What you should take with you on your trip
Maps of the area (local and up to date, not just a 10 year old map of France).
Torch – you may be visiting properties without connected electricity and you can’t always rely on the immobilier to take one (we’ve even had them turn up without keys but I’m not suggesting a crow bar at this stage!!)
Camera – you will most likely view a lot of properties and after a few days of searching, they’ll all blend into one, so this will help jog your memory and possibly save the odd ‘domestic or two’.
Notepad – so you can comment on what you particularly liked, disliked, or need to investigate further and help to support any pictures you’ve taken.
Tape measure – not a top priority and we never used one but handy to have in your bag just in case.
Snacks and water – these can be long days, the Languedoc is quite rural, everything really does close down for at least 2 hours at lunchtime and you’ll need sustenance.
Travel kettle – I know this is very English but if you’re staying in a hotel you might be surprised to find that many hotels in France don’t provide tea and coffee making facilities and going out for a coffee all the time can get expensive and not always what you want to do either. Our little travel kettle with cups and spoon is well travelled and well loved. Therefore, if you know you’ll struggle without your morning cuppa, you might want to treat yourself to one of these.
Comfy shoes – you may have to walk over rough ground or climb up ladders to reach the next floor (yep we’ve done that too!)
Do’s and don’ts
Do big lunches
The temptation when in France is to split your day with a big lunch including a couple of glasses of wine. It almost feels wrong to be in France and not do this. But this could be a disaster. Firstly you’ll feel heavy and sluggish after a big meal (and lets face it they’re rarely light affairs in France), plus you’ll possibly find the wine having a magical effect on a tumble down wreck, which, if you’d had a clear head, you wouldn’t have even set foot inside. Then with the wine still addling your senses, you could find yourself signing for something that you’ll later come to regret. Save your big meal for the evening when you’ll want to review the days’ events over a good meal and nice bottle of wine, it will also give you something to look forward to each day.
Rely on sat nav alone
Postcodes in France don’t work the same way they do in the UK and cover a few towns, rather that down to street level. In addition, sat nav’s can be a nightmare with their interpretation of some rural French roads, which might look like proper roads on your screen but from you car window they might better be described as farm tracks. These roads have a habit of getting ever narrower to the point where you’ll get stuck, yet your sat nav will be absolutely convinced that you need to keep on going. Even in villages we found the road systems took an age to be recognised on even the most up to date of sat nav systems, so we can only assume that road layout changes are not submitted too often in rural France.
If you’re meeting an agent at a property (they’ll almost certainly get you to sign a Bon de Visite in advance if this is the case), make sure they give you the full address and directions, then check this online and on a local map before you set off and give yourself time to get lost a couple of times along the way.
Cram in too many viewings in one day
They’ll blend in, you’ll be exhausted, you’ll get confused and might in your delirium start making crazy decisions.
Bow to sales pressure
After a few days of searching and if you’re coming to the end of your trip, it’s very tempting to ‘just go for it’. But as the old saying goes: ‘Act in haste – repent at leisure’. Yes it’s expensive to keep searching but not as expensive as buying the wrong property. Also, no matter what anyone tells you, the market in France does not move quickly, so there’s every chance that the same property will still be available when you next visit. And if not, then it wasn’t meant to be and your dream home is still waiting for you to discover it.
Give yourself plenty of time
Make sure you allocated enough time to view each of the days’ properties without having to rush. Allow an hour per property then the relevant travelling time and breaks, plus a bit of wiggle room for time you might get lost.
Take your own car
If you’re able to do this it will give you more freedom and you won’t have to worry about your agents mad driving, as he overtakes yet another lorry on a blind bend, whilst singing at the top of his voice to his awful salsa tape…. that day for us will be etched in my brain forever.
Give yourself time off for good behaviour
Take days off in between searches to enjoy the area. Whilst this isn’t a holiday, you will still need to recharge your batteries and ensure your trip is an enjoyable one.
Keep your sense of humour
The days will be long and you will get tired but for all the disappointments remember that’s one more property ticked off and you’re another step closer to finding your dream home. Plus any bad days will make for fantastic dinner party fodder in the future.
Stay in decent accommodation
Or at the very least stay in a good location, where you can get out in the evenings for a nice walk. There’s no bigger spirit dampener than at the end of a hard day, heading back to a little box room overlooking an industrial estate. Our suggestion would be to consider renting a gite or apartment, as this will give you more flexibility and space. If you’re staying for more than 4 nights this would almost certainly prove a cheaper option than a hotel too, especially out of the main holiday season. You might want to check out the following holiday rental agency based in the Languedoc called: South France Holiday Villas. They specialise in the Languedoc have a wonderful selection of properties right across the region for you to choose from. We know them and know that they personally check all the properties on their books too. With all the horror stories you hear about some of the larger holiday booking portals these days, this level of service is rare and comforting.
Visit out of season
It’s better to visit out of season because the roads are quieter, so you can get from A to B far more quickly, travelling and accommodation is cheaper and most importantly if you fall in love with a property in the pouring rain, on a cold and windy day (yes they do have these days in the Languedoc too!), then you’ll know you’ve found your dream home.
Review each day
Insist on a review of the properties seen with your agent either at the end of each day, or the start of the next. This way you’ll all be working together in identifying what is and isn’t ticking your boxes. It may also give the agent a flash of inspiration regarding a property that they’d not have considered for you initially, or you may also agree that viewing a particular property that day would not now make sense.
Set up your mobile phone for France before you leave the UK
It’s expensive and can take a few days to sort if you try to do this from France. May operators now have special European bundle packages, where you buy call and 3g roaming credits in advance and often at a far more preferential rate.