Rules can favour buying French properties at auction

The French tradition of auction by candlelight for French properties is making a comeback and there are some real bargains to be had if you know how the system works.

An apartment of 60 sqm in the 20th arrondissement of Paris for €260,000 euros, a house in Colombes of 70 square meters on a plot of about 300 square meters for €202,000, a ruined house on a large plot 40 000 in the Poitou, just about every type of French property can be bought at a French property auction. The opportunity to do – perhaps – very good business is real but you have to be prepared and know the rules.

Buying by candle light auction is called ‘vente à la bougie’ and the way it works is slightly more complex than a traditional property auction say in the US or UK. A candle is list for each property as the particulars are displayed on a screen, which then starts the bidding, which follows as a traditional auction might. The candle burn time varies but it normally lasts for at least 90 seconds, so the bidding can be quite energetic, which bidders usually offering their best and finals quite quickly.

When there are no further bids a second candle is lit. The second candle is referred to as “le dernier feu” or “last fire”. The sale is only complete when the candle has gone out and the auctioneer has announced “eteint” or “extinguished”. In the majority of cases, there is no further bidding but if someone does place a last minute bid while the dernier feu is still alight, the whole bidding process starts again.

This system can make for a very interesting bidding process and the two stages both with finite time periods often means that some real bargains can be had.