French estate agents are hired by vendors to market their property and negotiate the highest possible price. They do not have a specific fiduciary duty to the buyer and only have to disclose problems with a property that they have been made aware of – they have no duty to investigate anything about the house, other than whether the vendor has the title to property and that their identity is correct.
Estate agencies in France are not in the business of searching for properties for buyers. They have their own portfolio of houses to sell and can’t access the listings of the competition, other than perhaps a few other agencies that they have an agreement with. The bigger agencies often do not want to share their listings at all. Estate agents in any event do not preview the competition’s listings and won’t report to you on any downsides or problems, nor can they advise a buyer as to the lowest possible price. That is not their job an d it’s simply not the custom in France.
Counting on the listing agent to represent your best interests and do the legwork for you, would be unrealistic. If listing agents would try to get the lowest price and best conditions for the buyer, they’d soon not get any new listings on the books and would go out of business. Also, if a conflict or problem would arise during the acquisition, they’d help out the vendor and you’d be on your own.
For marketing reasons, many estate agents will call themselves buyer’s agents, property finders, or home hunters. If they have websites with properties for sale, they however are not exclusive buyer’s agents or “chasseurs immobiliers,” they simply are trying to get in customers for the houses they list. Don’t confuse them with the American system where the listing agent routinely shares the property and his commission with the buyer’s search agent.