How to find estate agents in France

TransferWise content team
27.06.19
8 minute read

The allure of France is as great as ever. Whether you’re after a beautiful, secluded countryside retreat or a pad in Paris, many people dream of owning or renting property in France.

But the process isn’t easy, and whether you’re buying, renting or selling, you’ll usually need the help of an estate agent.

This guide will get you started on the key question of finding a good estate agent in France. Read on to discover:

  • How to find an estate agent
  • How to compare estate agents
  • Typical fees
  • What to know about the French property market
  • Questions to ask when buying or selling.

Throughout it all, the key question is how to make sure you’re getting value for money: either by finding the best property available within your budget, or by selling your place at the best possible price. But with a multi-currency account from TransferWise, you can also cut back on the international transfer fees that might just tip your whole budget over the edge. More on that later: for now, back to how to choose an estate agent.

Sending money to or from France? TransferWise could save you up to 8x versus your bank

Before you get started, a word.

Banks and money transfer providers often give you a bad exchange rate to make extra profits.

TransferWise is different. Its smart new technology skips hefty international transfer fees by connecting local bank accounts all around the world. Which means you can save up to 8x by using TransferWise rather than your bank when you send your money abroad.

Check out how to make your first transfer with TransferWise. And give it a try.

Oh, and while you’re at it, check out TransferWise’s free borderless multi-currency account. Where you can manage and send dozens of currencies all from the same account.

Now, back to what you came here to read.

Finding French estate agents: Local estate agents or online letting agents?

You won’t be short of options when you begin your search for estate agents, or agents immobilières, in France. Even though some domestic sales in France are made without agents, foreign buyers almost always enlist the help of professionals. So there are not only plenty of estate agents, there are also plenty of those who are used to dealing with international clients – British ones especially.¹

Of course, though, the situation changes depending on where you’re looking. Even though some parts of the French countryside are popular expat destinations, their remoteness can mean there’s less choice when finding an agent. A big city like Paris, on the other hand, will be a very different experience, with plenty of agencies all around.

It’s true that nothing beats the personal touch of going into a local estate agent office in person, so you’ll need to plan a trip for fairly early in the process. The age-old method of pounding the pavement, and just wandering in to any estate agents that you like the look of, can still prove fruitful too.

However, the internet can be your friend, so long as you don’t commit yourself to the first page of Google results. Do some detailed, area-specific research, and always remember to check that the agents you find are professionally accredited. Estate agents in France must have a carte professionelle: don’t do business with one that doesn’t.

One possible exception to that is if you choose to do business with a “foreign agent” or agent commercial. Such an agent might represent an accredited professional agent, but not actually be one. Do make sure they’re representing a legitimate outfit, and certainly don’t part with money until you’ve seen proof of it.¹

If you’re finding properties in France via a UK-based agency, check what’s really going on: they may be an intermediary acting on behalf of a French outfit. They’ll probably take a commission if so: there may be extra fees involved.²

List of online estate agent websites

Online, the best estate agents or letting agents for you will probably depend upon which area you’re looking in. Green-Acres.fr is one site you can use to find estate agents by area.

Two more have the added advantage of being professional bodies for French immobiliers: search among their members online to find an agency with a professional affiliation.

You can also use any of the above links to look directly for property, or try sites like:

Typical estate agent fees in France

There are all sorts of fees that come up when buying or selling property in France, including property tax, and you may well be considering getting a mortgage. Don’t forget to check with your estate agent about fees before you get going with your property search or sale.

But what do estate agents charge? In France it can vary. In general, it’s worth talking about fees as early as possible in the process, so you know exactly what your prospective estate agent expects to charge you, and what else you’re likely to have to pay too.

Service Fee
Estate agent commission In France, this fee may be paid by either the buyer or the seller: it’s something to establish as early as possible in a negotiation. It could vary from around 5% to 10%, probably decreasing on higher-value properties.³ The phrase net vendeur on a property listing means that the agent’s fee is excluded¹; commission comprise (or C/C)
Agent commission when renting As with buying, the estate agent’s commission may be the renter or the landlord’s responsibility. Again, check this early in the process.⁵
Other costs when buying in France Here are some of the other, most important fees that you’ll likely face when buying property in France:
    Notaire* fee: this is a percentage of the sale price of approximately 4%-1%, charged on a sliding scale. VAT must be added on top.⁶
  • Taxes: these can vary depending on your department and also the sort of property you’re buying (old or new, or off-plan). The tax rate (stamp duty) is often around 5.8% on older property but reduced to around 0.7% on new property – but you’ll also have to pay VAT at 20%.⁷
  • Also look out for registration taxes, mortgage fees, lawyer fees, and surveyor fees.

Compare estate agents: How to choose the best estate agents in France

The right estate agent for one person won’t necessarily be right for someone else: ultimately, it’s down not just to what you need, but also how you feel. There’s a lot of choice out there, so try and find an agent that you feel is a truly good fit for you.

If your French isn’t fluent, keep your eyes peeled for an agent with good English. This is a more straightforward option than relying on imperfect communication or talking only through a translator.

More generally, you should consider looking for an agent who has specific experience dealing with expats, as they will be more likely to understand your situation and be willing to work with you remotely. If you’re looking on the Côte d’Azur, you’ll find millions of English-speaking agents with expat clients; elsewhere, there’ll be fewer.

Use all the suggested sites above, and more, to draw up a shortlist. Then compare the estate agents you’ve listed. Look at online estate agent reviews and so on, but always with caution. Personal recommendations can be more thorough and you might consider them more reliable too: now is a great time to talk to anyone you know who’s bought property in France before.

Send any agent that looks good an introductory email – or perhaps even call them – and take it from there. Don’t forget to check they’re properly accredited. You’ll need to be prepared to go out to France to view places.

Local estate agents: What should I know about the property market in France?

Here are a few pointers to bear in mind when you’re buying or selling in France.

  • Sellers may not be exclusive with one estate agent.² It’s relatively common for one property to be listed by multiple agents, simply in order to increase exposure. Even the prices can be different – so watch out, and research as thoroughly as you can.
  • The availability of English-speaking agents varies by area. You’ll find many specialists in popular expat destinations but it could prove a lot harder elsewhere. There are plenty of English-speaking intermediary services but only use them if you’re comfortable with any extra fees they charge.
  • The payment of the estate agent commission may be negotiated.⁸ Some countries have fixed conventions on this issue, but in France it is often somewhat flexible. Of course specific cases vary, but the question of who pays the estate agent can be discussed between the parties and may form part of an offer: for instance, if the buyer agrees to pay the commission, the property price could be correspondingly reduced.
  • The garden might not be where you assume! Useful advice from The Local: just because a rural property is listed as having a garden, doesn’t mean the garden will actually be on site. It might be down the road. This is just one example of why it always pays to have a good look around a property in person, and to cast a pretty wide net at first.

Questions to ask estate agents when selling or buying

It’s certainly worth knowing how to deal with estate agents, when buying or selling. Here are a few things it could be useful to ask them as soon as possible, to get a feeling for how they operate.

  • What qualifications do you have?
  • Do you work with many expats?
  • What are your opening hours – when can I call and visit? Do you work weekends if necessary?
  • How long does it usually take you to sell a home?
  • How do you arrive at your valuations?

Avoiding scams

There’s one principal way to ensure that you’re dealing with a legitimate outfit: check that they’re accredited. In France they should all hold a carte professionelle: otherwise, they may well not be allowed to actually sell anything to you.

Membership of professional organisations like FNAIM and SNPI is also well worth looking out for.

Buying or selling a property abroad can be expensive, so you will want to make the most of your money - this is where TransferWise can help. Send money with low, transparent fees at the mid-market rate, and even open a borderless multi-currency account to hold, receive and spend money like a local to avoid international fees.

All in all, finding the right estate agent can be trying, but it certainly shouldn’t be as hard as finding the right house. But if you put the effort in at this early stage of the process, and make sure you have the best possible representation, then you can ensure the process is as smooth as it’s ever going to be.

Sources used:

1.https://www.justlanded.com/english/France/France-Guide/Property/Estate-Agents Estate agents for international clients
2.https://www.affidata.co.uk/sh/property-for-sale/english-speaking-estate-agents-france English speaking estate agents
3.https://www.attikainternational.com/how-to-buy/french-riviera-real-estate-agents.html How to buy in France
4.https://www.french-property.com/guides/france/sale/estate-agent/commission/ Estate agent commission fees when buying
5.https://www.french-property.com/guides/france/rent/cost Estate agent commission fees when renting
6.https://www.french-property.com/guides/france/purchase-real-estate/legal/fees/ Notaire fee
7.https://www.french-property.com/guides/france/purchase-real-estate/legal/fees/taxes/ Taxes to consider
8.https://www.french-property.com/guides/france/purchase-real-estate/legal/top-tips/ Negotiating commission fees

All sources checked 27 June 2019.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more