ESTATE AGENTS - Please add comments!

We have been house hunting since met July and have met both very good and some not so good agents. We have been shown properties that have no resemblance to the photographs and the worst properties visited include those with tenants occupying them, unprepared to let buyers see all the property or make it difficult to view.

As this will be our final purchase,(we hope) after living in many countries worldwide, we want to make the right decision. Any more advice from individuals regarding the estate agent world who have been helpful to members of SFN would be very helpful as we are becoming very disillusioned. We have travelled up to 2 hours in any direction in our current search and have several more to see over the coming weeks. It was our hope to find and make an offer before Christmas, but, as the days drag on and more and more properties arrive on the market it beccomes increasingly difficult.

We did find somewhere recently that was an ideal renovation project (we are looking at both ends of the market but must have land as we keep pigs and have two cows in calf in our current rented property, leased until July 2016). Unfortunately, after we had placed a (cash) offer in writing which we thought reasonable in comparison with similar properties on the market and despite a right-of-way crossing the land; we were then told by the agency that actually there was an offer made earlier in the last month, that was still on the table - for the FULL asking price (?) - the property concerned only had two rooms (loads of potential though) and needed a lot of work obviously. There is no compromis de vente; the apparentlly elderly French seller is under the impression, thanks to the agency, that a mysterious buyer, prepared to pay the full asking price is goint to return, cash in hand early in 2016. As it is a sole agency transaction, and they have also refused our request to take our builder with us to review our own offer, we have to walk away.

Some comments I would make to other property seekers:-

1. Use agencies recommended by successful buyers.

2. Ask any Agents for dates of on-line photographs.

3. Ask how long the property has been on the market (not just with its current agency).

4. If possible, talk to neighbours for a number of reasons, - introduce yourself; see if they are willing to give you information on the area; find out if you might like to live next door.

5. Ask to see plan cadastral prior to driving two hours (only to find "adjacent" land, in fact a)miles away b) in 6 plots dotted all over the landscape c) youhave to cross neighbouring fields to reach it

6. Always ask if the land is rentedor used informally - walk away if it is.(land used by others can be rented by them for 9 years and rights passed on to family.

7. Ask if sitting tenants are a) cooperative and b) what agreement they have to move out.

8. Ask the agent to remember to bring the keys (2 instances).

9. If you make an appointment, then keep it - expect the agent to do the same.

10. Some notaries will give you a fairly good valuation for frhe ee on the understanding they will do the work on your purchase. This prevented us from making a huge mistake in value.

11.Offer 1/3rd less than full asking price. Be prepared to increase slightly ONLY. Check similar properties in the area to compare prices.

12. Empty properties usually mean very keen sellers!

13. Talk to the vendor if the agent lets you (Many do not).

14. Whether an agent is good or bad does not depend on nationality.

15. If you are looking in a specific area, try and find some English/English speaking (we do speak french) people living locally to get their opinion on the area.

16. If you are interested in the property, talk to the local Mayor - just to introduce yourself.

17. If your French is good, do not tell the agents (sneaky I know,but it has revealed some facts occasionally) unless you really trust the agent.

18.Visit the property at different times - i.e.between 12-2 te local school yard is noisy, and it will be from 7:30 am-9:00; traffic is busy 8-9ish and from 4:00 pm. Visit when its raining or very cold.

19. House buying is the same all over the world - NEGOTIATE.

An agent in the UK whom we really like, once said "Buyers are liars"..... so are some sellers, Estate agents and banks, do not be ruled by your hearts. Use common sense. If its too good to be true, it probably is.

If you are a seller, please note that buyers do like to see ALL the rooms, they really appreciate a little tidying up (not asking for a "dressed house", but please shove the dirty laundry under the bed and preferably make the bed). Removal of the 6 rusting cars outside may help. You are trying to sell, please make our visit welcome - its not our fault you are moving.

Know what you mean, my OH has three to begin with like all of her compatriots, then three others perfectly and enough of a handful of others. I am a linguist too, my profession demands it. So we don't miss a trick but it depends where one is. There are a few of her colleagues whose French is weak but another mob has several in the area who just about stumble through 'Bonjour'. The agency must be mad using them. However it is not that uncommon. The compromis de vente is so tied up with notaires' ways of working. Some are flexible, whilst others will not extend a single day. Mind you, when people are looking for money I wonder whether they are always entirely honest, especially with themselves, when they go for things they don't have the full amount for.

Best of luck.

Thanks for this Ron, we had told them it remains in force until December 31st at the moment, but this is an excellent idea. We know the alleged buyer told the agent a bit of a porky pie - there is a long back story. But they believe in them so 'nuf said for now, but will put your idea in writing for them. We know we will have to spend about £50,000 on making it perfect and €2,500 plus legal costs on that buying the plot of land/right of way access from its separate owners who want to sell. (We made a 80% offer of asking price.).

re the lingual bit, I speak 7 languages most fairly fluently and have caught some very interesting comments from a potential Dutch seller recently that, quite frankly, soured the sale for us. As we are looking in very rural areas most of the UK agents speak fluent french to an extent, but the French agents here assume you do not. It can be handy is all I am saying "Don't tell them about the problem with the internal wall" was the comment I caught in Dutch.... On close examination, it had a major crack that had been painted over very artistically, (a mural) and was a supporting wall - eeek!

I do agree with your other comments and found them helpful. We have been guided to an extent by agents thus far. In the case of the slightly lower than asking price we did offer, our UK agent (based in the UK) advised us on a price but their English counterpart working for the French agents. showing the property disagreed, we went somewhere in between the two suggested prices but were really blocked by the local agent. I am sure they passed our offer on, but one could not blame the elderly owner for believing a larger full offer would be genuinely forthcoming as they were working for him, not us. Bit of a shame as we were caught in the middle as the UK agents feels he was right. Oh well, there are plenty more, we were just too comfortable initially looking only on our front doorstep, now we are going her further afield. My feeling is that you can put a later date for settlement and other conditions in the Compromis de vente, so if the first buyer was genuine, he surely would have put this in place, but I may be wrong. We will find our dream house and have a fall back property in mind if all else fails within our time frame.

I generally agree but on two points not really. 11 and 19 together first. Offering 1/3 less than the asking price might work, but usually not but then negotiating after that may hit a brick wall because of British people doing it British style. Offering X then appearing to be benevolent by offering 10% more in the negotiation has a number of outcomes. It might work in a few cases, mostly not. If people have found their 'dream' house and really want it then that is a great way of not getting it. I know some people tried a similar approach on a house they really wanted through my OH recently. It was on the market because the owners had still not moved to France, then one suddenly died, so the other simply wanted to clear up and abandon everything. The house was on the market a bit below value for a quick sale. The potential buyers would not believe that so said that 'In England we...'. Their loss. It is often beneficial to gain the confidence of the agent and talk about intentions rather than off your own back and let him or her approach the vendor. If it is an agent who is uncompromising, he or she will block negotiations anyway. You are far more likely to get the right price, if such a thing exists, that way. Comparing house prices locally works to a point, but the adds often lack details like the DPE report which can make a vast difference by there being work to do like replacing a fosse and drainage, plus the condition of the electrical and plumbing installations, presence of lead, asbestos and other things along those lines. A comparable price is not always reliable, not even looking at half a dozen in a cheap rural area because of the likelihood of improvements needed.

The other one is the length of time on the market. Often it is indeed an indicator of something being very wrong but not always. There are things that happen like a negotiation that goes on and on, even after the compromis is signed, when a buyer does not get the money together and thus extends the time until the final deal is done, eventually pulling out, then it goes on the market again and, as has happened, a second long and unsuccessful negotiation does it all over again. There is a brilliant place near us, a quite high price but a little below value, it is now about four years on the market between two failed purchases and a number of failed attempts to negotiate by potential buyers. It is viewed often and there is neither anything wrong nor any obstacle to a smooth transaction. The vendors have simply had bad luck with buyers.

As far as not telling agents that one does not speak French, it is such a well known 'trick' among experienced agents that they let things drop where the viewing people can't resist intervening. I gather it is only the English (not other UK people, certainly not mainland Europeans) of all who try that one. Many agents are wary, my OH is but then she is a first class linguist with several under her belt who mostly catch people at that game. At the same time, be careful of English only speaking agents when viewing houses where the owners do not have a word of English. I had that when I came looking and put the agent right on the spot when I began chatting with people in one house who told me they had never managed to actually talk to the agent. She got annoyed with everybody, so I went to another agency...

If you are still interested in the 2 room house, tell the estate agent, in writing, that your offer remains in force. But that starting on a date certain, January 1, for example, it will diminish in value by 5% per week and will be withdrawn on a certain date.