Sometimes I wonder how anyone manages to buy a house in this region without using a property finder (buyer’s agent). I’ve lived and worked here for many years, so know the agencies and the region inside out and still the process of finding and getting to view the right property can be like trying to get blood out of a stone.
A recent search in the foothills of the Pyrenees for a young Anglo-Australian couple illustrates this well. One of the local agents was advertising a new property that looked very interesting, so I went to speak to him about it. There is no point just telephoning – everything works better face-to-face here. The property in question, a typical Ariegois mountain barn, appeared to fit their wish for a fully renovated barn perfectly but I wanted to find out where it was situated exactly; location as we all know being the vital element, especially for mountain properties. The agent told me in which valley it was located (one of my favourites), suggested I go and take a look, and pointed a finger at a map.
I have fallen for this ploy before and then spent a few frustrating hours trying to work out exactly which isolated barn I was supposed to be viewing. I suggested he take me to see the property and to perhaps even bring along a key so I could look inside! Agents here often hesitate to do a viewing when the property is far from their office, but I convinced him and we arranged a time for the next day. Unfortunately he didn’t turn up at our meeting point, something which – sadly – isn’t at all uncommon here.
Eventually I did get to see the property and it turned to be worth the effort; two well-looked after barns, one of which had been renovated completely, in a great plot of land with lovely views and very peaceful. There even was vehicle access, which is certainly not a given for many of these mountain properties! Permits to convert these Ariegois barns are not given anymore and the already renovated barns rarely hit the market.
However, the majority of houses I visit do not come up to scratch. Normally, I will view up to 80 properties during a search, of which only around eight are likely to make it to the short-list for the clients’ viewing trip. The reason that so many do not make it is that – as anyone who has done any house hunting in France will know – many estate agents are imaginative photographers, expert at cropping out the less salubrious aspects of the immediate vicinity, and can also be creative in writing the particulars. This is why it helps to be local, to know the lie of the land, know what to look out for, what price a property should be and to be close enough to view every property which might just prove to be “the one”.
For these clients I now have a very strong short-list and I’m just in the process of organising the viewing schedule for them. All they have to do is turn up for three days, knowing that I have done all the preliminary work, research and viewings on their behalf. I’ll accompany them on the viewings, advise them and organise every element of the search and buying process. They’re all great properties and I am looking forward to seeing which one the clients will choose.