Thursday, July 9, 2009

Property journalists!

As someone who is based in southern France and writes regularly about the French property scene, I keep a sharp eye on what is being written in the English newspapers, and where possible correct what I consider to be inaccuracies.

The serious daily and Sunday newspapers seem to enjoy a mix of scare headlines - Buyers abroad beware! is a typical one at the moment - while at the same time promoting yet another obscure destination in eastern Europe, where invariably the market collapses within a couple of years, and they revert to the previous headline, before moving on to eulogise about the latest overseas 'property hotspot'.

A lot of the advice given is geared to 'cashing-in' and making a quick profit on property dealing, which is rarely possible, and certainly not in France. Another favourite is reliance on British-based advisors to help you deal with the wily foreigners, and I recently had to take a paper to task over the statement 'it is difficult to find a reliable foreign estate agent'!

As I pointed out in my response, here in France estate agents are licensed by the local Prefecture, and are obliged to carry insurance and have certain university level qualifications and experience, in what is classified as a 'controlled occupation'. They can also be subject to unannounced control visits by the police and licensing authorities, as well as their professional association, such as FNAIM or SNPI.

Every property transaction is supervised by a notaire whose role is to ensure that every transaction is legal and equitable to all parties. The notaire has a second role as collector of taxes for the French government.

While using advisors based in your home country may offer a measure of comfort, they can at best only rely on information received from third parties and on documents supplied to them in a foreign language. They cannot usurp the role of the notaire. There is no substitute for doing your own research, for example at the local mairie or planning department, or using an expert on the spot to do this for you.