Some words of experience for those just starting to search for their house in France, could be very useful. Here is my take on just a few such words of advice...
When I was talking to Timothy Corrigan, an American Interior Designer, about his search for the perfect neo classical château in the Loire valley, he gave this advice to people who want to find that perfect property in France?
" I think that what I learned is to never get discouraged. To just keep looking. To use as many different agents as possible because they all have different properties. And to spend a lot of time just driving and asking about properties. And finally I say the biggest thing is to just enjoy the process of the search."
"It is magical to be able to see so many wonderful old structures and to see how history has really evolved. You see it clearly in the different buildings. So, I say, enjoy the search and be open to as many different kinds of structures and buildings. Even if you think it may not be one that you are interested in, if it, in any way, fits the criteria of what you are looking for, go see it because often times a sales brochure or picture online cannot give you a true sense of what the property is about."
The first, because he began to believe that the second, and almost perfect example of a neo-classical château, would never reveal itself to him...
In fact, he describes perfectly the lengths you have to go to to find the one property you wish to buy. Never mind whether it is a chateau, a manoir or a more humble abode, finding the right one can and does take time. Note that he recommends that you contact "as many different agents as possible".
The trouble is that most people do not have the time to devote to such an in depth search of the French property market. It can therefore take longer than need be to find the property that matches their criteria.
If only, they could delegate the initial research to someone who lives in south west France and is 'au courant' with the market. Someone who could pre-visit likely properties and make sure they do or do not match your criteria. It would save so much time for you.
No more wasted long weekends driving long distances only to be disappointed... again and again
Finding that perfect property can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. A marathon with no guarantee of success.
If only, Timothy had decided to work with a buyer's agent and French property finder. He would found his neo-classical chateau in the Loire so much more quickly. The pleasure of visiting properties that were a close match would not have been lost. The pleasure of ambling through the French countryside enjoying the views and the surprising little villages that you often come across would still have been there for him.
And would not have felt the need to buy that 2nd chateau, just in case...
Which is so true
Trying to make a shortlist of properties to view based on what you see on an agent's website and a couple of telephone conversations is often what people choose to do. It is therefore no surprise that they are often disappointed by what they see.
People are often reluctant to hire a property finder like me. They know that the agents fees are high in France. And then, the notaire and government taxes also account for another large on cost. They certainly don't want to spend any more than they really have to.
In a counter intuitive way, hiring a buyer's agent does not add to your costs. It actually could save you money. Especially when you want to strike a deal on the property of your choice. He or she will know how low to pitch your first offer because he has a good grasp of current values.
He will steer you away from properties that are over-priced with little hope of negotiating a good deal.
He will know which agent is most likely to have the property you are looking for
He will know where to look for off market properties too
And as for his fees
He will negotiate with the agent concerned, if there is one, so the immobilier reduces his fees on the basis that almost any sale is better than no sale at all.
And, if there is no agent involved, you will more than save the buyer's agent's fees when you see the discount you get on the asking price of the property concerned.
And, you will, of course, have found the property you want to buy...
Without undue delay
It is not uncommon for people to start their search independently. They have bought property before in their home country. Buying a house in France cannot be that challenging, can it?
But it is... and the whole process of buying is conducted in French. Yes, you may be lucky to find a notaire who speaks English but the legal documents are in French from beginning to end.
There is no MLS. The same properties appear on different websites at different prices. There are many many micro markets. All slightly different with different values. Buy the right house in the wrong place may make selling that much harder.
Are you looking for a second home in France? Have you found it as easy as you first thought? If so, what was the one thing that helped you?
Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear what you have to say...
Rory Ramsden is a French property finder and buyer's agent working for high net worth private clients wishing to buy a chateau, manor or vineyard in the south west of France. He has lived in France for 8 years after spending time travelling the world on business.
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