Tuesday, July 17, 2012

French Property News, July 2012

In this month's isssue* I have written a piece headed 'Think big, live small' which has been partly inspired by my current search for a new apartment in Perpignan. Accustomed as I am to advising others, as I say in the article, because I know where I want to live and am awaiting the sale of my current apartment on the Mediterranean coast, I have enjoyed the luxury of having time to spare, being on the spot and knowing - I thought - precisely what I am looking for.

However, over the weeks and months, I have found my ideas changing, including what I used to regard as the minimum surface area I would be happy to live in. This has gradually reduced, as after studying books such as 'What's wrong with this house' **, as a lot depends on the layout and proportions of the various rooms, and that in practical terms most houses and apartments include a lot of wasted space, which helps raise the asking price, and adds to the bills for local taxes and management charges. Hence the title of the piece and my determination to manage with the smallest space possible!

'What's wrong with this house' is the brainchild of two Canadian authors John Brown and Matthew North, who are both architects and designers, and pioneers behind the 'slow home' movement - itself based on the success of the 'slow food' (as opposed to fast food) movement which has become worldwide. The authors started their drive for better houses after organising a survey*** of  4600 North American new home projects, which were analysed for their quality, judged in terms of design and user friendliness, environmental. They found that only 11% met their criteria, achieving a score of not less than 17/20 positive responses to their questionnaire.

Homes that they label as 'designed to be sold rather than designed to be lived-in'were found to have faults in four main areas they describe as:
A. Colliding geometries - awkward shapes, placements of windows/doors/fireplaces/stairways etc that looked dramatic when first seen by would-be purchasers, but made the dwelling difficult to furnish and live-in.
B. Redundant space - often resulting from A. and less than ideal placement of rooms - for example a dining room placed too far from a kitchen that seldom gets used.
C. False labelling - describing a small or awkward space as a 'guest room' or 'study' to flatter potential buyers.
D. Supersizing - creating oversized rooms - such as a 'master' bedroom or ensuite bathroom - that wasted space and were difficult to furnish in practice.

The architect/researchers also found that although the average American home over the last 50 years had grown in size from 900 to 2300 square feet, many of their clients came to them complaining they needed more space - often due to the problems noted above - and were surprised how a minimal amount of re-modelling could generate the extra space they felt they lacked within their existing homes.

The book and the accompanying property questionnaire can be of invaluable help to anyone starting their search for a property in France, ensuring that the property of their dreams literally ticks all the boxes. 

Sources: * ww.archant.co.uk for 'French Property News' and other magazines in the group.
** What's wrong with this house? by John Brown and Matthew North, www.slowhomestudio.com Available via Amazon.com
*** 2010 Slow Home Report on Design Quality in the North American New Home Market can be downloaded from www.slowhomestudio.com