How the French price their houses

Whilst it’s easy enough to come up with a price for a house in a town where there are a lot of similar houses around and a regular turnover, it’s an entirely different matter in rural France.

For a start, once you get into the countryside, houses aren’t all the same. Even two similar looking cottages won’t come with the same price attached because they’ll be in different locations with different views and so on. And, of course, they’ll not be the same inside either nor will they have been equally well maintained. Finally, there just isn’t the regularity of turnover of housing in the French countryside as you get in a typical town in the UK.

So how do the French price their houses? Well, first off they look around at the various estate agent brochures that seem to be in every place you could possibily find them. The French don’t have a single estate agent selling a property usually so there are even more brochures than you might expect.

They look for vaguely similar houses to what they have to sell and take a view on whether their’s is worth more or less than the price being asked. What they don’t do usually is to ask the estate agent what the price should be and therefore the prices listed aren’t necessarily realistic. In fact, most are actually conversions from some relatively arbitrary figure in French francs with the estate agent commission being added on (hence the slightly peculiar sums that you sometimes see being asked).

So, don’t take the price in the estate agents brochure as gospel. It’s usually not based on any firm idea of what the house should be worth so you may well be able to negotiate either the price or what’s included in the price.

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3 Responses to “How the French price their houses”

  • I have to say that the explanation of how the French price their houses is a little simplistic and somewhat inacurate! I am a FNAIM Agent Immobilier working in PACA – I also work with a UK and Ireland based Agent (the one with the 3 letter name and the green logo). I spend some significant time valuing property on behalf of potential vendors (and charging for the service, I may add) and there are some very clear guidelines to be followed. Any agent who is worth his or her salt will not take a mandate on a property that is overpriced. Also, that same agent has a moral (and soon legal) responsibility to add their valuation to every new mandate. There have been cases of agents being sued by a vendor because a property has not sold quickly enough or for a high enough figure (in the eyes of the vendor). If there is no paper trail, that is, a valuation, there is no defence!

    All that said, I know that there are agents who take on a property at ANY price, just to stop other agents getting their hands on it. Those agents generally always ask for exclusivity on a property – and guess what – 3 month later they will revise their valuation downwards.

    I think your readers need to be aware that the price they see is the price the vendor is legally entitled to wait for, without any conditions. The moral is – don’t go looking for a property at 300,000 Euros if you can only afford 250,000. You are very unlikely to find it! Also, let’s not forget that the word “Immobilier” in “Agent Immobilier” means “unmovable” – i.e. a house, land, lake etc. NOT furniture! Anything that a buyer may wish to negotiate in terms of furnishings and other “movable” things is up to them! The Agent Immobilier can’t help!


  • Arnold says:

    The problem isn’t exclusively undervaluation: it’s that values in rural France are, to a large extent guesswork because the market moves quite slowly and most houses are quite different from neighbouring ones.

    We get a lot of housebuyers staying with us from time to time and consequently get to chat to a number of them re the pricing situation in the area.

    In rural France there’s the problem that as well as the houses being quite different from each other (and therefore being much more difficult to value correctly), you have both British and French buying houses in the country. Even if a given house had a “correct” value placed upon it in the French context, it’s quite possible that the price assigned would be significantly under it’s true value if foreigners were interested in it. We’ve seen examples where two virtually identical houses were valued at, say, EUR 100,000 and EUR 150,000 which would indicate that one was overvalued or that the other was undervalued yet both sell at the asking price because of some seemingly minor aspect that makes the higher priced house worth more to a foreigner (eg that it has a south facing garden). In fact, it’s often the higher priced property that sells first.

    Because of this there are FNAIM agents who will routinely come up with a valuation around 50% higher than other equally qualified agents simply because they are aiming at foreign buyers rather than French ones. That issue seems common across France as we know of a number of people who were quoted one price by a French estate agent and another, usually, around 50% higher by French registered agents who targetted mainly overseas buyers.

    Having said that, I do agree with you that some agents will take any price which has the effect that prices in the brochures are artificial and that many properties don’t sell for a long time. It also has a knockon effect on other properties in that people see a house like theirs listed for a lot more than they thought that they could get and therefore they try listing for a similar price themselves. On the other hand, I’ve also come across some agents who list houses at unrealistically low prices simply to get a quick sale and pick up the commission that much faster.

    They’re all issues largely, I think, confined to rural France where the turnover of property is quite slow. In, say, Paris you’d not have these problems as there are a) more similar properties and b) the market moves faster which combine to make valuation much easier.

  • I know that there are agents who take on a property at ANY price, just to stop other agents getting their hands on it. Those agents generally always ask for exclusivity on a property – and guess what – 3 month later they will revise their valuation downwards.

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