They are regulated by law - and licensed
Property professionals are strictly regulated in France. Individuals or companies who are involved in the sale and purchase of real estate must hold a license called a “carte professionnelle” – as set out in the 1970 law (“loi Hoguet”) which was enacted to protect the public from uninsured and unqualified professionals. To obtain the carte, the agent must meet specific education requirements (such as a degree in law, economics or business), have relevant experience and take out professional liability insurance.
Cartes professionnelles and agents commerciaux
Very few estate agents in France are on a salary. That’s because licensed agents (carte professionnelle holders) can mandate others under an agent commercial (agency) agreement. Hence when you walk into a typical estate agency in France, most of the time you will meet a "négociateur", who is an agent commercial (working on commission only) – not an agent immobilier proper. This has also enabled the creation of nationwide networks of “mandataires” (such as Optimhome, I@D or CAPI) where a single carte holder is contracted to thousands of agents commerciaux across France.
Within that context, a growing concern has been the low education, training or supervision requirements for agents commerciaux. Carte holders don’t have real incentives to spend money training agents commerciaux who are not their employees. The recent loi Alur from 2014 is set to change that, and this can only be good for the profession and its image. However, buyers should be aware of the very wide spectrum of expertise and knowledge in the industry.
Also, French real estate professionals are much like agents the world over. Some good, some bad; some professional, some less; some honest and some not so. Be wary.