Can we sue French estate agent over non-sale if price was too high?
Reader question: We put our house on the market at the estimate given by our estate agent but it did not sell. Can we claim money back?
Yes, if the estimate from the agent was way too high. The courts say agents must be able to justify their price against that of similar properties sold at the time they gave the estimate.
A recent case in Normandy gives an extreme example. A couple approached an agency in 2012 to sell their house so they could move somewhere smaller.
The agency estimated it would sell for €400,000 and, on that basis, the couple put the house on the market and bought a smaller one, from the same agency, for €309,000. They took out a bridging loan to fund it – but the house did not sell and they had to extend the loan, at a cost.
Eventually, the house sold for just €242,000.
The couple sued, accusing the agency of over-valuing the first house to sell them the second and pocketing the commission. The agency failed to prove they had researched prices of similar properties and a lower court awarded the couple €82,638. This was reduced on appeal to €28,500, representing commission the agency gained and the cost of the extra bank interest.
In another case, an agency had to pay €2,000 damages “for disappointment” after a house they estimated at €450,000 in 2006 was sold for just €260,300 in 2008.