Phil Voice shares his experiences

Phil Voice and FamilyPhil & Donna Voice moved to France in 2004 and spent many hours driving around, visiting Immobiliers, viewing websites looking for the right house. In their case the house was found quite quickly but this does not always happen. So for that helping hand why not consider a scout as an intermediary?

Even if you live in the UK, finding a house in a different area to where you want to move to can be a daunting, if not expensive experience. Looking for property in another country takes it to a new dimension and the expense can be multiplied if you do not prepare properly. Before you travel it is worth doing some research into your subject and making a list of priorities.

Speaking from our own experiences we certainly spent many an hour trawling through web pages and looking at pictures. Of course, as we all know a photo can be manipulated and with the right shot or angle the 100 foot pylon can be left out of view or with a strategically placed tree in the shot of the panorama the agent can easily obscure the view of the Route Nationale passing the house.

So ultimately you really have to make a visit to the property but the geography of France means that houses you wish to view may be up to a couple of hundred miles apart. If your short list contains 3-8 properties this can be a serious round-a-bout of viewings, and expensive too.

If you have a contact in the area then this is a real bonus. You can literally save hundreds and hundreds of pounds by enlisting the help of a friend or even a friend of a friend to do some detective work in advance. The pictures on the web are sexy but you need the grit, you need the warts and all view.
I suspect that in many cases, when a viewing goes wrong and the dream is shattered the buyer will often buy another property because they become desperate. Once you are in France, there becomes a surreality that can cloud your judgement and its possible you start living a dream rather than smell the reality.

In our own case, we fell in love with a small ensemble of properties near Monpazier which quite frankly, knowing what we know now, would have stretched our finances, relationships and sanity to breaking point. It actually took a total move to France and several weeks of exhaustive looking for us to feel comfortable with our final choice.

The statistics are staggering, 30% of people who move to France return within a year and something like 80% who eventually buy end up moving onto another house. The point is, stay focused, be prepared for flexibility and above all be business like. If you know of someone who can act as an independent scout then be prepared to use them. Be prepared to pay expenses and a fee for their time because this can ultimately pay you dividends.

You will want your scout to:

  • Photograph or video the property from all angles and the same with the views from all angles. It is easy to set up a blog site for the scout to upload the photos to and it can be kept exclusive to you.
  • Photograph or video any defects that could have an impact on the financial situation if you were to go ahead.
  • Examine the Fosse Septique to see if it has been upgraded. The new rules in France mean that every house needs to have the Fosse Septique upgraded to the new specifications and as a rule of thumb the cost for a new 3000 litre tank with sand filter bed is 12,000 euros.
  • Measure the distance and the time it takes to drive into the local towns. Establish the location of the nearest large supermarket. If you are on holiday then it can be fun to drive through the countryside on a warm summers day for a foray looking for the wine and cheese but when you are up to your elbows in painting and decorating, this can become wearing.
  • If you have children and are planning to re-locate the scout will need to establish what schools are available and the locations of the college etc.

A scout can do all of this for a fraction of the cost that you can do it for and if the scout is a friend, then let them tell it to you straight. If it is unsuitable then cross it off and don’t talk yourself into it.

If and when you do make the trip to see for yourself then there are plenty of Gite owners who will rent their property for a long weekend. Send a few emails in advance and be prepared to barter a bit. You may well be loaded and stay in a hotel and make a nice break of it but if you want to conserve cash then a short stay can be cost effective.

Lastly what agencies to use? There are several large property listing sites, which you can use to research the availability of different types of property and compare prices. Try to find an Immobilier that understands what you are looking for and provides good responses to your questions. You’ll find that most properties are listed with more than one Immobilier, sometimes at different prices – the sole agency arrangement that is common in the UK is still unusual in France.

Whatever you decide, good hunting and good luck!

©Phil Voice 2006

Find out more about Phil and Donna’s experiences by visiting their website www.perigordvacance.com

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