Pricing: Determining a Villa’s Market Value

    According to reports, market analysis, and the economists, agents, buyers, and notaires we consulted, the majority of French Riviera villa properties listed at over €1 million are listed at unrealistic prices and are sitting on the market until the seller lowers the price to be much lower than others on the market, with the average selling price being around 70% under original asking in 2022/23. Sound crazy? Here’s why.

    The French Riviera is a buyer’s market, and has been since 2008. It will become even more so in 2023 (and for many years to come) due to many factors, including foreign buyers instead purchasing homes in their domicile countries, and the French government actively disincentivizing second home purchasing. That means that, as a buyer, you have a lot of bargaining power.

    Always remember: The agent, the notaire, and any contractor who works with either of them, all have one goal: to sell you a villa at the highest price possible, as fast as possible. This is how they get paid the most, with the least work. For this reason, it's very important that you don't trust their pricing advice.

    How To Answer ‘What’s Your Budget?’

    Since so many properties are dramatically overpriced, the best way to answer this question is to say this: “We don’t have a budget. We will pay market value. We will pay for two appraisals (one by our bank’s recommended appraiser) and will base our offer on those. So show us everything that matches what we’re looking for and we’ll deal with the offer price once we find one we like.” Then, you will craft your offer by following the below guide.

    Why There’s So Much Extreme Overpricing

    “This is a good price and we’ve had a lot of interest. At this price, this villa will sell very quickly. You have to decide right away!”, real estate agents often say (here’s a list of more dishonest things that real estate agents might tell you), hoping to rush you into buying an overpriced villa. However, it is not uncommon for the buyer to realize that this was just a high-pressure sales tactic and that the villa is still for sale months (or even years) later, usually because it’s extremely overpriced.

    There are several phenomena specific to this area that encourage sellers to list their properties for 3x to 8x (or more) its actual value…

    Agencies Who Overvalue

    Real estate agencies tell sellers that they can sell their property for much more than it's actually worth just to secure the listing for their agency. Owners tend to list with the agent that says they can get the most money for them — and it becomes a sort of bidding war between agents who want to secure the listing with their agency. Who would you sign with: the agent who promises to get you €8 million for your villa, the one who tells you they think it’s worth €3 million, or the one who tells you it’s actually only worth €1.2 million?

    The result is that villas get listed for sale at three to as much as ten times what they are worth. Many owners end up associating this with their self-worth (it makes people feel like they’re doing OK in life when they’re convinced their house is worth many millions), so it’s hard for them to come to grips with reality.

    Many agents also greatly inflate the m2 in the listing, to justify the price, since there’s no law that requires villa listings to have accurate m2. Then the villa simply sits on the market for years until the seller lowers the price, often several times.

    Investors Who Don’t Care

    Another phenomenon specific to the French Riviera real estate market: Wealthy investors get agents to list the villas they own at prices that are many times higher that they are worth, on the off-chance that a wealthy person from Monaco (who has not done their research, or does not care about the price) will make a mistake and buy it — then they’ll use the sale money to buy 2 or 3 similar villas and pocket the remaining money.

    These owners often own multiple villas which they use for income generation (they rent them out for the summer season). In some estimations, this accounts for almost 40% of villas on the French Riviera! These owners don't really care if their villa sells, and they certainly aren't interested in selling it at market value.

    The good news is that the French government is actively trying to disincentivize this sort of investment purchasing, in an attempt to make housing more affordable. This year they added new and cumbersome taxes for second homes (which impacts almost 40% of villas on the French Riviera) and are actively thinking up other ways to disincentivize house-flipping, foreign investment purchases, AirBnb rentals, and vacation homes. You can 100% expect more of this in the future. (Learn more about this in our market predictions guide.)

    Memories of Russians

    Another phenomenon affecting the French Riviera real estate market, is the hope that silly-spending Russian buyers will eventually come back. After 2014, Russian buying dramatically decreased, and this area felt the fallout. And yet many French Riviera sellers are defiantly holding out hope, waiting for the Russians to come back — someday. But, due to the invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions and seizures, this isn’t going to happen. Once these sellers realize that the Russian money-tree has died, prices will fall dramatically. Read our supplementary guide to Russians & their impact on the French Riviera real estate market for more about this.

    And yet another reason that some property owners list their property for sale without actually wanting to sell it (hence, listing it at a crazy price they think nobody will pay for it), is for legal tax evasion. As long as a villa is listed for sale, the owner is exempt from several expensive property taxes! This applies to non-primary residences, of which the French Riviera has in abundance (almost 40% of villas here fall into this category). Agencies embrace this phenomenon because they can point to these listings as a (false) indicator of where the market is at.

    3 Markets in One

    The French Riviera is three markets in one: private, off-market, and publicly listed. Almost all villas go through three markets after the seller decides to sell. Each of these stages have different pricing — especially the last stage, where the pricing gets dramatically inflated.

    Market 1: The Private Market. First, sellers try to sell without using an agent. Across France, over 50% of all villas are sold privately, but on the French Riviera this is closer to 75% of villa sales. Many of these are sold to friends-of-friends or via social media posts, etc.

    Market 2: Off-Market. If they couldn’t sell private, then they list with an agent. A large percentage of villas are sold ‘off-market’ by the agent without being listed publicly on the Internet. Many of these get sold to developers before regular buyers even get to see them.

    Market 3: Publicly Listed. If nobody wants to buy the villa, then agents list it publicly on the internet. (Learn more in our guide to agents.) These villas –the ones that are publicly listed– are usually very overpriced or have something wrong with them, which is why they didn’t already sell. They usually sit on the market for years, until the owner dramatically lowers the price or gives up. Keep this in mind.

    How to Estimate the Villa’s Market Value

    The first thing you’ll need to determine is what the historic pricing (based on actual sold prices) in the town you want to buy in is, and what the pricing will be in the future. The process is a pain-in-the-butt, but it’s worth it, as the time you spend learning the real value of property could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars — or even millions!

    The process to figure out what a villa is really worth requires work, but could save you millions — it’s worth the time!

    Here are our expert French Riviera real estate pricing predictions, and all the factors that will affect pricing in the near future. Make sure to read them!

    First: Make Sure You Understand How m2 Pricing Works

    M2 price estimates are inaccurate, in that the villa sizes (m2) listed on all websites (which are all sourced via the notaires website) are nearly always much, much lower than actual, which falsely inflates the size-to-price (m2 pricing averages) ratio by approximately 3 to 4 times. In other words, the average m2 sold prices reported on these sites is around 3 to 4 times higher than it really was. Here’s why:

    It’s under-‘estimated’: The main problem is that a proper m2 survey isn’t required by law for villas (it’s only required for apartments), and notaires aren't required to report the actual m2, and consequently, the self-reported, ‘estimated’ m2 sizes submitted by the notaire are dramatically under-reported. On average, the m2 claimed on the notaire website is 1/3 to 1/4 the actual size, which falsely inflates the m2 average prices, which benefits notaires and agents, who are paid on commission.

    It’s only ‘habitable’ space: Further excusing the incorrect m2 is the face that the m2 displayed for sold villas is only supposed to be the ‘habitable m2’. ‘Habitable’ space includes only the ‘habitable’ space in the main living area, and does not include areas with low ceilings, basements (even livable finished basements), storage rooms, separately accessed apartments or guest houses, garage, storage, or pool houses (so, a smaller m2 area than in most listings, which include everything with a floor).

    Therefore, a villa that displays as 175m2 might have been advertised as 350m2 because it has a separate apartment, rooms in the basement, or other spaces which aren’t legally “habitable m2” (even if under the same roof!) and because there’s no legal requirement for the notaire to be honest.

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing french real estate guide2

    This villa in Beaulieu was listed for €18 million asking price and, after years on the market, finally sold for €3.6 million. The notaires claim that this 2-villa property is only 126m2, but as you can see from Google Earth, this is clearly false. The original listing claimed the villas have a combined size of 2470m2.

    Therefore, this sale went into the database at a false m2, making this seem like it was €28,500/m2 when it was actually €1,450/m2!

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing french real estate guide

    This villa sold at €1,450/m2, not €28,500/m2!

    There are endless examples of this, as an estimated 95+% of villa sales are listed with incorrect m2.
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - real estate pricing france3

    This villa claims 86m2, but is actually 200m2 (which is €4,000/m2, not €9,302/m2). This agency claims to have sold it, but for 2.5 million (which, as we can see by DVF, is not true.)

    You can do your own checking by looking back at villas you’ve visited. Save the address and sales listing and compare to DVF and planning permissions.

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - real estate pricing france1
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate scams 3 1

    This villa claims 228m2, but is actually 645m2 (it’s really €4,686/m2, not €13,771/m2), as you can see via the planning permissions.

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate scams villas

    Obviously, buyers are also happy to report a smaller size because it lowers the yearly housing tax rate since the taxes are based on the estimated value of the villa, and size is the main way the government calculates that. This happens even on properties that have been rebuilt / expanded / renovated.

    The notaires have no legal obligation to specify accurate m2 when reporting on sales of villas.

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate scams 1
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate scams secrets 1

    It’s not updated after massive extensions or complete rebuilds:

    Here are some typical examples….

    In 2019, this villa was falsely reported as being 258m2. But, as you can see by looking at the planning permissions, the villa was enlarged in 2018 from 334m2 to 1884m2.

    Instead of €12,790/m2, it actually sold for €1,751/m2!

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - guide pricing real estate france
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate scams villas m2

    This villa is often used as an example by agents that falsely claim it sold for €18,000/m2. It is listed as being 165m2 and having sold for €3 million in 2021. But by looking at the planning permissions, you can see that it was actually 400m2, but that they added an extension of 1029m2 in early 2020, making it 1429m2 when it sold in 2021, not including the guest house of about 200m2, making the total 1629m2.

    Therefore, this sale went into the database at a false m2, making this seem like it was €18,000/m2 when it was actually €2,100/m2!

    This villa sold at €2,100/m2, not €18,000/m2!

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate scams 4
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate scams 5

    This brand-new villa (on the tip of Cap Martin) is listed as being 239m2 and having sold for €2.4 million in 2020. But by looking at the planning permissions, you can see that it is actually 680m2 and was completely rebuilt as new in 2019.

    This new, waterfront villa sold at €3,530/m2, not €10,042/m2!

    The satellite image in Google Earth is from 2019, while the villa was under construction.

    There are endless examples of this….

    Now that you understand that you can’t trust anything m2-based that you read online, here’s how to estimate the actual m2 pricing averages:

    Most Accurate: Analyze the Actual Sold Prices Nearby

    The only accurate way to find the true current value of a villa is to analyze and make a list of similar individual villas that have sold in the area directly nearby.

    As you learned above, the notaires are forced to list villas and apartments that have sold on a government website, known as ‘DVF’. It has an interactive map of France which allows you to click on the area of ​​your choice to see the prices of ALL villas that have recently sold, purchased by anyone — SCI’s and corporate purchasers included (but remember: this site has incorrect m2 info).

    There are several other websites that pull in this information and display it in a way that’s more useful:

    • The Drimki app (on Android and iPhone) lets you see the past sales on a map with satellite view, making it useful for seeing what’s sold nearby when you’re driving around or our looking at a specific villa. Ignore the declared (and false) m2 size and m2 price, and just look at the villa size from the satellite image, and the price. It also has a function to show real estate agents on a map, so you can contact all the agents in the area you’re interested in. This is what the app looks like:
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing real estate france riviera2
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing real estate france riviera 1
    • The Efficity website displays heatmaps to make it easier to see which areas are more or less expensive:
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing real estate france riviera
    The Efficity Website shows more and less pricey areas in every town

    Step 1:

    Using DVF, Drimki, or Efficity, find sold villas of similar location to the one you’re interested in, and look up the addresses on Google Earth to get a better sense of how those villas compare, and what the real m2 might be (95% of the villas are much higher m2 than claimed on the notaire’s website, as explained above).

    Look up the property to check the sold prices of nearby villas, searchable by map:

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing real estate france

    Then find the property via address on Google Earth. This villa is clearly much larger than 220m2:

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - how to price real estate france m21

    You can even get a sense of the view:

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - how to price real estate france1

    But keep in mind the date of the images, as the villa might have been enlarged or renovated since then. If the image date is older than the last sale, check the planning permissions website to see if it was actually larger than Google Earth shows, at the date of the sale.

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate pricing guide 1
    Check the date of the satellite images on google earth

    Step 2:

    Next, compare the map from the planning permissions website (search for the town in the top blue bar, then scroll down and click the green button to view all planning permissions) to the DVF website that lists sold properties with their prices. Click on all the properties that overlap (both have planning and sold) and note the correct m2 from the planning permissions website (add the ‘existing’ to the ‘new’ m2 to get the total).

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing real estate france valuation2
    The planning permissions website
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing real estate france valuation
    DVF, which lists sold properties

    Step 3:

    Make a list. To calculate the market value of villas in the same area, you’ll need to make a list of the nearby sold villas that are in the same style (Provencale versus modern, as they are priced differently), calculate the average m2 sold price of those villas (based on your estimate of the actual m2 size) and add Google Earth screenshots of the villas to your list.

    Here’s an example of the list you’ll need to build (that you can use as a template) using a comparison for a villa in Eze. As discussed above, you’ll have to take a careful look at each villa using Google Earth (and also check the address’ planning permissions) to determine or estimate the real m2 size.

    Here an Example…

    This is a regular, nothing-special villa currently for sale in Eze. Despite having a lot of road noise and facing East, it’s listed at almost €6 million (reduced from €7 million!) An absolutely insane asking price. No villa has ever sold for anything close to that m2 price in Eze, in recorded history. But that didn’t stop the listing agents from trying to outbid other agents to secure the listing for their agency. It will sit on the market until the owners are desperate, at which time it will likely sell for around €1 million.

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - guide pricing real estate france immoblier

    Upon checking the DVF government website and Google Earth, we can see that the neighbor’s villa was likely made by the same developer and is the same style and approximately the same size (based on its footprint and floors, as seen via Google Earth); it recently sold for €930,500!

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - french real estate pricing
    Villa for sale (left) and neighbor (right)

    As you can see, this is another example of how the m2 is dramatically under-counted by the notaires to falsely inflate the m2 average pricing. The notaires website lists the sold (neighbor’s) villa as 125 m2, yet the agency sale listing for the villa states its size as 379 m2 (the agent told us this is all above-ground m2 and verified.)

    French Riviera Real Estate Pricing Guide
    Neighbor’s villa

    Less Accurate: Look at the m2 Sold Averages

    If you don’t have the time or patience to calculate the value the accurate way, then you can find the average m2 price — but remember that it’s grossly inflated.

    Per town m2 averages are inaccurate (higher than reality) for three reasons: because the m2 is dramatically under-counted (as explained above), because there is different pricing within each town (depending on the specific area), and because of a sneaky rule the notaires made up (explained below).

    For example, Eze is much more expensive if you’re looking in Eze Bord de Mer, which is by the sea. If you’re looking at a villa up by the Moyenne or Grand Corniche, then the pricing drops dramatically.

    Also, many villas have space that’s not counted, and this means that the prices displayed on these sites (and the m2 prices per town) are higher than they should be.

    However, the pricing on the JDN website can still be helpful to get a quick idea, before manually estimating the pricing more accurately (as described above).

    • Historic pricing per town: The JDN website (the most accurate and unbiased site) shows trends of real estate prices and demand per town or area over time, including the high and low price per m2. For some towns, JDN shows lower prices than the notaires website; this is because they use only the villas sold in that town in their data (whereas the notaires lump together higher-priced areas in some cases — see below for more details) and they use m2 data from the sale listings, not just the fake m2 from the notaire’s DVF website. The JDN site is also useful for pulling all sorts of stats, including interesting information about the types of housing and who lives in them.
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate price predictions 2024
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate price predictions riviera
    Estimates from the JDN website

    In a separate data dump from their published (false) m2 price statistics, the notaires publish the data from ALL residential real estate that has sold. This is where JDN gets their data.

    • Official notaires / government website showing the prices that properties sold for, per m2, by town: Check this official notaire statistics website and this one (both will give the same pricing). They display charts showing the historic high, low and average sold prices over time (these numbers are much higher than they should be, for the reasons explained above.) You can select a time period for the price estimation, and see which towns / areas are more or less expensive, how many properties have sold during that time period, and compare the average pricing of different time periods. However, keep in mind that the notaires have a conflict of interest due to the fact that they make % commission on the total sale price. Again, this uses the flawed m2 reporting for villas, which inflates the m2 pricing by roughly three times.

    BEWARE! The Notaire website is not always accurate: In addition to only showing the price per habitable m2 ‘estimates’ (as explained above), the notaires have also further falsely inflated the pricing for many towns. Due to their rule stating that they only publish accurate m2 price statistics if there were more than 20 sales in that category (land, old house, new house, apartment) per quarter, stats for smaller towns are not accurate / falsely inflated. In this case, they put a disclaimer stating that they’ve ‘broadened the criteria for your price search’, and the m2 pricing is roughly tripled (versus the real m2 pricing if you look at the JDN website or manually calculate it based on a list of the actual villas sold).

    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate market outlook predictions
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - france real estate market outlook predictions2
    Watch out for these notices — you’ll find the pricing to be much higher than reality
    Pricing: Determining a Villa's Market Value - pricing real estate french riviera market m2
    the official notaire website shows inflated prices, especially in smaller areas
    • Completely inaccurate and deceptive websites: Your agent might tell you to look at SeLoger to find the average m2 of the town. When compared with the local m2 sale prices released by the notaires, SeLoger slants much higher than the real sales prices (which, not surprisingly, benefits real estate agents), as their estimations are based on selectively-picked 3+ year-old sales data. Similarly, MeilleursAgents‘ estimates of selling prices are also completely inaccurate. They are typically more than double what the notaires data dictates. They are completely opaque and don’t disclose how they arrive at those estimations.

    Find Your Offer Price

    This guide will help you find the true market value of any villa. Make sure not to talk to the agent about your offer price, as they are usually instructed by their corporate agency boss not to allow low bids (and will lie to keep you from submitting one). However, if you go directly via a notaire, they are legally obligated to give the offer to the seller. Here’s how to find the price you’ll offer:

    Step-by-Step Instructions

    In summary, to calculate the market value of a villa (which is what you should offer), you need to:

    1. Find out the ‘habitable’ m2 area of the main house (don’t go based on the listing) by looking at the diagnostic report, or by doing your own survey.
    2. Find out the nearby sold prices per m2 range (by using the instructions listed above).

    That will give you a ballpark price range. Then, to find out where in that range this villa fits, you look at these factors, which either put it higher or lower in the range:

    1. What is the quality of the villa and is it well-built? Is the building itself very high quality, middle-of-the-road, or low quality? Does it have things that good builds have, like a ‘vide sanitaire’ gap (mini-basement area so that mold doesn’t build up on the bottom floor), etc?
    2. Are the interior appliances and finishings, kitchen, bathrooms, floors, etc. luxury or basic?
    3. Does the villa come with extra space not included in the ‘habitable’ m2 — a pool house or guest house / apartment? If so, add value. If not, subtract.
    4. Figure out if the villa is in a more or less expensive part of that area / town. For example, areas closer to the water are much more valuable.
    5. How is the view? Could it get blocked in the future? A fantastic, unobstructed sea view increases the value. Seeing neighbors or other villas in the view lowers it. This is less true in areas where most of the villas have a great view, like Eze.
    6. Is the style of the villa modern or an older style? New, modern villas sell for considerably more per m2 (and have many, many more buyers who want them — including wealthy buyers, who will sometimes pay above market value) than traditional, classic, Provencale, ‘modern-style’-Provencale, or outdated-looking styles.
    7. When was the villa built? Newer villas sell for more money and require less repairs. Older villas likely need work to update the electrical, plumbing, roof, sewer, and other problems, so take that into account.
    8. Then factor in if it needs renovations, and what that will cost. If it doesn’t, that makes it more valuable, but if it does, that pushes it down in value quite a bit.
    9. If the land is buildable, so you could expand the house, that would add a small amount of value, but if not, it would remove value. If it’s in a red zone, the price should drop about 20%.
    10. Factor in how much land is included and the quality of the gardens, pool, garage, etc.
    11. Does the villa use a shared driveway? This lowers the m2 value, and adds regular maintenance costs (as well as potential legal disputes) that you’ll need to budget for.
    12. Is there a normal-sized swimming pool? If there’s no pool, can one be built? (Make sure to verify that it comes with valid permissions first!) If you’ll need to build it, then deduct double the cost of the pool from the price. If it’s not guaranteed that you can build a pool, then the value drops by about 40%, and you should seriously consider not buying, as you won’t be able to rent it easily (or at all) as a vacation rental, nor will it be easy to resell.
    13. Will there be noisy construction nearby? (Check building permits here.)
    14. Is it in a community, walking distance to a school or in a guarded domaine? This increases the price. If it’s isolated, that decreases the price.
    15. Then check if there’s other factors that would lower the price, such as a train within earshot, being overlooked, a bumpy driveway, low mobile signal, no fiber, or ugly power lines, or road noise — all of which would significantly lower the value.

    Another part of determining what a villa will sell for is finding out how long it’s been on the market. Since agents likely won’t tell you the truth (or they’ll just tell you how long they’ve had the listing), the best option is to get the diagnostics reports and the mandat (the agreement to list) from the agent, and look at the date on them. Then you’ll know that it’s been for sale for at least that long. (BUT since diagnostics reports are only valid for three years, if the villa has been on the market for more than three years, the diagnostics might have recently been re-done and show a more recent date.)

    If it's been on the market for more than a few months, there's a reason: either the price is much, much too high, or there are serious issues with the property. The longer it’s been on the market, the lower your offer should be.

    That will tell you where in the m2 price range to value it. You may also want to take into account the trajectory of the market (here’s how to tell if prices are rising or falling). This will give you a price that you can justify in a letter to the seller.

    You should make your offer be a m2 price based on the ‘habitable’ m2. This way, if the agent lied about the m2, or included the separate guest apartment (which many do, and which you’ll find out when you conduct a survey), you won’t need to renegotiate.

    If the seller accepts, then you can get surveys done to see if the m2 is accurate, if the villa needs electrical or plumbing upgrades, etc. and based on that you can further adjust the price before putting the offer in a legal contract with the notaire (whom you should have selected in advance).

    Get an Appraisal / Valuation

    If you’re very interested in a property, and the owner needs more convincing to get to the market price, then you can pay for an appraisal / valuation. But remember — not all sellers really want to sell, or will listen to logic / reason. The only way to truly know if a seller was misinformed by their agent and really wants to sell, is to submit an official offer via a notaire.

    To get an appraisal, contact the bank where you plan to get your mortgage. They will have a list of appraisers that they use. Also ask them how long the appraisal is valid for, so it can be used for the mortgage (otherwise you’ll end up paying for it twice). Banks always make you pay for an appraisal as part of the cost of setting up the mortgage (it costs about €3000), but usually this is done after visiting the notaire. However, you can choose to do the appraisal sooner, and use that appraisal for bargaining with the seller / proving that the price should be lower.

    To choose an appraiser, ask their process and ask if they go based on the m2 villa sizes that the notaires publish. If they say yes, then don’t use them. You need an appraiser who understands that the m2 listed by the notaires are incorrect, otherwise they’ll appraise the villa at roughly three times higher price than market value.

    Don’t Waver!

    Here’s how the real estate (and many other markets) work: One uneducated buyer overpays for something, and then all the brokers and agents point to that sale and yell “see? this is the real value of all villas!” Don’t listen. You know the real market value.

    Make your offer via a notaire, explaining that it’s based on the market value, and stand firm. Don’t negotiate, or the seller will know they can squeeze more out of you and it’ll be harder to reach a market-value deal. Don’t let agents confuse or manipulate you. Stick to your price.

    If they say no, you can tell them to come back to you if their property doesn’t sell, and if you haven’t found something else by then, you may still be interested. If they’re a serious seller, this tactic is likely to get you a good price — eventually.

    If they’re not a serious seller then they won’t take your offer unless you dramatically overpay, which you should absolutely not do. Buying real estate is all about patience. You will find a great villa at market value eventually.

    The best situation is to find a serious seller whose villa doesn’t have any major issues, but where it hasn’t sold because it’s overpriced. Then you use this tactic and offer market value (which could be, in many cases, much less than half of the asking price!). Keep checking in, and eventually when the villa doesn’t sell, they’ll come back to you when they’re desperate to sell (when the time has run out on their divorce/tax/etc. situation) and at that point you might even be able to negotiate an under-market price to complete a quick sale.

    Have patience, as buying real estate is much like marriage — if you make the wrong decision it can be a very costly mistake and long-term commitment that’s not easy to back out of.

    Things Agents Will Say to Pressure You

    Agents are desperate to make a sale, so assume they’ll say anything to get you to buy. Here are a few common things they might say to manipulate you:

    “You can’t base your m2 pricing on the notaire’s website (‘DVF’) because _____.”

    They may give any number of lies for this, such as that the notaries don’t count villas purchased using a SCI (they do — they count all residential real estate transactions no matter who pays for them), that they include non-publicly offered or inter-family sales of property for a low price (they don’t), or that the notaire’s published sale prices are somehow incorrectly low (they’re definitely not incorrectly low –in fact they’re incorrectly high!– and this is regulated by French law to increase transparency.)

    “The market has exploded / prices have gone up since the notaires last published the sale prices…”

    Again, that is 100% certainly not true, as the French Riviera’s real estate market is like molasses — it’s very slow-moving. Besides that, their claim is also completely unverifiable and there’s no way an agent could know this. The only way to know the trends of the real estate market prices is via the notaires published sale prices (more on the market trends here). Agents are famous for lying about sale prices, and even if they were being honest, they would only know about their sales, and they are 1 out of over 1500 agents on the French Riviera!

    “This villa is on an expensive street, so the price is justified.” or “The house down the street sold for _____.” or “I recently sold several villas in this area for over €_____.”

    First, you can verify if it is by searching the past sales, which are listed on this notaire (‘DVF’) website — but with incorrectly low m2). If those sales aren’t listed, then assume that it’s probably not true. Second, the price per m2 should still be within the notaire’s published price range (more on this here), which includes every villa on every street in that area/town, including all the ‘special’ expensive streets. Thirdly, just because one buyer didn’t do their research and overpaid, doesn’t mean you should.

    “They already turned down an offer for [insert above-market price here].”

    This is almost always not true. This is a very common tactic used by agents to make you think the villa is in demand, and to get you to offer more than market value. If the number is very high, they may also be trying to scare you off because the listing agent won’t share the commission, the agency doesn’t want their agents to negotiate on price, or because they know that the seller doesn’t really want to sell. Submit an official offer via a notaire and see what happens.

    “The villa already sold but the buyer couldn’t get a mortgage.”

    This may or may not be true. If it’s true, the most likely reason they couldn’t get a mortgage was because the bank’s valuation / appraisal showed that the buyer’s offer was way above market value. So, if it’s true, that almost certainly means that the villa is very overpriced, even at the offer price that was accepted. If it’s not true, then the agent is saying this to manipulate you into thinking that it’s a desirable villa that other people are willing to pay for.

    “They are considering an offer, so you’ll need to act quickly!”

    This is not true most of the time (but once in a while it is, however, the offer amount they tell you is almost always much higher than the actual offer). This is a common tactic used to put pressure on you, to make the villa seem like it’s desirable, and to get you to quickly bid a higher amount than their (fictional) ‘offer amount’. Our advice: offer market value then wait and see.

    “It’s an investment – you’ll make the money back when you sell…”

    This is simply not true anywhere, but especially in France, where the market has been flat-lined for about 15 years. Buyers have no idea what you paid for your villa, and even if they did, it wouldn’t matter, as villas will sell for whatever the market value is at that time. Real estate is like any other market: it has ups and downs, and people lose money on their ‘investment’ all the time.

    “It’s priced at market value. You can see by searching for villas for sale in the area.”

    Agents who say this are trying to confuse you. The asking / listing / for sale prices are NOT ‘market value’; they are the prices nobody is willing to pay (otherwise, those villas would already be sold!) Instead, it is the SOLD prices (the m2 prices that villas have actually sold for) that determine the ‘market value’ (what villas in that town are worth).

    Here’s a list of more (dishonest) things agents say.

    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. Plus, supplementary guide to Russians & their impact on the French Riviera real estate market.

    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 scams and secrets includes: warnings about the unethical tricks that agents, notaires, sellers, developers and builders use to get more money out of you. This is a must-read, and the whistleblower guide that those in the business don’t want you to see.

    Our guide to real estate agents includes: the dishonest things agents will tell you, how real estate agencies operate, buyer’s agents and property finders, why you should avoid illegal and non-local agents, and who to trust (an important warning).

    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, issues with buying a ‘newly renovated’ villa, 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, contract pitfalls, 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.

    Content is legally protected.

    Have a tip? Email [email protected]

    ar العربيةzh-CN 简体中文nl Nederlandsen Englishfr Françaisde Deutschit Italianopt Portuguêsru Русскийes Español