What Do You Hire Us To Do?
Volume XXI, Issue 49
You’ve heard that everything in France is complicated, right?
According to Eupedia.com, in an article titled “What makes French people so typically French?,” the number one item is this:
1) The French like complicated things.
In a political debate on French TV, it was once said “In France it is simple to complicate things, but complicated to simplify them.”
This summarizes to perfection one of the fundamental aspects of French culture.
Illustration (quoting Richard Hill): “The American mistrusts complex things and tends to oversimplify. The Frenchman, by inclination and education, mistrusts simple things and tends to over-complicate. It is for this reason that no Frenchman, by American standards, can ask a simple, straightforward question when speaking in public. By French standards, no American speaker can give a full, sophisticated answer.”
Example: The Economist describes the French tax system to be of ‘fiendish complexity.’ They cite, for instance over 40 deductions in the French pay-slip, as opposed to just two in Britain.
Purchasing property in France is no different. It’s a big reason we exist…except that for us the lack of an Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the number one reason we have a job! And of course, having no MLS complicates the search process.
So, let’s start with that: the U.S. MLS enables all properties to be available on the market at the same time accessible by all agents and potential buyers. In effect, the agents work for the buyer, not the seller, since a buyer can find a property easily and quickly by working with one agent. The agents expect to share their fees, too, so everyone is happy.
Not so in France. Every agency lists its own “pocket” of properties and will do everything in its power not to share its fees with competitive agencies. There are loads of websites promoting properties, but no ONE resource, so that means visiting a lot of sites and a lot of agencies. It also means that the agents won’t want to disclose something that might prevent you from buying their listing, unlike a U.S. agent who knows that the client’s trust is what gets them the business and it doesn’t matter which property is purchased, as long as the client buys and the agent gets commissioned.
The first order of business for us is to find the properties—the ones that fit the buyer’s parameters and the ones that meet our own criteria for being a good investment for the buyer. The agents don’t care, remember. They just want to sell a property. But because we work for the buyer, we care a lot. And we have to do a lot of work to do in order to find the right property, since there’s no MLS.
Our clients love to visit the real estate websites even more than we do (I think!). They love doing this job and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, it can be a big help if the client comes up with something we might have overlooked. It doesn’t matter who finds the property—that’s the easy and fun part. The work begins when we contact the agencies, who aren’t necessarily very responsive, for one thing. Agents in the U.S. are aggressive salespeople, but the French are not.
Why? Remember that money is a dirty word in France. Anyone who earns their living selling something for money is associated with that dirty word. In Quora.com, in an attempt to answer “Why is it hard for the French to talk about money?,” one of their specialists cited this:
In examining France’s historical social structure, three distinct classes emerge:
The aristocracy, who esteemed honor and lineage over wealth. They believed that engaging in labor for monetary gain was a descent from their elevated status. Discussing money was considered vulgar in their eyes.
The working class, lacking financial means, viewed discussions about money as indecent. They suspected that those with substantial wealth had likely acquired it by exploiting them.
The bourgeoisie, who sought to flaunt their wealth, often provoked jealousy. However, they faced disdain from the aristocracy for their ostentatious displays. Additionally, they risked scrutiny from tax authorities, and during times of political upheaval, jealous neighbors could report them to the reigning power. France, with its history of political unrest, exemplifies the potential risks faced by the bourgeoisie.
In summary, discussing money in France was perceived as either vulgar, indecent, or risky, depending on one’s social class.
So, imagine what that’s like for any salespeople who must discuss money as part of their jobs and who’s job it is to sell something for money? The point is that they will likely never be aggressive, nor even assertive, since they are basically embarrassed by their jobs! And no matter how hard you try to contact a French real estate agent, they might not respond to a foreign buyer—who they also know will need a lot of hand-holding throughout the process! Remember that most agents get paid at least a base salary, with or without a sale, so how hard do they need to work to make ends meet and have a happy life? Not much is the answer.
We have success contacting the other agencies, because we’re agents ourselves, bringing a qualified client, and clearly, we will do the heavy lifting in dealing with our buyer, so they can work solely for the seller as they should. They embrace us for these reasons. We make their lives much easier.
If our client contacts the agency directly, without our introduction, then there is no chance of a commission share with the selling agency. That could be an expensive mistake, as we will credit our client for the entire shared commission. For example, if you purchase a 1,00,000€ property from which a 5% commission is paid, or 50,000€, the commission share we might achieve would be refunded to you and that means 25,000€ back in your pocket! That’s a chunk of change not to be ignored.
Searching for the property also means visiting the properties, and without a lockbox as is used in the U.S., it means making specific appointments to visit each property. In Nice it’s a bit easier because properties can be in close proximity to one another, but in Paris it’s more challenging going from one arrondissement to another. In the countryside, it even more time consuming because you can expect a lot of driving!
Often the client falls in love with the first property visited—that’s not at all unusual as we will set up the visits to show the best of the bunch first. But, our clients normally don’t want to settle on the first property right out of the box, so they visit a host of others. And then end up settling on the first! It happens more often than you might think.
Once the property is identified, an offer is made. We do that in a formal offer letter so that there is a record of it, although it can be done in a text message or on a napkin! The seller will either accept it, reject it, or counter it. If you offer asking price, the seller is “morally” obligated to accept it! And remember what I said about money earlier? The French are not hagglers! They don’t build in much more than 5% negotiation room, so if you “low ball” an offer, you may insult the seller to the point of being shunned entirely!
We help you through all this. Then, once the price is agreed upon, the Notaire is notified. We work with English-speaking, proven notaries who we trust. Sure, you can find one on your own—there’s no magic to this part of the transaction, but they all work a bit differently.
The Notaire is responsible for ensuring you understand the documents. If you don’t have a French-speaking advocate, one of the roles we play, then the Notaire may require that all the documents to be officially translated. And also, an interpreter may be required to attend the signings. All this can get very expensive as the documents can be 50 pages plus! We can also sign documents on your behalf with proxy so there is no need to travel to France saving you travel time and money.
The documents that we review (written in French) on your behalf include the “Reglement de Copropriété” (bylaws), three years of the “Procès Verbaux” (annual assembly meeting notes) and the diagnostics, so no translation is necessary, saving you quite a lot of money. Plus, reviewing them is one thing, but our job is to discover anything at all that would prevent you from purchasing the property. This is NOT the Notaire’s job, believe it or not! He is primarily responsible for ensuring the validity of the title, but it’s not his job to advise you should you discover some sort of defect.
What I’ve just described in a couple of paragraphs can be weeks of work and dozens of emails as well as meetings. If we’re not doing it for you, then you’re doing it yourself or you’re hiring someone else to do it…such as an attorney at 300€ an hour! We’ve found that when attorneys are involved, everything gets bogged down because in effect, it’s like both belt and suspenders. They just get in the way of one another!
Once the pre-sale agreement is signed, then the Notaire must organize the rest of the documentation and if the buyer is obtaining a mortgage, the application must be submitted to the lender. There are normally two to three months between the signing of the two documents—the “Promesse” or “Compromis de Vente” (pre-sale agreement) and the final “Acted de Vente” (deed) in order to allow for all this to take place.
During this time, you will have to prepare for the payment of the property and transfer your funds to the Notaire. We provide the currency exchange specialists who will save you about 2% of the amount you’re exchanging! On a property worth 1,000,000€ plus the Notarial taxes and fees, could easily amount to a savings of 21,500€!
During that time, we would love the luxury of sitting on our hands, but that’s highly unusual. Remember what I said earlier about everything in France is complicated? Part of the complication includes ensuring that the money transferred to purchase the property comes directly from the buyer’s account and no one else’s…with proof of that from the bank. Depending on the structure of the purchase—in the form of an Société Civile Immobilière (SCI), or U.S. company, or other, assume there will be a multitude of documents required to support that choice. While you’ll be asked to sign them, we’re doing the due diligence so you never have to worry and you’ll know what you’re signing.
And when all that is said and done, we offer the “Après Vente” services of getting your utilities installed and in advance of the process, getting a bank account set up for you, which is necessary and difficult to achieve on your own. We also provide resources for renovation and decoration, and just about anything else related to purchasing property. As an added bonus, the cost of your consultation with me applies toward our search fees, so nothing is lost along the way.
So, if you want to know what we do in exchange for our fees, it’s all this and more. The main thing is that we provide peace of mind—because without us, or some service like ours, you’re on your own. And that can be a big risk.
You don’t know what you don’t know…but we do know what you don’t know!
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. Our Office Hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. France Time. We will close for: We don’t work nights and weekends, French holidays or the week between Christmas and New Years. If you were planning on using these holiday times to visit properties, think again! Happy Holidays to all!