We have been looking recently at what property management in France really is, and why absentee owners need to source reliable and trustworthy property caretakers to ensure they can truly enjoy their ownership of a property at a distance. For this article we’re going to consider how regular inspection or security visits to your property can help at many levels to reach that goal.
Inspecting a property isn’t only a matter of walking around its perimeter and checking there are no obvious signs of damage or vandalism, although that must be the first check item on arrival at any property. Once inside we also encourage the reading of electricity, gas and water meters at each visit, and logging those in the client file so that any out-of-the-ordinary use of units for either can be investigated further. We can also assist with notifying the utility companies of current usage as needed.
One such example of this was from Les Bons Voisins in the Midi-Pyrénées where they were able to spot an apparent use of water out of all proportion to the norm during a visit one spring to a property with a pool. The pool was built into a hillside and surrounded by a landscaped rockery which had completely disguised a water leak due to a broken underground pipe: it wasn’t enough to be obvious as far as the level in the pool was concerned (the lowering of which had been attributed to evaporation!) but it was certainly enough to potentially build up over a period of time to an enormous water bill for the absentee owner. Logging the water meter reading drew the issue to the attention of the property manager who was able to arrange for a simple fix and thus avoid a potential huge cost to their client.
If there are no long gaps between visitors to a property, many clients will often prefer to keep the electricity switched on, perhaps leaving items in the freezer, and saving them from the potential head-ache of switching the Live Box supplying the Wi-Fi back on, in case the Live-Box is temperamental and might take days to settle back down. If this is the case, then the inspection visits are vitally important in case there has been any temporary cut in the supply due to weather conditions. Electricity cuts are far more frequent in France than people in the United Kingdom are used to!
Our inspection visits although regular are always varied as to day and time, and if we can then we occasionally will open shutters and leave them open for a few days, giving the property the appearance of being occupied, which helps to avoid any targeting from local casual criminal elements who are usually the source of any concerns. Real ‘crime’ levels in France continue to remain low and haven’t increased in the last few years, except in major large cities. For absentee home owners the most likely source of concern is casual opportunist vandalism of a property sometimes with very odd items being stolen. In such cases, it can be that a suitable combination of security systems such as CCTV and an overt alarm system (even if the latter is not actually connected to anything!) may be a sufficient deterrent and persuade many casual crooks to move on…
With our own network being called ‘Les Bons Voisins’ (the good neighbours) can I say, the best assistance of all for any absentee owner and their property manager, is to make friends with the actual neighbours of the property. We always ensure that we make ourselves known to the neighbours on either side of a property we are caring for, leaving them our contact details and asking them to alert us if they see anything untoward at the property. In fact, the most helpful heads-up I personally ever had from a neighbour was a phone call to let me know I had left a Velux window wide open and shortly after there was a large storm brewing. I had time to return to the property and shut said window which was above the double bed in the master bedroom, and so avoid significant and embarrassing damage that would have been caused by the deluge a few hours later. A nice bottle of wine and heart-felt thanks was duly delivered to that neighbour on my next visit!
The investment in a property in France is not insignificant: So it would be false economy to stint on the on-going management of it. Regular inspection visits can truly spot issues before they become problems as well as give you that peace of mind you want as an absentee owner. As with the old stitch-in-time proverb, a few euros spent on asking your property manager to make regular inspection visits will both save you the angst of the unknown, provide reassurance and a timely reaction to issues, all of which are beyond price.
Inspection visit are not necessarily just for vacant properties – if you have paying guests in your property then your property managers popping in during their stay to check on the property can also have the benefit of ensuring the guests are happy and have any no issues with their stay. This levelof customer service can be a wonderful investment. Gone are the days when an unhappy holiday maker didn’t have a platform on which to share their views – if you are letting your property you will want to have good reviews from each and every guest for their stay being posted on the internet to encourage future guests. Your friendly professional property manager popping in rather like a mobile tourist information guide, on your behalf, makes your guests feel welcomed, valued and looked after on a whole different level to many other properties. This then results in great feedback and these guests feeling encouraged to share their experience for others to see as well as recommend your property to others…
Sally Stone started Les Bons Voisins Property Management in 2002, the first national network of property managers in France which stretches from Calais to Cannes.
Les Bons Voisins – caring for those who care for France
Tel 0033 (0)2 96 24 74 27
By Sally Stone
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