In Provence there are many options when purchasing your property:
- Private Sale
- Using the services of a Solicitor ('Notaire')
- Through a local Estate Agent
- At auction
Private sales are a direct way of purchasing your property in France. Estate agency fees are typically paid by the seller of a property and are reasonably significant, so in buying direct you will not have these charges and the savings can be shared. You may find websites that offer details on private sales but generally property will also be advertised in local free papers. It's not uncommon in France to see a hand written 'for sale' sign in the actual window of the property for sale.
A small amount of property in Provence is sold through the local Notary (Notaires), often in the case of an inheritance. A Notary is an impartial government official that acts for the state during the buying and selling process in all transactions and is usually chosen by the seller. Having a single notaire can make some British buyers feel uneasy about their property purchase, but as a buyer, you have the right to appoint a different notaire to act on your behalf. This doesn't increase the fees, so it is a wise choice particularly if the purchase is complicated or off-plan. Some buyers have employed a UK-based solicitor to check the paperwork, but this is not generally advised as it will add to the fees and they are not familiar with the local market.
Estate Agents (‘Agents Immobiliers’)
For those who don’t speak fluent French but still wish to buy property in Provence, the option of using an estate agent is generally preferred . You may even find that popular areas of France you can find estate agents with English speaking services that will assist you.
‘Agents Immobiliers’ are French estate agents - bringing both buyers and sellers together. It is good to check all estate agents in the area you are buying as it’s not uncommon for a property to be on the market with a number of estate agencies, sometimes at a different price. All Estate Agents must be properly registered and carry the appropriate ‘Carte Professionnelle’ – professional card. Some will charge for this service, others will do it for no charge as they can share fees with the selling agent.
At Auction ('Ventes aux Enchères')
As a risky alternative those with a fluency in French could bag a real bargain at auction! French property auctions are quite common because of inheritance disputes, repossessions and debt defaults so often it’s a corporation hoping to salvage some form of financial return from the sale instead of a family looking to sell to the highest bidder. Auction properties usually come onto the market via 'notaires' but they can also be advertised on websites and in local papers. It is an interesting but complex process to purchasing a home in this way as bids are apparently placed as candles burn ('a la bougie')!
If you are interested in purchasing in France we heard about the ‘Coeur de France language school’ in the centre of Sancerre where a potential English speaking property hunter can enrol for a weeks intensive French course that will teach you sufficient French to see you through the acquisition, purchase and renovation of your dream French property!
Whichever of the routes you decide to take, you should still always make sure you understand all legal consequences of your actions and any documentation you are asked to sign.