Contracting an estate agency
Estate agencies in France are very tightly regulated. Their commission rates are often displayed in the window, though you should expect it to be 5% of the selling price (4% commission + 20% VAT). It may be more if the property is priced under €150,000. When engaging an agency, there are two decisions you need to make: whether you give the agency an exclusivity, and whether you reserve the right to sell the property privately.
The contract is known as a “mandat”, and the two types are known as a “mandat exclusif” and a “mandat simple”. A Mandat gives an estate agency the right to publicise a property, for example put the details of a property onto a web site, or display it in the window. It details the responsibilities of the seller, the principles ones being providing correct information and allowing reasonable access to the property. Often there is a clause obliging the seller to accept an offer if it is at the full asking price. It also details the responsibilities of the estate agency, the main one being to pass on any offers directly to the owner with minimal delay. The maximum legal length a Mandat can be is 1 year, after which it expires automatically. The maximum legal length an exclusive Mandat can be is 3 months, if it is longer then it reverts to a non-exclusive Mandat for the remainder of the duration.
A Mandat can be cancelled by sending a registered delivery letter giving notice. The notice period will be in the Mandat, and is around a fortnight. Usually there is a clause that the Mandat cannot be cancelled within the first three months. The reason for this is that the estate agency will invest a lot of money at the start, such as hiring a photographer and purchasing in advance slots in magazines and newspapers. This clause allows them a reasonable delay in which to recoup their investment.
Although there is a service called the MLS in Nice, it is nothing like the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) in the United States. It only has a relatively small percentage of listings available. Inter-agency listings are spread amongst MLS (also known as Emulis), Apimo, Orpi, Fnaim, Amepi, Century 21 (franchise), Foncia, as well as a number of smaller networks. There are still a surprising amount that are independent and not part of any network at all. Some estate agents try and push a seller into signing an exclusive contract claiming it is a requirement of the MLS. If an estate agent is very pushy, and emphasising the MLS, it is because they are probably planning to dump the property on there and hope somebody else sells the property for them.
In reality, nearly all the estate agents in Nice collaborate with each other. There is a standard 50/50 split between buying and selling agent. The reason to give an exclusivity is because you trust your estate agent to be proactive, look after your interests, and to be a one-stop shop for both buyers and all the other real estate agents who may be interested. The reason to not give an exclusivity is because your property is difficult to sell. If it is tricky to sell then the agent will make less effort, therefore spreading it across several agents will increase your odds. Perhaps you have an estate agent you trust, but your property is physically located directly above another estate agency and you want to be in their window? Then you can give a “co-exclusivity” where just those two agencies can share the listing.
Whether to allow a private sale or not is a personal decision. The estate agent would rather have a clause that you cannot, not because you might sell it privately but because they know the seller will get bombarded with requests from other estate agents pretending to be buyers. There is a reason you are using an agent rather than selling via privately, so just go with the clause the agent recommends. If you do find a buyer yourself, pretty much every agent will be happy to come to “an arrangement”.
The key to picking the right agent is their target market. If you bought as a foreign buyer, you had a particular set of criteria in mind when you bought that will most likely attract other foreign buyers. Therefore ensure the agent has a good international clientele. Locals on the ground also tend to fall into the “bargain hunter” category and so may not give you the best price. Choose somebody you trust, and then the contract details should be quick and amenable.
Here at Med In Heaven, we give our properties to be sold by the French registered real estate agency “Paradise Properties” – www.paradiseproperties.fr. All their properties are also listed with us. They can be found at 5 rue des Ponchettes, one road back from the Promenade des Anglais and near the Hotel Suisse. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. They only do the prime areas (Old Town, Carre d’Or, Carre d’Argent, Musicians Quarter, Promenade des Anglais, Port, Mont Boron) and so if you are looking to sell somewhere else then get in contact and we will put you in contact with the best agent for that area.