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