Dou­ble agents

We meet the cou­ples who bought French real es­tate – and then started sell­ing it

French Property News - - Contents -

The first-timers

Kevin and Ju­dith Whit­low hadn’t con­sid­ered work­ing in the es­tate agency busi­ness un­til they moved to France

What did you do for work in the UK? K - Ini­tially I trained as a plumber but went on with my fa­ther to run a milk de­liv­ery busi­ness un­til 1998. I con­tin­ued to work for my­self af­ter that as a builder and also did a short stint at the post office! J - I was pre­vi­ously a teacher in pri­mary schools spe­cial­is­ing in French and I have also worked as a PA.

When did you move to France, and why? J - We moved in March 2009. We met in 2007 through an on­line dat­ing agency and when Kevin pro­posed I asked how he felt about liv­ing in France in the fu­ture as this had been a long-term dream of mine. K - I’d turned down an op­por­tu­nity to em­i­grate to Canada in my early 20s so al­ways had a lot of ‘what if’ ques­tions. I wasn’t go­ing to miss an­other op­por­tu­nity. J - My fa­ther died quite sud­denly at the end of 2008 and it made us re-eval­u­ate our pri­or­i­ties. Hav­ing al­ready found what we in­tended to be a hol­i­day home, we felt that life re­ally was too short and so made the de­ci­sion to make a per­ma­nent move.

How was your ex­pe­ri­ence as prop­erty hunters? K - Quite poor. We viewed with sev­eral agents with mixed re­sults. We were shown prop­er­ties that didn’t cor­re­spond to what we were look­ing for, and some­times felt we were be­ing used to pla­cate ven­dors who hadn’t had a view­ing. Fi­nally, we met a good agent who lis­tened and found us the house we even­tu­ally bought. The agency she worked for was nowhere near as good as her though and we weren’t sur­prised when she told us she was leav­ing.

The agency in ques­tion didn’t sup­port us through the buy­ing process and even left us to go to the no­taire’s on our own to sign the com­pro­mis de vente. We ar­rived at the prop­erty late at night, af­ter an ar­du­ous jour­ney, to no wa­ter or elec­tric­ity – de­spite as­sur­ances from the agency that they would sort it for us. It wasn’t a good start.

Thank­fully, our new neigh­bour sup­plied us with wa­ter un­til we got it re­con­nected. This was a great in­tro­duc­tion to the gen­eros­ity of the French in this part of south-west France. J - The agent left her agency but kept in con­tact with us, sup­port­ing us at a dis­tance through­out the rest of our buy­ing process and move. Our ex­pe­ri­ence has in­flu­enced our ap­proach to the job – we don’t want any­one else to go through what we did!

What did you buy? K - Be­cause of my building back­ground, we bought a sweet lit­tle stone house in a beau­ti­ful

We’re busy but feel more in con­trol of our own des­tiny – we don’t feel the out­side pres­sures we did in the UK and have a bet­ter qual­ity of life

lo­ca­tion that needed to­tally ren­o­vat­ing. I hated the idea of some­one just hand­ing me the keys with­out be­ing able to put our own stamp on it. J - It was hard work, but worth it. We lived in a car­a­van and then a mo­bile home dur­ing the ren­o­va­tion, but I wasn’t pre­pared to do that through the win­ter, so we had our work cut out. We man­aged to ren­o­vate the house in just over four months – quite an achieve­ment! K - We went on to buy the house next door and ren­o­vated that too, turn­ing it into a cou­ple of gîtes that we ran suc­cess­fully for three years.

De­scribe your new life J - We’re busy but feel much more in con­trol of our own des­tiny. Al­though we’re still work­ing hard, we don’t feel the out­side pres­sures we did in the UK. We have a bet­ter qual­ity of life; great food, weather and space to just be!

Did you al­ways plan to work in France? If so, do­ing what? K - We orig­i­nally planned to man­age other peo­ple’s hol­i­day lets and Ju­dith was go­ing to run English classes for French chil­dren.

And then you be­came es­tate agents – how did that come about? K - The agent who found us our house was now work­ing with Beaux Vil­lages Im­mo­bilier and she con­tacted Ju­dith to ask if she might be in­ter­ested in cov­er­ing some­one’s hol­i­day do­ing ad­min for a cou­ple of months. J - At the end of the con­tract I didn’t want to leave and so I be­gan my ca­reer as an es­tate agent! I’m now re­spon­si­ble for train­ing our agents, us­ing my teach­ing skills once again. Funny how things have gone round full circle. K - I’d been run­ning our gîtes for three years and met some great peo­ple along the way, some of whom were house­hunt­ing them­selves. It seemed a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion to show them some prop­er­ties and so, in 2013, I also joined the agency.

What ad­vice would you give to the next gen­er­a­tion of prop­erty hunters? Find a good agent and stick with them. Make sure they re­ally lis­ten to you. Give them every op­por­tu­nity to find you the right prop­erty. Wild cards do work! Learn a bit of French if you don’t speak it al­ready, it re­ally does pay off – if only to give you con­fi­dence when you are out and about. In our ex­pe­ri­ence the lo­cals will love you for try­ing in French rather than you ex­pect­ing them to speak English.

What would you change about your ad­ven­ture so far? Noth­ing re­ally. We’ve had a re­ally great nine years here.

Is France your ‘for­ever home’? We have no plans to re­turn to the UK. When we visit fam­ily we’re con­stantly re­minded of how relaxed the pace of life is in France. At the end of the day, noth­ing beats hav­ing time for sit­ting on the ter­race with friends and fam­ily, en­joy­ing the view and lis­ten­ing to the birds singing – and there might be a glass of wine too!

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