Is there a “best time in the year” to search for a house?
Not really. It is true that some unclear reasons some sellers will take their properties off the market during the winter season – but a good agent will know about them. It could be said that the market is little quieter during the off season (from November to March) but that varies widely from one year to the next. Also, it tends to be more complicated to view some houses during the holiday seasons because they are rented out as vacation rentals - and the owners (or their agent) don’t want to disturb the tenants.
As far as the buyers are concerned, based on experience, people start their search in earnest when they are ready – whatever the season. So should you.
Same property, different prices?
Home owners in France usually ask local agents for appraisals. But in the end, they often decide on their own what price they want for their house—known as the “prix net vendeur” (net price received by the seller) - and choose which estate agents will represent them. Appointed agents then receive a written mandate from the owner which describes the house, the “prix net vendeur” and specifies the agency fees, which is usually 4%-8% of the property’s price. This explains how you can find the same house offered at two different prices. If the owner wants €400,000, then one agent charging 4% may have it in his window for €419,000 (€400,000 + €16,000 + 20% VAT on the fee = €419,200), while another agent next door will offer it for €429,000 because he charges 6%.
Can I get a proper inspection before buying?
Yes, you can appoint a property surveyor to cast a professional eye over the place before committing yourself. Though you may be told surveys are not carried out in France, there are a number of surveyors available – even British ones who have moved to France.