Experiences of being a French estate agent

Does anyone have experience of becoming an estate agent in France?

If so would you recommend it to bring in a few extra euros per month (or less frequently)?

I get the impression that it is commission based and therefore income is in no way guaranteed and payments will take a long while to arrive.

It also seems that the slow speed of response from agents we have contacted that there doesn’t seem to be a great enthusiasm for the role - either that or far too busy, either was not great for business.

I did it in the '80 & '90s when houses were cheap and plentiful and customers were lining up at the door. I wouldn’t want to do it today unless I was in a top area as an independant agent or if I could find an agency to pay me a salary which is very unlikely nowadays.

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Just to nitpick - becoming a French estate agent as in an agent immobilier involves a lot of studies, including passing law exams, it’s a tightly regulated profession. I think what you’re referring to is being an agent commercial en immobilier or négociateur immobilier, ie an estate agent’s sales rep or property negotiator.

I believe that even as a negotiator you have to register, and take out professional insurance unless your agency pays that for you. Then there’s all the fuel you use driving time-wasters around France looking at properties they have no intention of buying. So I can imagine it’s quite easy to end up out of pocket, unless you’re an ace salesperson.


This is something that seems to be along the lines of what you are saying Anna. In fact the company concerned is taking no risks whatsoever and it’s the ‘property consultants’ who have to do a lot for very little gain, is this sort of thing typical now? I never used to see it !
I have put the ad (without the name here) …

"Could you be a property consultant?

We need self-employed commission-only property consultants.
This role will suit motivated individuals who can support themselves fi nancially
until they produce income.
We are a people business operating in a stressful environment.
We value life experience above qualifi cations or hard-sell technique.
If you want a job (not a hobby) please call for an informal understanding of what
is involved to make this work for you, us, and our clients, and to earn just rewards.
Our training is person-centred, local and free.
Conversely, if you are the right person already in our industry (with a successful
track record) we can help you make the move.
Either way, having two (spoken) languages is a distinct advantage.
Self-motivation is indispensable.
Mobility and some computer skills are required."

Working solely for a commission and trying to support a family was the hardest thing I ever did. I worked for years on a commission-only basis and worked 7/7 and endless hours trying to sell enough properties to survive. The business has become even more ‘dog eat dog’ than before and I really wouldn’t reccommend it to anyone except fairly young dynamic people. It can work if you are in a good area with a good customer folio.
My French was fluent when I did the job but I hate to imagine how I would have survived without a certain level of French.
This isn’t mean to be a negative post, just truthful.

Thank you for the post.

I wasn’t thinking of it being the only income but possibly a top up.

I assume everyone has read this? Not sure if its just a jaundiced view or accurate description.

its a pretty full time thing. ive not met a part time estate agent yet. out of the 4 helping us find a home they al said same thing its a long day followed by long evening.

The ones I’ve spoken too sound as though they’re on the worst sort of zero hours contracts. No salary, no travel allowance, own car and own fuel, no phone or phone allowance, own phone, own contract then they get their cut of the commission if they’re actually involved when a house sells.

And still they fail to reply to emails!

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tell me about that one. the house we bought was listed with an English agent called them 5 time over a week to arrange a viewing and then contacted another agent. a week after we viewed the property and agreed to buy it they called me to set up a viewing and said they could get the keys the next day. told them that would be difficult as the huse was sold pending a mortgage to us. they were not too happy but i said well i tried for a week to get hold of you and you even read my Facebook messages and read my emails. (the wonders of received and read messages. I even said to them in it we feel that this is the one for us. (we only viewed 6 houses in total, rest were rejected without viewing so as not to waste peoples times.)

Not really. It’s just that France has been through a major period of manpower downsizing these past 5/7 years and there are a lot of people who thought that Real Estate was the easy-way to find income. It isn’t.

If you are not “French certified” (which means passing an exam) then there are two options:
*Taking some instruction (in French) and passing an exam, or
*Simply working for a registered French agent (I think it takes 3/4 years).

Google the subject “comment devenir agent immobilier en France” and your options will come up. Taking a course came up first on the list when I googled the above.

But you must have some fluency in French to do the job properly, so get that first …

Fact is, some agents are superb, some are rubbish, some are dishonest (just like some notaires) and some have no aptitude for dealing with the public.

Probably exactly the same as any other trade ?

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Yes, indeed.

But I am particularly upset with notaires. Here is why:
*They were created by Napoleon in the early 19th century
*They have been since uniquely qualified and quantified to transact property, meaning that they have no competition from lawyers
*Since there are so few alternatives (amongst them) they maintain an effective “oligopoly service”. Meaning competition is very limited.
*Resulting in the fact that (in 2007) they earned an average income of 240K euros, whilst barristers earned a quarter of that amount.

I have verified that income with INSEE, which is the national office for statistical information, who gave it to me. In the US, average salaries of different professions can be accessed easily on the Internet. For some reason, in France, they are sacrosanct secrets of any profession.

Go figure why …

My wife is a UK property solicitor - her professional opinion is that they do very little for their money compared with the service that she (has to) offer her clients.

Correct me if I am wrong but their remit is the very narrow one of ensuring that title is correctly transferred - unlike the UK where you appoint a solicitor on your behalf to not only make sure that the title is sound but that your interests are represented in the contract process - the typical transaction in France is handled by a single Notaire, so how can they advise clients on contract details without a conflict of interest? I know that you can appoint your own Notaire but how often does that happen?

In addition, as noted above there often aren’t all that many Notaire’s around - the guy that handled our purchase also handled the sale when the previous owner bought the property, and the sale&purchase of the same property before that - had he made a mistake last time, or the time before he’s hardly going to put his hand up and admit it this time.

My wife would love to get the sort of fees they pull in.

Both sides of any transaction can have separate notaires, should they want to transact the property in that manner. Or, they can also do it through the same notary. Which is what any notary would prefer since they would not the need to share the fees.

France has one of the longest transactions periods. You are lucky to transact within a period of two-months. Why such a long wait? Too few notaries with too few assistants handling too many transactions.

The contracts themselves are a matter of public record. If you thought your mother was not treated fairly in selling her house, then the signed contract could be made available to you by means of a registered letter to the public notary.

There is very little in France regarding the transacting of property that is efficient. And that starts with the Mandat de vente authorizing an agency to sell your property.

I am presently at odds with a real-estate agent over the words “Lu et approuvé, bon pour mandat”, which agents insist be hand-written just above your signature. That additional notation was made unnecessary in the early 1990s by a court’s decision. But it is amazing how some agencies will insist upon it.

My point: There is a very simple Mandat de vente that is printed by a company called Tissot - and you can download it from here. Of course, it is not free but its simplicity (compared to others that are 3/4 pages long) is a good guaranty that you will avoid any confusion. Note, however, that if you are signing the document with more than one agency, the wording changes. So, be careful of which version you are using.

If you want to sign with ONLY one agency, then there is another wording that makes the mandate “exclusive”. Meaning that if you sign it, your hands are tied to the agency mentioned for the period of validity of the mandate. Which typically is only three months.

The fee is shared but if this were common then each notary would get twice as many transactions, each for half the value - of course that is twice the work for the same money but would be in the client’s interest.

The fact that this is generally discouraged in France does nothing to dispel my notion that French Notaires do not really hold their client’s interest above their own.