It’s very easy to be wooed by the wrong property on a gorgeous sunny afternoon and after a glass or two of chilled rosé for lunch…. when just two days before you were in your office on a cold, damp, grey English day……Or was that just us?!!
So to help you save time, money and energy on your property buying journey, I’ve compiled a plan of action for you.
What you should be aiming for is a list of all that you’re expecting your new home or business venture to provide and then put a tick or a star next to the items which are high priorities. Then go over the list again and then highlight the deal-breakers (the ones where if it does or doesn’t have a particular feature then you’d be prepared to walk away). You could even create a scrap book of pictures or articles or even an online blog. Basically anything that will help you to turn a vague dream into a reality.
Don’t rush this process, spend time on the dream and then apply cold hard logic to your ticking process.
However, first I would suggest you head up your list, blog or scrapbook with an opening statement about why you want to buy a property in France (or more specifically in the Languedoc). Here’s an example:
‘I would like to buy a property in in France because….. I want to get away from the day to day stresses of running my business. It needs to be somewhere where I can re-charge my batteries, clear my head and sleep!’
Now this might sound quite a vague statement but from here it’s clear that I would need somewhere quiet, tranquil and low maintenance (unless I also had funds for a housekeeper or gardener). And most likely I’ll need to be striking distance to an airport. So already I’ve probably ruled out a house on a busy street, but also anything too remote, or a renovation project.
Every list is personal but there are key considerations that everyone should make, I’ve put them here for you in the rough order I’d suggest you consider them in;
Be honest with yourself about your total budget and remember to consider agents fees (normally but not always paid for by the seller), notaire fees, potential renovation costs etc.. See my article on ‘ Costs of Purchasing your French Home for further details on these and other potential hidden costs.
So now you know why you want to buy in France and you’re clearer on your budget, the next step is to think about the property itself:
What sort of property?
There’s so much to think about here. Initially put everything down that comes into your head. Then go over it again thinking about your reasons for wanting to buy a home in France and cross out any or consign to an optional list, items that now look a little crazy. Go over the list again and apply the tick and highlight process I mentioned earlier to all the other items.
Here are some (but by far not all) things you might want to think about:
- Age of the property
- It’s overall size or just a general idea
- Number of rooms/bedrooms/bathrooms etc…
- What outside space do you want/need (you might want and be able to afford 6 acres but if you intend to rent the property out, you’ll need to consider the cost implications of managing this)
- Parking facilities
- Neighbours (do you want any, would you be happy living near shops and if so, what sort of shops would be acceptable or not then carrying on from this thought
- What about noise levels, if you buy a property near a school for example, there will be times of the day when noise and parking could be an issue, will this be a problem for you
- Then do you want a property with views and if so what sort (sea, countryside, rooftops)
- What standard of renovation would you be happy with. Be very careful here. What most brits classify as ‘needing a bit of work’ can be very different to the perception from some French Agents. We were shown a house once which was described as totally renovated but which we would have happily described as ‘fit for demolition!!.
Have you noticed that I’ve not even come to location yet?
In my view, what’s the point of setting your heart on a specific region/town/village until you’ve identified your lifestyle requirements, you have a better understanding of your budget and how it needs to be apportioned and then your key requirements for the property itself? All these considerations will have a huge impact on what location would actually really work for you.
This is more relevant to French property searches than anywhere in the UK. In France, even neighbouring departments can be dramatically different in landscape, types of properties and most especially property prices. As an example, Heraut vs. Aude. On a map and in property searches they often come up together but oh how different. In Aude you have rolling hills, sunflowers, larger properties on large plots and far more space in general. In Herault you have vineyard after vineyard, lots of closely packed in houses in fortified villages and little space, meaning less domains and prices on average 30% higher than that of its Aude neighbour. This is why I put location as third on my consideration list. It’s still actually first in terms of getting the right property for your needs but until you’re clear on all the other areas, how will you know what location is actually right for you?
Location at last!
As I mentioned above, each department within each French region can be dramatically different and it’s understanding their individual features that will help you further identify your target area.
Again you need to have a think about your ideal location. But remember to use your ‘needs’ criteria list as a sanity check. As an example, do you need to be within 30 minutes of an international airport? If so, this will dramatically affect your search area. Now consider the following:
Do you want your property to be in a cosmopolitan town or city, in a lively village, in a sleepy village, secluded country location, somewhere with views, specific views (sea, countryside, rooftops), on the outskirts of a town with all the basic human rights! (bar, restaurant, supermarket!?)….
Congratulations you’re finally ready to start your search….and how much easier this will now be for you.
I’ve created pages for the Languedoc in general and each of the 5 departments: Lozere, Gard, Herault, Aude and Pyrenees Orientales. I will shortly be adding a summary of some of the cities, towns and villages we know well to help you get a flavour of places that you feel would work for you.
A word of caution, you could and probably will adjust your criteria during your search process. This is fine too. Sometimes what looks right on paper just doesn’t work in practice. A good agent will hopefully save you a lot of time and money in working through your list with you and challenging your thought process where necessary.
We so wish we’d taken some advice in the early days of our search. We had our hearts set on a domain with a few acres of land and a couple of outbuildings…as I say dreams are good!! We explained this to numerous agents but not one of them took the time to sit down with us and work out if this was a realistic option based on our budget, lifestyle, knowledge of the French system and business requirements. So we were blindly dragged round one after another completely inappropriate properties.
Thankfully common sense finally prevailed and we created our list and surprise, surprise! the domain idea was completely scrapped in favour of three separate properties.
There was still more that in hindsight we should have taken further advice on; such as for example, that we wanted one property to be a villa with a swimming pool. We didn’t for one moment think about purchasing a villa without a pool and then having one installed. Had we thought about this and taken professional advice we’d most certainly have had far more choice of properties and we’d potentially have had a brand new swimming pool, rather than having to live with one that was well past it’s sell by date.
So by all means start looking through our properties but if you feel bamboozled by choice, or just want some questions answered, please either give us a call or drop us a line and remember, our service is completely free of charge. Please also remember that we’ve been where you are now and what you might feel is a daft question won’t be to us.