Find­ers keep­ers

When it comes to find­ing your per­fect French home, a good es­tate agent will help you save time and en­ergy, says Charles Miller

Living France - - Les Pratiques -

For many house-hunters, search­ing for that per­fect prop­erty in France can feel like look­ing for a nee­dle in a haystack. The ini­tial search cri­te­ria might be so ex­act, or the area so wide that it ap­pears that no houses will be a match. But there is a way to make the process much sim­pler and less stress­ful.

The first step in­volves a lit­tle soul-search­ing: why are you com­ing to France and what do you want to do when you are here? Is it a per­ma­nent move re­quir­ing an in­come, a hol­i­day home or some­thing in be­tween? The an­swers will, to some ex­tent, help to de­fine the type of prop­erty that you may be look­ing for. A hol­i­day busi­ness may re­quire ad­di­tional build­ings and land, whereas a pri­vate hol­i­day home with sub­stan­tial build­ings and land could re­sult in some pretty ex­haust­ing hol­i­days.

The next step in­volves a phrase that has per­haps be­come a lit­tle bit of a cliché: lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion. France is well over twice the size of the UK (with about the same pop­u­la­tion) and like the UK, the land­scape ranges from moun­tains to salt flats and ev­ery­thing in be­tween, with cli­mates rang­ing from con­ti­nen­tal to mar­itime. It is there­fore es­sen­tial to de­cide upon an area, oth­er­wise the search risks be­ing a life­long one.

This is where the in­ter­net can be in­dis­pens­able, but don’t take ev­ery­thing at face value. For ex­am­ple, be aware of the rea­son why an ar­ti­cle on a par­tic­u­lar area was writ­ten as the au­thor may well have had a vested in­ter­est. Thor­oughly re­search the area of in­ter­est and if pos­si­ble, visit it sev­eral times – in sum­mer and in win­ter, if it is to be a per­ma­nent move. At­tend a prop­erty show – you will get a glimpse of what is on of­fer and will meet with pro­fes­sion­als who know their area. Re­search the prices and be aware that gen­er­ally the price will re­flect both the de­sir­abil­ity of the prop­erty it­self as well as the area. It’s not un­usual for prices to vary widely within a rel­a­tively short dis­tance.

There will be a rea­son if the over­all prices in one area are sub­stan­tially lower when com­pared to the neigh­bour­ing area – and the rea­son may not be im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent.

This is where the spe­cial­ist can be in­valu­able. Once the de­ci­sion on an area has been made, it is time to con­tact the es­tate agent. It is ad­vis­able to make con­tact with an agent well be­fore any house-hunt­ing trip. A good agent will take your search cri­te­ria and pro­pose a va­ri­ety of prop­er­ties and pos­si­bil­i­ties – some of which you may not have con­sid­ered.

You may al­ready have picked out prop­er­ties from the in­ter­net and the agent can talk you through them, send you more de­tails, pho­tos and so on. All of this prepa­ra­tion work can take place from the com­fort of your own arm­chair.

While the temp­ta­tion is to plan your own de­tailed prop­erty-hunt­ing itin­er­ary based upon mak­ing con­tact with a num­ber of agents and telling them which prop­erty you want to see and when and where you want to meet, it is of­ten an im­prac­ti­cal ap­proach. The timetable to see six houses in one day with three agents is a recipe of missed ap­point­ments, late vis­its and frayed tem­pers – par­tic­u­larly if the prop­er­ties have sim­ply been se­lected from an in­ter­net search and have not been dis­cussed at any length with the agent be­fore­hand.

It is much more ef­fec­tive to ar­range to meet the agent at their of­fice, dis­cuss and ex­plore the prop­er­ties through pho­tos, maps, aerial views, weed out in­ap­pro­pri­ate houses and add new ones to the list. Ide­ally, vis­its should only take place af­ter this im­por­tant meet­ing. It could in­volve spend­ing the en­tire day with one agent, and this ap­proach is al­most guar­an­teed to save a great deal of your pre­cious time and po­ten­tially money too.

If an ap­point­ment is made with an agent, keep to it. If there is a need to can­cel, this should be done at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity. It is a very bad idea to sim­ply not turn up to an ap­point­ment with­out can­celling – agents may be less will­ing to work with a house-hunter who has left them wait­ing in the rain (or bak­ing sun) for 45 min­utes with no phone call.

With any luck it should not take too long to find the prop­erty with your name on it. Once it has been found, leave it to the agent to guide you through the en­tire of­fer and pur­chase process – a good agent will try to en­sure that the process runs as smoothly and with as lit­tle stress a pos­si­ble. Charles Miller is a di­rec­tor of Char­ente Im­mo­bilier es­tate agency char­ente-im­mo­bilier.com

A good agent will take your search cri­te­ria and pro­pose a va­ri­ety of prop­er­ties and pos­si­bil­i­ties

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