the boundaries and rights of way?  Time to dig out the documents you were given when you purchased your home.  If you don’t have boundary details, go to your local Marie and get a copy of the plan cadastre.  If not already done, then also mark the boundaries and rights of way on it too.  If you’re really not sure, speak with your Notaire to get this drawn up legally.  It will have to be done for the sale anyway but will help to have this in advance.

Why are you selling?  This is nearly always asked at every viewing.  Personally, I think its often for the sake of something to say but if you can’t really think of anything and look hesitant when asked, it might raise further questions/suspicions.  Be as honest as you can without going into your life history – they’re  really not that interested in you!

What are the neighbours like? OK this can be tricky because you have to be honest.  If they’re the reason you’re moving you’ll need to come up with a statement that doesn’t put the prospective buyers off  but isn’t a downright lie either.  Something like ‘we don’t really have much to do with them’ would probably suffice.

Where’s the nearest……?  It’s good to be able to advise on how close all the key conveniences are, such as; supermarkets, restaurants, banks, beaches etc…If possible put this information in your marketing leaflet – it saves you having to re-think everything with each viewing.

What’s the rental income?  If you’re home has been used as a holiday let your prospective buyers might be interested in knowing what they can earn and where to advertise, so have this information to hand should the question come up too.  Be honest here though.  It might be that you only rented out for the key summer weeks and there’s more income potential but say this rather than making up a figure. Whilst we are sure you would declare all your rental income for tax purposes, make sure that whatever you tell prospective purchasers matches what you tell the taxman….you never know who you are talking to!

You might also want to provide details of the costs involved with renting out the property and how you advertise.  I know you had to lean the hard way but if you remove all the barriers to a sale you’ve got far more chance of making the sale.

If you decide to work with an Immobilier, as well as advertising privately

You will need to provide the agent with a mandat de vente (a signed authorisation from you (the owner). Make sure you reserve the right to deal with private buyers by having a ‘mandat simple’ and not a ‘mandat exclusif’ contract. You will find that Mandates are normally for a three-month period but can be extended, and you can usually terminate the contract – once the three months are up – by giving notice by registered post.

 Selling through a Notaire

You will need to factor in the Notaires commission and advise your purchaser of these additional fees, as it will be their responsibility to pay them.  These fees will vary from Notaire to Notaire but as I mentioned earlier, could still work out at least 2% less than the fees charged by most immobiliers.  However, it’s best to find these out in advance, as your buyers will need to be able to work out their total purchase costs and budget accordingly.

As mentioned above, here’s the link to the Notaire.fr website where you’ll be able to search for Notaires in your area.

 What clauses to be aware of and what not to do!

If your buyer wants to insert a conditional clause (clause suspensive) in the sales contract meaning the sale is dependent on him (or her) selling another property, don’t agree.  Because if you do agree to this (and if the buyer is selling up in the UK, where sales can be pulled out of at any stage before completion), you run the risk of being left high and dry.

If a buyer decides they’d like to have an inspection or survey done, try to get this done before the contract is signed.  This will give you the option to back out should this drag on (and being France, it very well could).

Never, ever, agree to accept part of the sale price under the table.  This used to be a common practice and no matter how desperate you are to sell it’s illegal and just not worth getting on the wrong side of the French legal system for.

12 tips to help you sell your Languedoc Property Privately

1.  Create leaflets

You can do this simply on your home computer.  It doesn’t have to be really professional but have all the key details of your property and if possible about the surrounding area, along with your best selection of photos and your contact details. You can post these out to people who enquire (they will 9 times out of 10 ask if you have information you can send them) hand these out to anyone who visits and even use them at any property selling shows you might attend. So they’ll be well used.

2.  Create good on-line web presence

Use specialist sites such as Chez de Chez or Crème de Languedoc who actively market to the buyer you’re looking to attract.

 3.  Advertise in specialist magazines

This is a more traditional way to advertise and normally more costly than on-line advertising.  However, if you feel your prospective buyer is more traditional and more likely to use this medium than visit websites then it’s something you should certainly investigate.

4.  Get your Dossier Diagnostique Technique (DDT) completed

This has been a legal requirement since 2011, so you might as well take the time initially to shop around for a good company rather than panicking at the last minute.  Another reason to get ahead with this is that the prices between one accredited company and another can be anything from 400-900 euros and the good ones are booked up a long time in advance.

5.  Take good photos of every room from as many angles and in different lights as possible

6.  Make sure to ‘dress the room’ beforehand

This includes making beds and adding cushions or throws, laying the table with possibly flowers or wine, putting up parasols and opening shutters.

7.  Clear away the clutter

Not all buyers will have the vision to see the beauty beneath, so why make it hard for them?  If you can’t part with your ‘stuff’ then pay for storage and store as much as you can bear to part with until your home sells.

8.  Decorate

I’m not saying every wall in every room  but if a wall or room looks a bit shabby, for the sake of the cost of a tin of paint it’s absolutely worth it.

9.  Prior to every visit make sure your home is clean and tidy

I know this sounds obvious but clean windows, make beds, open shutters, make sure your bathrooms and kitchens are squeaky clean, mow the lawn, clean the pool (if winter, consider taking off the cover for the day), wash the curtains put the heating on if necessary (nobody likes walking into a cold house).  If you’re really not that good at cleaning and tidying, there a loads of great companies in your area who’d do this for you.  So pay for a cleaner and maintenance guy for a few months, it’ll be worth it.

10.  Create a sales folder

This should contain all the questions and answers and documentation mentioned earlier, especially if possible, copies of your marketing leaflet.

It’s rare to have prospective buyers queuing round the block and you may go for many weeks without any enquiries whatsoever.  But then like the number 10 bus, three will come along at once at the most inconvenient of times.  By having all your information to hand, no matter what else is going on in your life, you’ll be able to answer any questions swiftly and efficiently.

11. Register with your local Notaire

This gives you the chance to check how comfortable you feel working with him and his team.  How efficient and friendly do they appear? What are their fees? If your French isn’t that good, is there at least someone in the office who speaks good English? Or do you have someone lined up who’ll help you with any legal translations?  You might be able to muddle through on a day to day level but this is your home with tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds at stake, so this is one time that ‘winging it’ is not a wise thing to do.

If you don’t feel that your first choice of Notaire is right for you then you can always walk away at this stage and find another one.

12.  Give some thought to your unused space – Outbuildings/attics/garages

All that spare space has a real estate value but more so if your prospective buyers can see the potential.  Saying ‘you could always convert the attic’ is ok but by putting in a bit more effort and investing a small amount of cash, you can get the relevant planning permission signed off (if needed) and plans drawn up.

If you can help a prospective buyer to see a way of adding value, you’ve just managed to increase the saleability of your home ten fold!

If you’d like further information about how to sell you home privately or would like to advertise on this site, then please contact us.

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