Sunday, August 9, 2009

Viewing properties

(1) Viewing properties, even for a day, can sometimes involve up to three or four days of prior preparation, including discussions with estate agents, arranging preliminary viewings with them and with property owners, drawing up a short list and then discussing and agreeing it with the client. This is then followed by another round of appointment making with the agents, the owners and eventually the client, so that he/she can enjoy a day or more of carefully scheduled property viewings, on their arrival in France.

(2) Negotiators who work for estate agencies generally have to pay their own costs such as car, petrol and insurance. They rely for their living on part of the commission on the sale of a property. They are therefore unwilling to spend a lot of time and effort if a client is unable to buy at the time (ie is 'just looking'). It is advisable to have funds in place and be genuinely in a position to buy.

(3) Many properties, especially houses, tend to be occupied by their owners until sold. As a result, viewings are always by appointment with the owner/occupier, and the agent responsible. All this requires fluency in French and French manners, and we accompany our clients on viewings with the French agent.

(4) Property viewing takes time, as travel distances are greater, and it is normally only possible to visit two to three properties in the morning, and perhaps up to four in an afternoon/early evening. A single day is generally insufficient time in which to view a reasonable selection.

(5) Once you have seen a property you like, return visits are advisable, at different times of day, and to explore the local area for shops, schools, transport links etc that might influence your final choice. This all takes time and is easier if you are working from a short-list.

(6) Research shows that the majority of buyers select the area and then choose a property, rather than the other way round. If you feel you need to look at other areas, then you can do this without necessarily involving an estate agent or property searcher, and get a feel for local property prices by looking in agents' windows. We can however offer general information and guidance at this point.

Points to note
(7) We always advise clients to have funds in place before starting a property search. This means having either cash resources (for example from the proceeds of another property sale) or a loan agreement in principle from a bank or mortgage provider. Some agencies - and indeed some owners - insist on written evidence of this, and when making an offer on a property you like, you will be asked to confirm how you intend to pay. A 10% deposit will then be required when you sign the pre-sale contract ("compromis de vente").

(8) Having a reasonably clear idea of what you want and having funds in place gives you a unique advantage when buying a property, and can often help the negotiator to secure for you a valuable reduction on the asking price.

(9) Buying a French property for either permanent living or as a second home is a major investment, both financial and emotional, and justifies taking time and care before you commit to buying. People sometimes change their mind in the course of viewing, adjust their budget upwards or downwards, and occasionally end up buying a modern two-bed apartment on the coast when they originally set their heart on a country cottage with several hectares of land!

(10) Our job is to alert our clients to the range of possibilities - for living, investment, letting etc - based on our knowledge and experience of the area and the complexities of the property market. You will also have an opportunity to meet past clients, most of whom live locally and have become long standing friends over the past seven or eight years. They can tell you about their own personal experiences and what it is like to live in this lovely region of France.

(11) After you move in, we can also help with matters such as getting a phone line, internet connection, bank account, local builders and decorators, legal advisors, social security, health care, setting up a business or in self employment etc, all based on our personal contacts and experience, and recommendations from past clients.

(12) We can also provide ad hoc information and advice on buying to let, how you can make a French will, using alternative purchase vehicles such as a French SCI or UK limited company, changing your marriage regime, entering into a PACS, and other issues it is important for you to understand when buying a French property, and introduce you to a French notaire or other expert as required.