Friday, March 20, 2015

French property searching: the 'bon de visite'

Quite often the question arises about the 'bon de visite' - it's role and validity in the French property searching and buying process. Here I try to explain briefly.

When an owner decides to put his/her property up for sale, he has a number of options -  to try and sell it privately, or to place the property with one or more state agents; or to use a combination of the above.

If you decide to use an estate agency, as owner you will agree a 'mandat de vente' under which the agent agrees to market and try and sell your property, against an agreed commission, based on a percentage of the sale price. If you use only one agent you can sign a 'mandat exclusif' under which the agent has the sole right to market your property, and even if you attract a buyer yourself, you normally expect to pay the agent a commission - or at least an agreed portion of it.

If you want to use use more than one agency, you can sign a number of 'mandats simples' - and indeed include in the contract the right to try and market yourself. This alternative can give rise to confusion and even disputes where it is unclear which agent 'first introduced' the client to the property and is therefore entiled to his/her commission in the event of a sale. Hence the 'bon de visite'.

When a potential buyer buyer walks into an estate agency to help find a suitable property and is eventually taken on a number of visits, he/she will sign a 'bon de visite'. This is a simple document which includes and name and other details of the potential buyer,  and most importantly a list identifying the properties visited with the agent. In the event of a dispute over commission or who first introduced a buyer to a property, the 'bon de visite' becomes part of the evidence.

Note throughout all this, that it is the owner/vendor who is bound by the terms of the mandate which he/she signed with one or more agents, and not the buyer. A vendor who is in breach his agreement with the agency, for example by not paying the agency's commission when the agency has fairly secured a sale, can be subject to prosecution through the courts and subject to costs and damages.Note finally that a vendor who has signed one or more 'mandats simples' will find that among their conditions is the obligation to notify the agency of a buyer either introduced by another agency or privately.