Finding Villas for Sale
Real estate listings in France are not the same as in the United States (where you can search all of the listings for sale –and their past sale prices– in the MLS system), or in the UK (where sellers price their properties at a reasonable price). On the French Riviera, prices are often unrealistic and it’s hard to find good listings or reasonably-priced villas for sale. This is due to a number of reasons….
Real Estate Listings in France
You may find this shocking, but only about half of all villa sales are via real estate agents, and many of those are sold ‘off-market’ to their clients (or developers, which then give the agent another commission when they flip it) without the need to publish the listing online.
The rest are via auctions, directly via notaires (which account for about 20% of sales), through private sales (between 15% and 30%), and local newspapers or specialty property press.
This is because real estate agents charge between 4% and 10%, and many owners would prefer to try selling another way, only dealing with agents if they can’t find a buyer on their own. Therefore, the properties that are publicly listed by agents are the villas that couldn't find a buyer any other way because they have problems or are overpriced.
Make sure to read about real estate agents in France before working with them.
Finding Villas for Sale
While there’s no single website that has all the publicly-advertised listings, there are several websites that aggregate, the best is Le Site Immo (which shows when the listing was posted, the m2 price and price drops). Other are: Le Figaro, Green Acres, and Super Immo. They all allow you to sign up for new listing alerts via email.
When searching on these sites, make sure to sort by price as that will make it easier to spot duplicate listings and false m2 information. Unfortunately, these sites are bad at removing listings for villas that have already sold (some, years ago!), and many inflate the m2.
Another thing to be aware of is that some agents refuse to work with other agents (for various reasons), resulting in the agent you’re working with telling you a property has sold when it hasn’t, so make sure to double-check with another agent. Also, many deals fall through — a property with an offer on it is far from a done deal and very well may end up back on the market.
You can find listings of villas that owners are trying to sell directly on PAP and ImmoGo. On the French Riviera, the seller pays for the agent’s fees, but those fees are baked into the price, so if you buy direct you might be able to negotiate a lower price.
Reading Real Estate Listings
Listings normally say the number of m2 and pieces (rooms) that a villa has, but these numbers are sometimes inflated / inaccurate. Frequently, we see the m2 of a villa inflated by 50% to 100%, and sometimes as much as 200%! In theory this is not allowed, but in reality agents do not get punished for false advertising in France.
Each main room, not including the bathrooms, storage or kitchen, are considered a ‘piece’. So a 3-piece is usually a 2-bedroom. Watch out because some agents fluff this a little by calling a 2-bedroom with an extra large living room a 4-piece, so it’s important to double-check. A ‘salle de sejour’ or ‘salon’ is what Americans call a ‘living room’. Some estate agents list rooms as bedrooms even if they aren't what you would consider a bedroom (no windows or super-low ceiling, too small, etc.), so make sure to count in person at the property.
Timing is Important
Since only 62% of villas on the French Riviera are primary residences, that makes the spring and summer less ideal for finding a villa to buy, as many owners have rented out their villas for the summer. There’s more selection in the fall, after the summer vacation rental season. By the winter, owners whose villas are still on the market may be more flexible on pricing.
Auctions & Foreclosures
Auctions and foreclosures may (or may not) provide an opportunity for a bargain in France. Usually an auction is chosen to affect a quick sale – perhaps because of divorce, inheritance, or to settle debt. You can find out if there are any auction or foreclosure properties for sale in the area you want by checking the Notaires website and Kadran.
Properties at auction will typically have a much lower reserve than the market price and all wannabe bidders will need to pay a deposit in advance – which can be anything from 5% to 20% – if you don’t win the bid your money will be returned. Additional fees add up to roughly an extra 10% and may include court expenses, lawyers’ fees, publication fees and more – it is important to check in advance what your obligations are. Here’s some more information about French property auctions.
Buying a villa? Make sure to read all of our guides!
Our guide to where the market is headed includes: French Riviera real estate market predictions, current & historic pricing trends in the market, and why prices will continue to fall.
Our guide to real estate listings includes: how to find villas for sale, what to look out for, misinformation and warnings, auctions & foreclosures, buying direct from sellers, why timing is everything, and the reason why only about half of villa sales are publicly listed.
Our guide to real estate agents includes: who to trust (a warning), things agents tell you, how real estate agencies operate, and why you should avoid illegal and non-local agents.
Our guide to pricing & determining a villa’s market value includes: why there’s so much extreme overpricing, how to estimate a villa’s market value (what it’s worth), and a step-by-step guide to finding your offer price.
Our guide to important things to find out includes: diagnostic reports and surveys, sun & micro-climates, potential issues with the view, housing taxes, the age, internet and mobile access, danger (red) zones, health risks, privacy & space issues, nearby problems, what you’ll actually own, illegal additions and structures, why they’re selling, how to verify, and more.
Our guide to things to consider includes: your actual costs, learning about local crime & squatters, and questions to ask yourself.
Our guide to the buying process includes: negotiating the price & the initial offer, choosing an honest notaire, buying in the black, the official offer & deposit, using a SCI, the deposit, the cooling-off period, what to do before handing over the money, and the final signing.
Our guide for after you buy includes: insurance pitfalls, tips for second homes, renting your villa, renovating, and what to know about hiring people.