Working as a Property Finder across the South Deux Sèvres and into the Vendee and Vienne really is no hardship at all. This is particularly true when the sun is shining and fields of sunflowers reflect against blue skies at every turn. One of my favourite parts of the area is the Marais Poitevin, so I am delighted when a client asks me to find them a property in one of the many pretty riverside villages that dot the countryside in this peaceful part of France. The brief is for a traditional stone cottage, in habitable condition within reach of some amenities – the budget is tight at €160.000. My first port of call is to get in touch with all of my contacts who sell properties in the area to tell them what I’m looking for.
This done I head straight for Coulon, a picturesque and much photographed Marais town to see what’s on offer. I always try to time my visits here for late morning, partly because there’s usually a fair chance that one of my friendly agent contacts will have time for a delicious savoury galette and a catch up in my favourite riverside cafe. These informal meetings help me to keep in touch with the local market.
Since my job is to find my clients their ideal French property at the best possible price, I work with numerous agents, and also with notaires, to dig out the best deals. This works well because the agents know that I’ll bring them clients that are seriously interested in buying. If they can show me a property that fits the clients’ brief they may end up with a sale but they also understand that I’ll always want to negotiate a really good price.
On this particular occasion, one of the agents tells me about a house in a nearby village that has only just come onto his books and that he thinks may be ideal. I arrange to see it and that afternoon note that a house near the river in the pretty Marais town of Damvix now has a “for sale” board on the gate. This is just one of the many French properties that will never be advertised on the internet or in estate agents’ windows.
In the weeks that follow I view more than 26 properties, narrowing this down to a shortlist of 12 of the most suitable for my clients to view. Imagine my delight when the Damvix cottage turns out to be their favourite. As this one is for sale privately they avoid estate agent’s fees, saving several thousand precious Euros, and I am able to negotiate the price down by a further €25.000.
I’m happy, the clients are happy and I look forward to dropping in to see how the redecoration’s going when I’m next in the area.
The current mood of the market
With the average house price for a traditional property (excluding Ile de France) currently standing at €162.000 France is looking like an excellent investment (source FNAIM). The average cost of a traditional stone built house in the Deux Sèvres is currently €120,000 so there are many great bargains to be found in this area.
There are some very attractive mortgage offers currently available, including some great deals on French mortgages with interest rates at their lowest level since the Second World War. In common with other areas of France, sales have been slow and vendors have had to price their properties realistically to attract potential buyers. It’s by no means uncommon to see vendors whose houses have been on the market for some time, reduce their asking price by more than 30% in order to secure a sale.
Recently, I was able to negotiate the price of a nicely restored 3-bedroom cottage, complete with beams and original fireplace in the Coulon area down from €150,000 to €119,000- a real bargain.
While it’s most definitely a buyer’s market at the moment, having fallen considerably since 2007, it would seem likely that the housing market is due for an upturn. What’s not clear is when this will happen and, therefore, how long prices will remain this low.
The agents I have spoken to recently in both the Marais Poitevin area and the popular area to the south of Poitiers have reported an increase in both interest and in sales. Increasing numbers of French buyers are successfully accessing mortgages and moving into the market which is helping to drive the property market in the right direction, while it seems that more UK buyers have decided that this year will be the year they escape the British weather and make their dream of la vie Française a reality.
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