Au revoir and seller beware

I bought my place in the Pyrenees 7 years ago and have enjoyed every minute of it since. Even while battling the local trades and ‘negotiating’ with the mayor. The locals have been wonderful, infinitely patient with their English neighbour and always helpful. To be fair if i had hair, at times I would have pulled it out, but refuge was always to be found at my favourite nearby cafe. I just had to sit down and much to the annoyance of the tourists would be served my double cafe without even ordering.

However all good things must come to an end and just before the new year I completed on the sale of my piece of France. It was time.

What a nightmare! I wanted to sell and the buyer, who I have never met wanted to buy at the agreed price. Everyone in between seemed intent on scuppering the deal.

The listing estate agent who had done little to sell my place for 2 years was incandescent when another agent brought the eventual buyer to the party. They squabbled, accused each other of contract fraud (one of them was probably correct) and even threatened to ‘warn’ off the buyer in an attempt to ensure the other agent got no commission.

The notaire I used, it seemed was in the pocket of the agent. If I emailed the notaire she wouldn’t reply. Only when the agent asked the exact same question would a reply be forthcoming.

When it came close to completion my notaire discovered she hadn’t got important information which could have easily been obtained weeks previously.

The buyer had her own problems, her notaire made ridiculous demands which in the end cost the buyer rather than protecting her interests. Her bank messed up the mortgage application so delayed everything unnecessarily.

Fortunately I had managed to get the buyers contact details and we ended up having phone calls almost every day comparing notes and making sure that despite officialdom’s best efforts the process kept moving forward, which certainly calmed my nerves and I hope did the same for the buyer.

In the end the whole process from offer being made and accepted to completion took almost exactly 4 tortuous months!

So what did I learn? First and foremost, chose your notaire carefully, if you dont speak fluent french make sure your notaire speaks english.
Ensure that you have valid and current agreements with your estate agent, their word is most definitely not their bond.
Do not use a notaire recommended by your estate agent unless you are confident they will act in your interest not the estate agents.
If possible, open a line of communication with your buyer
Selling a property in France is NOT the same as in the UK
Ensure you have ample supplies of alcohol on hand at all times.

Nevertheless, Although I will miss my little slice of paradise I am happy I sold and the buyer is delighted with her purchase!


Buying and selling here can be an absolute lottery with recent/current experiences telling me you should trust no one, give me the simplicity of the UK system any time.

also, the notaire (usually the same for both parties) is acting for the state rather than protecting the interests of the buyer or seller. Just a glorified tax collector and legal admin bod where house sales are concerned :rofl:


Therein lies the problem, I currently have issues with different Notaires that simply should not be allowed to happen and it is causing extreme worry for two sets of buyers and sellers. In both cases the respective Notaires don’t seem to care about the chaos they’ve created.

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As an agent immobilier here in France I can totally empathize with the sufferings of people at the hands of notaires, myself included.
This is why you need a good immobilier who, if they have any sense and possess a good work ethic, will anticipate and resolve problems before they become mountainous. Usually it is not rocket science.
However I do not agree that all is plain sailing in the UK. One of my brother’s recently sold an hotel in Eastbourne. It took forever and the agents were absolutely useless. Similarly I am now responsible for selling my mother’s retirement flat as executor to her estate. Four months later I am still trying to resolve issues with the management company who are absolute crap (their consumer rating is one and a half stars out of five) and the solicitors are of little or no use.

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Our experience of both notaires in France and solicitors in the UK has generally been good - personally I prefer the French system, which is simpler and cheaper.
Our experience of UK estate agents, on the other hand, has been truly awful…

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We used an excellent Notaire in Cluny, but also an Engish solicitor qualified in France as well.
It was he who advised us to change our marriage regime at the same time as we bought our house.
It was excellent advice and well worth the extra fee as now if one of us dies the estate reverts automatically in total to the surviving partner and children do not come into the equation until both parents are deceased.

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As an addendum to my earlier input I should have made clear that as with all walks of life there are good notaires and bad notaires as I am sure there are the equivalents in the UK.