House hunting is an emotional experience. There’s nothing wrong with listening to your instincts, as long as you know how to avoid buying the wrong house in France. Keep in mind that the moment you start searching, all your fears, longings and romantic notions about the world kick in. Emotions can easily get the upper hand and the majority of house buying decisions is made on first impressions alone.
Gut instinct almost ruined the dream of owning a house in France for Anna and Giles* from London, a lovely couple that had been looking to buy in Provence for several years. Two of their search criteria were difficult within their budget: firstly, they wanted to be walking distance from the shops and restaurants of bustling l’Isle sur la Sorgue, and secondly, they were looking for a garden big enough for a pool. Luckily they were prepared to do renovations, which made the search feasible.
It gets hot in Provence and in summer very few people will go on long walks to get their daily croissants or go to dinner. I therefore do not qualify a house at more than a 15-minute walk from the shops as being at true “walking distance.” The couple agreed.
At the end of the third day of viewings, at the final house on the list, Anna looked tired. She had not fallen in love with any of the properties and the idea of renovating a house from a distance now overwhelmed her. The vendor agent was quick to suggest we visit another house, further away from town. I had not shortlisted that one because it was far over budget and 25-minutes from the centre.
“It gets hot in Provence and in summer very few people will go on long walks to get their daily croissants.”
When we entered the off-brief house both their eyes lit up. It had been refurbished to sell, with a brand-new swimming pool. It even had an adorable Spaniel asleep in the kitchen. The layout was extremely awkward, however, and the price far too high to negotiate down to their budget. The vendor agent did her sales pitch and waved my concerns aside saying that it really was only a 10-minute walk into town. Yes, for Usain Bolt, I thought to myself.
We met up the next morning and a dejected Giles told me they had walked to the house after dinner in town the night before and it was indeed at least 25 minutes. Now I ‘d shown them a house on the first day that was 100% on-brief – as close to the centre as one could wish for – but they both said that in hindsight it had not “felt right” to them. It had left a “negative and sombre impression.”
I realised then that the abundance of oversized brown furniture throughout the house had probably put the couple off, although the house itself was in fact south-facing and very light. The awnings had been down and an overgrown tree cut out any remaining light. I suggested we go back for a second viewing of the “dark” house, and this time they would both leave their subconscious at the door.
With a fresh perspective Anna and Giles immediately saw what the house had to offer. Two months later it was theirs; under budget, a pleasant 8-minute walk from the centre of town and minus the dark furniture.
*Names of the clients have been changed to protect their privacy
This article appeared in FrenchEntrée Magazine – May/June 2015 issue.
Sophia Mose is a licensed property professional and search agent. She runs property search agency THE FRENCH PROPERTY FINDERS and covers southern Provence and the Côte d’Azur. Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org, +33 (0)652 36 06 64 (mobile), or +33 (0)981 12 45 63 if you’re looking to buy in Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, the Luberon, Alpilles, Avignon, Arles, Var coast (Bandol, Sanary-sur-Mer), or the Côte d’Azur, including Nice, Cannes, Mougins, Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Valbonne.