So, now you’re ready to get going. It makes sense to dress comfortably and wear sturdy shoes – you may be exploring uneven gardens, climbing lots of stairs or stepping over broken floorboards in a renovation project. Don’t forget a raincoat or umbrella, sadly the sun doesn’t always shine in France!
Take a notebook to record the pros and cons of the different properties, what you like and don’t like, anything you need to find out about after the viewing, and small points you might otherwise forget. A camera is an essential tool, it will help you remember all those details that merge together after a few days of property viewings. Remember to ask permission to take photos though. You may also want to take along a map and mark the properties on it.
On full viewing days, the chances are your agent will have built in time to stop for lunch, but it might be worth taking along food and drinks just in case. You can always check with your agent beforehand.
This brings me on to the point that, in France, the agent will almost always accompany you on viewings – they will meet you there or even drive you to the property. This can be particularly useful in remote areas where finding properties is almost impossible unless you know where you’re going.
You may be asked to sign a bon de visite; this is simply a form that shows that the agent has introduced you to the property, to prevent you going direct to the vendor later on and cutting out the agent (and their fees).
It’s advisable to meet the agent at their office beforehand; you can discuss your requirements if you haven’t already and check out their set-up including their carte professionnelle certificate, which shows they are correctly registered. It goes without saying that you should always use a qualified and reputable agent.
This (and the journey to the property) is your chance to pick the agents’ brains, about both the area and the property itself. You may want to ask why the owners are selling and how long the property has been on the market, and if there are any major infrastructure developments planned for the area (new roads, rail lines, wind farms etc).
Continue your questions once you reach the property. How long has the vendor lived there? What work has been done to the house? When were the electrics/ plumbing/roof last replaced? What fixtures, fittings and furniture are included in the sale? Is there mains drainage or a septic tank, and if the latter, where is it? What are the neighbours like? Can the adjoining land be built on? Does anyone have a right of way over the land? Is good broadband available? What local amenities are there (supermarket, boulangerie, post office, restaurant, bar, train station, schools, doctor’s surgery, tourist spots, community events and clubs, and so on)?
What if you realise quite quickly that you don’t like the property? You should be honest with your agent, without being rude to the vendor, of course. As politely as possible, tell them the property is not suitable for your requirements so that you don’t waste everyone’s time or get the vendor’s hopes up. As you go through the different viewings, make sure you let the agent know what you like and don’t like, as this will help them to select further properties for you to view.
Remember to think with your head as well as your heart, it can be easy to get carried away. Don’t be tempted by properties that are impractical or over your budget.
What if you find the one you want; should you carry on with the other viewings? Obviously you don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but I’m sure you, like me, have seen those TV programmes where the househunters think they’ve found ‘the one’, only to fall even more in love with the next one!