Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Government reforms do not go far enough - FNAIM

FNAIM, the French estate agents membership organisation, has recently issued a statement which is highly critical of the reforms - currently being presented to Parliament by the housing minister C├ęcile Duflot - declaring that they do not go far enough.

In their reply, FNAIM note that they are a voluntary membership body, representing just 12 000 out of an estimated 30 000 French estate agents. They have, they say, been pressing for years for tighter government controls and, with the means they have available, conduct their own spot checks on members. 

Although they 'police' their own members - which results in some dozen withdrawals of FNAIM membership every year - these same agencies can continue to operate, as there are no legal sanctions that FNAIM can apply.

FNAIM are also critical of the present system of qualification and training. In order to secure an agency licence (issued by the local Prefecture), an estate agent must have a minimum first degree in economics, business or law. But FNAIM claims that an estimated 5 to 7 per cent of agents are piggy-backing onto a friend's qualifications, or working as unqualified 'commercial agents' atached to any agency, either independent or on salary. The recen crisis has led to a boom in this type of casual mployment.

Most of these issues are not new and FNAIM further comments that although Duflot speaks of 'qualifications and training' nothing is spelled out in her proposals, and also that she is concentrating her attention only on the rental sector and relations between landlord and tenant, rather than tighter regulating of the profession. 

Their final word on the government proposals - 'un projet trop light'.

My advice to French property buyers or sellers is to use an agency that is a member of FNAIM (or the second body SYNAP) and has an established presence locally, in the area where you are property hunting. I would avoid using any of the 'virtual' on-line agencies who use a network local home-based 'advisors' who qualifications it may not be possible to verify. 

Understanding French documents

A member of the popular discussion forum recently raised a question about the wording in a sales mandate (required when you ask an estate agency to market your property for sale) they were being asked to sign.

This was a standard FNAIM document, correctly translated into English but still unintelligible! 

In replying to the member - and advising anyone reading this blog - I would always recommend clarifying the wording of any French sales document, either with the agent concerned or the Notaire, before signing. Legal documents, even when translated into English, are not easy to understand even in your native tongue.

Although I have software that can translate the various estate agency documents into English and several European languages, I always advise an advisory session with the agent or Notaire to go through each document and explain its implications. Legal-speak is not easy to understand unless you are qualified in law, and French law is very different from other national systems.