This week we hear from Christophe Guay, Director at TIC Ruffec in Charente, a longstanding FrenchEntrée partner: It was a Monday 16th March at 20h00 when president Macron announced live to the nation that ‘Nous sommes en guerre” (we are at war). This time with an invisible enemy. From the next day at midday we were obliged to close our office doors and sadly cancel all appointments for the foreseeable future.
During the confinement new measures and working habits had to be adapted by all staff from the TIC Ruffec team. Although viewings were not possible, many of our properties already had walk-through videos available so that clients in confinement could visit the properties in a virtual sense. Enquires continued, and in fact built throughout the lockdown period as many clients were bursting to view as soon as the ‘leash’ was removed. We all missed the face-to-face contact with our clients and the normal daily team contact in the office in Ruffec town centre. The forced confinement though allowed me to catch up on all the long awaited ‘one day soon’ DIY jobs. We also enjoyed some summer like weather which meant that my garden was cared for and I even managed to point a stone wall with my better half. On the downside the food bill soared, perhaps boosted by the extra bottle or two of wine in the trolley. With our daughters, we even managed to finish a 1000-piece puzzle, gosh a Vincent Van Gogh painting can make a hair-pulling tough jigsaw.
Despite the office being shut, I was able to monitor e-mails and phone messages to make sure that we kept in communication with all buyers and sellers. For our ongoing sales we had 4 that completed over this time and we were able to complete for our buyers with powers of attorney with the notaire in question. Some notaires were also offering video conference for completion signatures.
Since lockdown (and the removal of a 2-month beard) we have had a surge of clients who had been keen to visit post-confinement and have had several sales agreed in the first two weeks since lockdown ended. I would imagine this initial surge may tail off slightly until the next increase of viewings hits. An increase is likely to be in early June when people are able to travel more than 100kms to view, currently not possible at the time of writing. After this, the international borders will open again, notably from a large number of clients frustrated in the UK, Belgium and Holland.
Prices remain very attractive in the North Charente (and South Vienne / South Deux-Sèvres) and the area offers great value. I am expecting prices to start to rise slowly next year as many French nationals, as well as a large number of foreign clients, realise the facility of working from home with video calls and e-mails. Why live in a crowded town/city when you can work from home in an area well known for its excellent climate, convenient airport links, unspoilt countryside and fresh air? What better than sitting in your ‘office’ in tranquillity with a delightful view across the countryside and sunflower fields? Several potential clients have also commented on the fact that the Covid-19 affected area is so low here in comparison to many parts of France and of course the UK.