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 their favourite town, 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 the south of France and in summer very few people will go on long walks to get their daily croissants or go to dinner. A house that is at more than a 15-minute walk from the shops can therefore not be seen as being at true “walking distance.”  The clients 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.

When we entered the off-brief house both their eyes lit up. It had been refurbished for the purpose of selling it at a profit. It had  a brand-new swimming pool, new paintwork inside and it even had an adorable Spaniel asleep in the kitchen. The layout was extremely awkward, however, and the price far too high outside their budget. The vendor agent did her sales pitch and waved any concerns aside saying that it really was only a 10-minute walk into town.

The next morning 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. 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 it had not “felt right” to them. It had left a “negative and sombre impression.”

I suspected that the abundance of oversized brown furniture throughout the house might have 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 that they go back for a second viewing of the “dark” house. With a fresh perspective Anna and Giles 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