House-hunting in France is a full-time job

When I left home to come out house-hunting my hubby’s final words were ‘ It’s not going to be a holiday you know’ – and after my experiences over the last couple of days he was spot-on.

It’s fair to say that this trip has been planned like a military operation and so far it has worked as expected – although I am already surprised at how tired I am in the evenings. Pretty much all I’ve been capable of doing when I’ve got back is cooking something simple for supper (truffle cheese is proving to be a very useful & tasty ingredient) – talk over the properties I’ve visited & head for bed. It’s certainly not a relaxing, gentle break, but I suppose it was never meant to be that and if it is then something has gone horribly wrong!

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it helps having a nice place to stay & we’ve rented a house on the main square – nice view to wake up to!

 

The days are pretty hectic with appointments booked from 9.30 until 6.00, although I’m pleased to say that none have been rushed and I have been able to spend the time I’ve needed at each property to get a real sense of it. I’m also certainly getting a chance to further test my French language skills, chatting to agents in the car about the area, asking detailed questions about the properties (and having to deal with equally detailed answers!)

It’s been really interesting setting each property I’ve seen against the list of what we feel we need (happily not a lengthy list, but critical if we are to find the right house). On the face of it all the houses that I’ve booked to see meet the criteria, but already I’m getting a sense of what it is that we’re really looking for and being able to prioritise the list in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without actually getting my feet on the ground out here. This is still the case even though we have been visiting the area for many years and know it so well that it is already a ‘second home’ for us I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like trying to find a house in a totally unknown area!

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When there are views like this – Mont Ventoux from Roussillon – it’s easy to understand why we love the area

When we started the process we had a general idea of what we needed and as long as a house fitted these relatively broad criteria then we felt it was worth looking at. I am a great optimist & enthusiast and can see the positives in almost any property -although I have to admit there have been a couple I have really struggled with so far (mainly due to their locations). It’s been really interesting though trying to be objective and working my way around houses that (on the face of it) seem perfect, but in reality have issues that (once identified) drop them down the list for a second visit.

As I’m seeing so many properties – (19 at the last count) – it’s been really important for me to video each one that I haven’t discounted as soon as I’ve arrived. This has been a great way to share what I’ve seen with my hubby via WhatsApp (although I’ve quickly learnt it will only send the first 3 minutes of video so now take lots of short ones, rather than one long one), but also it has meant that I have not muddled the properties up. I am very aware that if I didn’t do this, that by the end of the day (when I am feeling frazzled) I would be thinking about the kitchen from one house, the bedroom from another & the terrace from the third – in my mind coming up with the perfect house that in reality didn’t exist!. It has also meant that I’ve been able to sit with a glass of wine and review each property against another, really getting to grips with the important detail.

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Taking time out over a coffee during the day is great to help make sense of what I’ve seen so far

The other thing that I’ve found very useful is to draw a floorplan of each house, whilst I wander from room to room. This has been really valuable with the old properties in hamlets & villages, where it has helped us get a sense of how the property sits against its neighbours, realising where there are flying-freeholds and windows overlooking neighbouring gardens. Some of the houses have seemed to have different rooms in different directions on every level and drawing the plans has helped us get to grips with the actual layout, rather than what we think it may be.

Other things we hadn’t considered until I started looking at the houses is the real need for us to have easy access to good dog-walking, as our Retriever will be coming away with us and she loves her walks (as do we). So although a house within easy reach of the town centre may sound perfect on many levels it’s not a great place to walk a dog, who’s used to Dartmoor, so those places have already been knocked to the bottom of the list.

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Access to good dog-walks is really important

So far it has been a very tiring process and I think part of the reason for this is just the effort that goes into trying to capture all the information I can about the houses I’m visiting, so that I can chat at length about each one with my family via Skype in the evenings. I know it’s not physically hard work and I’m sure some will say it’s ridiculous to be so tired, but I’m really trying to get the most I can from each visit and so feel almost wrung out by the end of the day.

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L’Isle Sur La Sorgue is a lovely place to amble round at the end of the day

My tips so far for a concentrated house-search are:

  • Come prepared & make sure you have plenty of time to visit each property.
  • Understand what is important to you and really focus on these aspects – a house can be changed but a location cannot!
  • Take videos of the house if possible – the ability to take a second look is invaluable
  • Draw floor-plans to get a sense of how the property sits against others (particularly in hamlet / village houses)
  • Spend time reviewing each property in the cold light of day, important for an enthusiast like me who can see the positives in just about anything!
  • Take breaks – a coffee or a good lunch (after today’s experience I would suggest finding somewhere that doesn’t give you mild food poisoning!!). This gives you time to reflect & clear your head a little for the next batch of viewings.
  • Be prepared to be tired !
  • Have a good bottle of wine in the fridge!

So I’ve got more viewings booked for tomorrow & following those will look forward to my hubby & youngest son coming over on Sunday to do second viewings on the houses that really interest us next week & hopefully all this hard work will pay dividends in the long run.

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Roussillon is beautiful – even in February!

5 thoughts on “House-hunting in France is a full-time job

  1. These are great tips. We’ve been looking at properties on and off in France over the years – we haven’t been able to make the move as quickly as we’d like due to family circumstances. I’ve found taking lots of photos of properties is essential so I can get a sense of the floorplan, which French estate Ganges don’t provide, to consider how we’d use the space. Also as most of the properties we’ve looked at in the past have needed work it’s been really important because, as you say, your mind can quickly fool you into thinking of the property differently.
    i get the impression you’re British? I’d love to know your thoughts on the referendum this June – is it affecting your decision about buying now?We’re now waiting to make our move until after it takes place for obvious reasons. However my folks already live in France and my mum’s been worried about the scaremongering. I’ve just read some of the French responses on online French newspapers comments sections to see there take on it and I’d love to hear someone’s input on the ground –
    https://petitapetitme.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/june-23rd-frances-response/

    • Hi , thanks for the comment – the videos & floorplans have proved invaluable in our decision making on what to buy and hopefully now we are a lot further forward. We are British & like many others are watching the Brexit discussions closely. It’s difficult but we decided to continue our efforts at the moment despite the political uncertainties. There are a lot of French residents with homes here too & people from countries outside Europe still regularly buy & enjoy houses there so we felt it was better just to carry on as we had planned – at least we will have a property there and will just deal with whatever happens after the referendum. Needless to say it adds a whole new context to the house-buying process but we are at the point of just wanting to get on with it, having been dreaming about it for so long. I expect we’ll end up sharing our highs & lows along the way! Thanks again

  2. Just to let you know I’ve been doing some research for my mum and, because she was born in Ireland, I’ve found it I’m an Irish citizen despite being born outside of it myself. This means that, should it be leave, I can claim my Irish citizenship and passport and therefore my eu membership as can she.
    As, until the 1998 good Friday agreement, she was only a British citizen she was relived to find she could do so too.
    You can even claim Irish citizenship if your grandparents were Irish nationals. I don’t know if this helps you, but it’s putting our mind at rest as we definatelely won’t be able to move until after the referendum. As we need a mortgage (we’re keeping our property here) it might make us a less riskier prospect and we’d retain our rights to easy access to mortgages to i.e. being treated the same as a French citizen.
    If this applies to you you might want to take a look;
    https://petitapetitme.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/brexit-could-your-ancestry-be-the-key-to-retaining-your-eu-status/
    Alternatively you might be able to claim Scottish citizenship if your ancestry is from there and they vote to stay. Just thought it might help ☺️.

  3. As a buyer, it’s not that hard! After looking at about 6 properties together, we ended up buying one, in a village we had never been to, on my own, in one visit. I couldn’t remember if it had 3 bedrooms or 4. My husband saw it in 10 pics and when we came back to close on it. That was 16 years ago and we still love it.
    Selling is a different matter – No MLS, no For SALE signs, and many agents not willing to do the work that they should do for a vendor.

    • I must admit the whole process was fun but intense as we really wanted to fulfil our long-held dream – I can imagine that selling is more stressful though and there does seem to be quite considerable differences between some agencies (even from the buyer’s perspective) – but I’m not sure that the French multi-agency system helps as when I was over on my buying trip a number of the agents were chatting about the problems associated with having sales snatched by other agencies at the last minute and them ending up with no payment after they have done a considerable amount of work to find a buyer in the first place.

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