Guide for Sellers: How to Price Your Villa
If you want to sell your villa, you’ll need to know two things: the real true value of your property, and why agents tell you it’s worth more than it really is.
How to Figure Out What Your Villa is Really Worth
The #1 thing to know is: the market value. The market value of your villa is based on the past sales in the nearby area — not the fake m² pricing averages. This is what your villa will sell for. You can’t trust what an agent tells you the market value is (see below for why) — so you’ll need to do your own research.
- First, learn about m² statistics, and why they are incorrect (this is the most important thing to learn about the French real estate market).
- The way to figure out the market value of your villa is described here (it’s the same process for both buyers and sellers).
- The way to predict if it’s going to go up or down in value over the next several years is by analyzing the factors that affect the real estate market. Here is our guide to where the market is right now, and where it’s headed.
Buyers will find out the market value: When a buyer gets a mortgage, the bank does a valuation of the property and tells the buyer what the market value is (the bank won’t approve a mortgage that’s above market value). Also, in the luxury real estate market, buyers normally have financial advisors who will advise them to get a valuation of the property.
If you price your villa above the market value: It won’t sell. It’s that simple. It will sit on the market for years until you decide to take it off. You can see for yourself by setting email notifications on the aggregator websites.
Some sellers don’t mind their villa sitting on the market and not selling because they like the fantasy that their villa is worth much more than it really is, or they are stuck in the old thinking that Russians are going to overspend on their villa. Agents don’t love this, but they are in competition to secure the listing, so they don’t have a choice, as most sellers will blindly choose the agent who tells them that they can sell their villa for the most money.
Agents are very competitive and they get rewarded by their agencies when they sign new sellers. As you’ll see when you talk to them, they will promise you the moon to get the listing.
Agents compete based on the price they tell you they can sell your villa for. But when you ask for justification of the price, they either give fake ‘past sales’ (ask for the addresses and verify this way), or they quote fake m2 pricing, or just tell you that you should blindly trust them because they’re ‘the expert’.
A quick way to verify the past sales they tell you about is to look on the DVF (where you can see a map with an overlay of all the villas that have sold in the last 5 to 6 years), then check out the villas in Google Earth to get a sense of how the size and location of them compares to your villa. The prices listed in DVF are correct (but include taxes), but the m² and number of rooms listed is not accurate – here’s why.
The reason they lie about your villa’s value is to secure the listing. It’s not that they are a bad person — it’s that the system in France is set up in a bad way. When they sign up a new seller, they get the commission no matter who finds the eventual buyer. They’re then able to advertise it (and their agency along with it) online.
They know that the villa will not sell until you lower the price. At that point they can say ‘the market is worse now’ or make an excuse, but in the end they will get the commission, since they’re the one who secured the listing.
If you’re serious about selling, you need to know the real market value and price the villa properly. Don’t listen to the agents who are trying to outbid each other, as this will just result in a hassle and no sale. As a local agent told us: “When we do tell the owner the real market value of their villa, with DVF analysis, they have a panic attack. Then other agencies give them higher prices that are a fantasy, just to get the mandat… So, in the end, we have to play this game and tell them that their house is worth more than what other agencies say, even though we know it won’t sell, otherwise we won’t get the mandat and it’ll just be listed at that price anyway by a different agency.”
Here’s 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.
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!
As you can see, this is another example of how the m² is dramatically under-reported 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.)
And another example…
This villa in the heights of Villefranche-sur-Mer is asking €4.6 million. It’s 260 m² and needs renovation (it’s very cheaply-done 1980’s-style inside).
Here’s it is (on the left), next to the neighbors villa, which is more than twice as big:
And in DVF, you can see that the neighbor’s villa (which is 565 m²) sold for €1.1 million at the height of the Covid boom (higher pricing than normal). Nearly all of the other villas in the nearby area sold for similar prices.
…and yet, the owner has been convinced by a dishonest agent trying to secure the listing, that their villa is worth €4.6 million, instead of the roughly €800,000 that it’s actually worth.
Online Real Estate Agencies
A dozen online estate agencies have opened in France over the past five years – and although they have a tiny share of the market, they are growing rapidly. They charge far lower fees than traditional real estate agencies. They’re worth trying before going to a traditional agency, as if you can sell via one of these, you’ll save on fees and effort.
Here are the main ones to check out:
Tip when dealing with agents: Agencies sometimes try to include unlawful penalty clauses in mandates committing the seller to pay all or part of the agency fees even if the house is sold by another agent, or to pay 50% if sellers find a buyer themselves. This is illegal, but agencies try to scam you with this clause anyway. The only intermediary who can be paid is the one who handled the sale.