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Reader Question: Can I find an American-style real estate agent in France?

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Reader Question: Can I find an American-style real estate agent in France?
People in front of a real estate agency in Lille, northern France. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)

Buying - and even finding - property in France can be a challenge for those accustomed to the system in the United States. Here's how the French system works and some tips for American buyers.


For many Americans looking to buy a place in France, the French property buying system comes as a shock.

In contrast to the US system of having a realtor who guides you through the entire process, in France - as in most of Europe - buyers are expected to do much work of the house-hunting work themselves. 

Finding a property

The first step of simply finding property you might be interested in buying is inherently different, as France does not have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) as exists in the United States.


This means that you need to look in several different places to make sure that you're seeing all the properties on the market, and you would usually need to do this research yourself - rather than a realtor providing you with information about what's up for sale.

In France property is usually advertised by real estate agencies (agences immobiliers), listed on websites or sometimes sold through personal connections.

Where can I find property listed in France?

Real estate agencies - Before moving to an area in France, you can check online, or by walking through the main street of the village (if you are looking for a rural location), to see which real estate agencies are popular.

Once you have a good idea of which agencies operate in the area, you can begin by searching their websites or by going in person to look at the listings. Oftentimes, real estate agencies will place adverts in their windows which gives you a good idea of the type of property prices in an area.

Most real estate agencies will be happy to take your details and send you information when new property that meets your specifications comes on the market, and some agencies cater specifically for foreign buyers (more on them below).

Websites - There are several property websites - similar to Zillow in the United States - that sellers use to list their homes.

The first commonly used website is LeBonCoin, which operates similarly to Craigslist. Another is Particulier à Particulier (PAP), this website is for sellers and renters looking to place their property online without using an agency. You can also try the website Bien'Ici or Seloger, or Logic-Immo. Most offer a search function where you can specify what you are looking for (location, size, price etc) and sign up for alerts when new properties meeting those requirements are listed.

Personal connections - If you are looking to move to France (particularly rural France) and do not know anyone in the area you are looking to move to, you might consider visiting the local town hall.

This is a useful location for many parts of life in France, and can be an essential starting place to get to know the village you are looking to move into. Employees with the town hall may be able to point you in the right direction if they know of any property being sold as well.   

READ MORE: Préfecture v Mairie: French admin offices explained


Newspapers - Many newspapers in France continue to list property for sale as well, including in the final pages of local and regional papers. For example, if you are interested in moving to western France and Brittany, you could look at the properties listed with Ouest France Immobilier. Keep in mind that the listings are often put in place by a real estate agency.

The role of the real estate agent

While it is possible to have a dual real estate agent representing both the buyer and the seller in the United States, it is more common that one real estate agent represents the seller and another represents the seller.

In France, a key difference is that there is typically only one agent immobilier, and in most cases the real estate agency has been hired by the seller.

Their role is to advertise the property for sale and then facilitate and act as an intermediary between the buyer and the seller. For American prospective buyers who might assume that a real estate agent ought to negotiate on their behalf, search existing listings for them, and take them to open houses or visits, such actions should not be expected from a French real estate agent. 

The level of assistance offered from the French real estate agent depends greatly by each individual agency. Prior to working with an agent immobilier, you should check to ensure that they carry a carte professional (professional card, or proof that they are accredited).


For an insight into how French real estate agents work (and for a fun TV show) check out The Parisian Agency (l'Agènce) on Netflix, a reality TV show which follows the family-owned Kretz agency in Paris - although they deal with very high-end property, don't expect it all to be like that.

The role of the notaire

Another key difference is that in the United States, many people use their real estate agent to write up the purchase agreement.

In France, the contract process is typically handled by the notaire (notary). 

The notaire's role, however, is not to give you legal or other advice about the contract or the sale process.

The notaire is a representative of the state and their usual role is simply to register the change of ownership on the land registry - for this reason a sale cannot be legally completed without a notaire. If you want someone to give you advice, guide you through the process or flag up potential problems then you will need to hire a notaire specifically for this purpose, otherwise they will simply draw up the paperwork and register the sale.

The other thing that frequently confuses foreigners is the notaire fee - despite its name, the notaire only keep a small portion of the fee, with the rest going to the state. So really it's a property tax. And it can run into thousands of euro, so it's worth factoring into your budget in advance.

READ MORE: The reasons why you'll need a notaire in France

What about fees?

Typically, the seller is responsible for paying the fees for the real estate agent in France. The fees might be included in the selling price, however. If this is the case, then the property price would be listed as "F.A.I" or "Frais d’Agence Inclus".


It is possible that the property might be advertised as 'agency fees paid at the buyer's expense', and in this case the real estate agent would be required to specify the amount.

Agency fees might range from three to 10 percent of the price of the property, according to French property website SeLoger. The law does not offer a specific amount, in the same way notaire's fees are regulated.

READ MORE: Revealed: The 'hidden' extra costs when buying property in France

Be aware that no deposit should be paid to the agency before the sale has been completed, as per the Hoguet Law which regulates the real estate agency profession.

What are the next steps?

Once you have located the property you are interested in, then there are several steps left before you can get the keys. You will need to make a formal offer and find a notaire. The actual process of the sale comes in two stages in France, with an obligatory cooling-off period.

You can read more about the timeline, and how long it might take HERE.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Time-frame for buying and selling property in France

US-style realtors

So is there anyone who offers the US-style service of a realtor who holds your hand throughout the entire process?

While there isn't a direct equivalent in France, the closest thing may be an expat-oriented real estate agency or a relocation agency.

France is a popular destination for foreign buyers especially second-home owners, and there are some real estate agencies that cater specifically for foreign buyers. They are more likely to offer extra services such as accompanying you on viewings, translating documents into English, making phone calls in French if needed, guiding you through the sale process and recommending local English-speaking professionals. 

Similar services are offered by some relocation agencies - these work with people moving to France or buying property here and basically act as a guide and translator, helping you through the process, translating into English as required and accompanying you on viewing.

Naturally, both of these business types charge a fairly hefty fee for their services.

Listen to our Talking France podcast for more tips on buying a property in France


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Ed Jennings 2023/04/11 12:05
I have a VLS long stay visitor visa that I renew yearly. This allows me to freely come and go to France. However, I am not sure of how it affects my travel to other Schengen countries. Does the 90 day rule count the time that I'm in France against any time that I spend traveling around the rest of Europe? Or does the clock start once I leave France? Thanks in advance.
Ed Jennings 2023/04/11 12:05
I have a VLS long stay visitor visa that I renew yearly. This allows me to freely come and go to France. However, I am not sure of how it affects my travel to other Schengen countries. Does the 90 day rule count the time that I'm in France against any time that I spend traveling around the rest of Europe? Or does the clock start once I leave France? Thanks in advance.
Annie 2023/04/10 20:40
We purchased a vacation property in the South of France in 2020, and learned quite a bit during the process. We connected with a couple different real estate agencies early on, but ultimately worked with Keller Williams (which was familiar to us, since we are Americans). We couldn't be happier with the process. We found them to be responsive, efficient, and overall a pleasure to work with.

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