1 – When buying a property in France, don’t forget to budget for its ongoing maintenance, as well as its purchase price. Think ahead at that stage – a huge plot can become a costly burden rather than a pleasure if you are not there all the time.
2 – Make sure you are realistic about the cost of any renovations. There was never a better time to buy in France – but renovations of metre thick stone walls are not cheap! If you find good local property managers, they will have a network of local contacts to help you achieve what you want at a sensible cost.
3 – Look for all round assistance if you need local caretaking – gone are the days when caretakers only cleaned and gardened. Property management is a sophisticated serious business in France, and you should be able to relax and enjoy your holiday home even at a distance. Your property managers should be pro-active: make it clear they need to communicate regular updates via email so that you can relax!
4 – Remember to check out the credentials of people helping you if you are an absentee owner – get experienced professional assistance: if you want to make alterations talk to a planning expert and don’t rely on the man in the bar who may be passing off opinion as fact. Indeed, with planning issues, don’t even rely on the local Mayor who once upon a time had a say in local planning issues, but no more.
5 – In France all the local artisans will know each other, so expecting three quotes to compare might be a little complicated – the artisans will probably all return very similar prices, will have talked to each other and might mark you down as a time waster…your property managers should have local contacts who you can trust.
6 – If there is one price which seems too good to be true, then it probably is – check out the Siret Number of anyone working for you which will prove their business is registered and therefore you will not be employing someone who is working “on the black”. It’s a little-known fact but anyone employing someone, i.e. paying them to do something for them, who isn’t registered to work in France are themselves liable for prosecution. The French tax officials consider YOU are depriving them of tax as much as the person you are “employing” and the penalty is a heavy fine.
7 – Your property managers should be able to provide a wealth of information about local amenities, good local trades people and most especially will work with you if you want to let your property to cover some of its’ costs, welcoming your guests as though they were their own. I would sort out whether there is a good local property manager even before I bought my French property, your estate agent will doubtless know of good people in the area.
8 – If you do want to let your property as a holiday destination, then be aware even if you only want to cover your costs by letting for a few weeks each year, the standard of what you are offering must compete with all the other very professional gîtes available. Today’s self-catering guest expects hotel type sophistication in the offering, from very lovely crisp bedlinen to WIFI and all mod cons – and make sure what you advertise, is what is supplied or you are in for a rocky ride from bad reviews on the internet which will affect future letting.
9 – Pay the people who do work for you, promptly: sounds a funny thing but it really matters to small businesses in France. They will virtually all be operating as auto-entrepreneurs, the most simple form of business in France, and being registered carries with it large percentages of taxes they have to pay. You have a busy life back in your real world, but don’t forget that prompt payment ensures you can expect quick reactions from your contacts in France when you really need it.
10 – Last but not least – don’t clutter up your property in France with tired hand-me-downs from “home.” I think everyone with a property in France has a pile of things in their main house waiting to go to France. Keep it simple: uncluttered means easier to clean costing you less in upkeep. On your next visit look round with a guests and judge whether you really need 20 mis-matched glasses some of which came free with petrol, when the house sleeps 6.
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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