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It’s Not About the Money—It’s About the Relationships…in France

Photo from the movie of Marie Antionette with Kirsten Dunst

In France, it’s never about the money, and always about the relationship.

I could easily write a dissertation about this one subject—how the French feel about money and about themselves if what they do is directly related to money, like selling or marketing something. Google it and you’ll come up with a long list of articles that delve deep into the subject. In essence, this is a socialist democracy, not a capitalist culture. If you recall, they cut off the heads of their monarchy in 1789, leaving them with a blood-thirsty desire to rid themselves of the wealthy. I wrote all about this in a past Nouvellettres®, way back in January 14, 2019: “Why Do the French Hate the Rich…So Much?

comic for the French Revolution Over Simplified

This leads me to explain why you, as a new resident of France, need to change your bottom-line American habits of leaving big tips in exchange for good service (when instead, all they want is to be treated with respect), or haggling over the price of a property (when what they really want is just to like and trust the person who will be living in their cherished property), or why you shouldn’t think that making a good deal that saves you money will buy you respect as a good negotiator…in France. “Au contraire.”

When you purchase a property in the U.S., you pay agency fees that are shared between the selling agency and your buyer’s agent. This is because the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) made the sharing of information (as early as the late 1800s!) an equitable way of helping sell their inventories—”based on a fundamental principle that’s unique to organized real estate: Help me sell my inventory and I’ll help you sell yours.” (Source)

Sharing is very much a part of the American culture, but French culture isn’t open to this kind of sharing. It has never been able to organize themselves in this manner…which effectively has provided us (the Adrian Leeds Group) with a job and a “raison d’être”—to be the buyer’s agent, do the leg work to find the property, ensure that the buyer is fully informed and protect the buyer from making serious mistakes. This is particularly beneficial for the foreign buyer who is not familiar with the culture, the system, the language, the law, etc…and that’s why we do what we do.

There is no automatic sharing of commissions as there is with the MLS and therefore, we must charge fees in order to provide the service. Outside of the Paris market, fee sharing is possible, but not a given. When we do have a shared commission, we apply it toward our fees in the interest of fairness, saving the client thousands of euros—because we see it as a conflict of interests. Since we are working for the buyer, we do not believe we should also be compensated by the seller. Fair enough, right?

Our clients understand this and willingly pay the fees in exchange for the huge benefits. We think of it as a kind of “insurance.”

In addition, we are not “yes men.” If you want someone to just do what you ask of them without their asking “why” or providing advice and alternative solutions, then don’t hire US. We’re going to make you think long and hard about the decisions you’ve made to ensure they are the right ones for you. About 80% of the time, our seasoned advice has turned our client around to an alternate, and way better course of action.

Very often, once our client has rented or purchased an apartment or home with our assistance, they get settled-in and after a bit of time, realize they would like to make a change or purchase another property. They’ve had the benefits of our advice and resources and sometimes think they don’t need us anymore. Saving money becomes their goal, since that’s the cultural American bottom line, without considering what the risks and costs really are by working on their own.

Nothing has really changed for them, except that maybe their French is better, or they have more friends, and now they have the benefit of our valued resources that we provided from the beginning. What they will be missing, is what we do best—the legwork to find the properties and the valued relationships with our many suppliers, but also the sage advice, the individual counsel, and the protection, that they won’t get working on their own. It’s penny wise, and pound foolish, because what they lose most of all is the important relationship…with us as well as our trusted resources.

Remember…it’s all about the relationships.

The relationships we’ve built with our resources over the years is based on honesty and loyalty, not money. We respect and protect one another’s intellectual property. When one of our clients goes direct to our resources, we hear all about it from them, and we do the same, should it happen in reverse. So, when a client has gone direct in order to save fees, by “cutting out the middle man,” that client loses the important relationships and the protection we would provide as a unit. Not only are they creating a big risk for themselves, but they may be ostracizing themselves from the very community we created and provided, that they have been enjoying.

Cutting out the middle man in France to benefit your pocket is not a smart move. In American culture, where money is the bottom line, one can think they’re smart by saving a few shekels, but in France, that’s looked down upon. It’s way more about the relationships we make. And once you’ve broken that trust, it’s tough to get it back. It’s one of the things we expatriates love about this culture…that money has nothing to do with happiness.

When we list a property for sale, there are no additional fees. We build in the normal commissions, just like any other licensed agency. The seller pays no additional fees, nor does the buyer. So, for a client wanting to sell a property, particularly one that we found for them to begin with, it makes the most sense to let us list it.

Because we will only list properties that we are confident to recommend to our clients and readers, we therefore manage to sell them very quickly based on that trust—and mostly to our own community, making it easy and friendly. Our community is also willing to pay more for the privilege of having this trust in us. In addition, we can work with our valued partners to market the property and offer it to as broad an audience as possible. If you read these Nouvellettres® then you know that it’s pretty easy for us to sell something we really believe in. And these are properties in which we can really believe.

We value our clients and the loyalty they show us. Therefore, we have a special discounted rate for repeat clients that makes it easy and inexpensive to do the right thing for themselves and for our valued relationships. So, the bottom line can be very slim indeed, in exchange for the “insurance” our services provide. And that means you can be a smart negotiator, but still benefit from the relationships we’ve all built and cherish.

A composite photo of the Adrian Leeds Group team members

Ask us about our new incentive program for our clients to stay under our protected umbrella and become part of the “family” with open arms. In the end, everyone wins. Email us today.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds on a tv monitor wearing a blue beret for a House Hunters International episodeAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Whitney CubbisonP.S. If you want a BIG laugh, be sure to watch the recording of yesterday’s Après Midi in Paris with Whitney Cubbison, author of Will There Be Wine? She had us all laughing hysterically as she regaled us with her stories from the book and in real life. Read the report and see the session on YouTube.



  1. jacob on July 10, 2024 at 8:32 am


    What little town, not too snobby and affordable and authentic, would you advise in the area of Bayonne?

    • Adrian Leeds Group on July 11, 2024 at 4:43 am

      Hello Jacob, These are the types of topics that we can discuss during a personal consultation. Let us know if you would like to schedule. Thanks!

  2. Kathy Masters on July 10, 2024 at 9:28 am

    Hi Adrian,
    When we bought our beloved apartment in Cannes in 2017 we had a great experience with our Irish born, France resident agent. However, I refer all of my friends and acquaintances to you when they ask me about buying property and living in France. Today’s Nouvellettre has the clearest and most succinct description of the difference between American and French attitudes and expectations that I have ever seen.
    It reminded me of a time when I was working on an automated sales system. When we told our European colleagues that the system would help them shorten the sales cycle, they said, “Why would we want to do that?” For them the sales process is all about relationships, not about speed.

  3. Stephanie Nelson on July 10, 2024 at 10:27 am

    Bonjour a tous! Any update planned on this latest news on second properties being taxed at a higher rate:

    Everyone has different needs, budgets and approaches in their real estate purchase plans. Not sure it is always feasible to work with a notaire and team largely centered in Nice and Paris to help on a property purchase off those beaten paths?

    • Adrian Leeds Group on July 11, 2024 at 4:54 am

      Thank you for sharing your comments. The article you linked was just published yesterday. Keep in mind that the Connexion tends to sensationalize things. Any property taxes will be known at the time you purchase a property and even with the mentioned increases, property taxes in France are a small fraction of what they are in the US.

      While we are based in Paris in Nice, we work all over France with clients with different budgets and need. We also work with local notaires when it is in the best interest of the client.

  4. Patrick Walsh on July 10, 2024 at 11:45 am

    What a thoughtful (and helpful) article!

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