Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel
Breizh Poellrezh SF - Douarañ Santel

Some advice before you start

Although people do it, it's certainly not advisable to buy property without knowing a good deal about the region in which you are buying. Visit often, and get to know what life would be like there for a few weeks or for an extended time. Where would you (or your guests or potential clients) shop, buy gas, get a car fixed? Where are the nearest train stations and airports? Who would be your neighbours? What is there to do in winter when the tourists have gone home? Are plumbers and carpenters and masons and electricians nearby? Living in a house in France, even as a short-term renter requires adaptations: make sure you are confident you could conduct your daily life in the region without undue frustration before you buy.

People also buy houses in France without speaking French. We don't recommend it. Jean-Michél once wrote a cheque to a local merchant for a new refrigerator and he looked astonished and told him that most of his British customers hand the cheque to him and let him fill it out because they don't know how to write a French cheque. If you don't speak French, you should be able to get by, but it will be a struggle, and your chances of getting ripped off will be high. You needn't be fluent - few Brits truly are - our philosophy is, if you're not prepared to have a telephone conversation with your builder, you're not ready yet.

You can visit properties for sale with one or more real estate agencies (agences immobilier), on your own using published listings, or both. English-speaking estate agents do exist, but many agencies will have at least one agent who speaks English. For each property you inspect, find out who has owned the house in recent history and how it has been used (as a year-round residence, as a rental home, or as a holiday home). Inquire about utility bills (electricity, e.g., is a good deal more expensive in France than in the UK) and property and local taxes (they vary by département and municipality). Enquire as to who the neighbours are and what they do - We love to divulge information about the people who lived nearby, and you can learn some useful information before making a decision (Do not buy the house down the lane from the man who breeds boar).

We would suggest that once you have found a property that is to your liking, you should draw up a monstrous list of questions to ask the vendor. It will more than likely give him a heart attack!!! But that is his problem!!!! You should ask about every system in the house (heat, electrical, water, gas) and every appliance. Have the vendor show you how to turn everything on and off. Run him around the entire property, ask where the septic system is and when it was last maintained, run water in the sinks to see if it drains away quickly and if there are there any strange smells? It is costly to get these fixed if they have not been taken care of. Ask what the property boundaries are, how the pool controls work - and make rough drawings of the property so you will remember everything. Also measure the house and make floor plans. Try and get the names and addresses of people who lived nearby who might care for the property when you aren’t there. Asked him for recommendations for workmen who might already be familiar with the house and who were reliable. Ask him about wild animals, about insects, about bushes and trees and how to care for them. Also get information about doctors and dentists, clinics and pharmacies. Ask about the age of the roof (and climb all over it to inspect it), what repairs have been made and when anywhere on the property, when additions had been put on, and who had lived in the house and how it had been used. Ask everything you can think to ask. Once you are satisfied then draw up the Initial Agreement.

Now, before you think you are going to make a killing on our property market, think again. That bargain property you saw on television for £20,000 and needing a few hundred spending on it to convert it into a house worth a fortune may or may not have existed. To say the least you will be lucky to find it nowadays. We (especially our estate agents) have certainly got wise to the idea that a pile of rubble with planning permission can actually be worth quite a lot of money.



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Property Buying Trends in France

Preparing for your viewing trip


When you're looking for properties in France, it pays to be prepared. Follow the list below to make the most of your viewing trip.

· Make sure you have appointments booked with agents - don't expect to just walk in and see someone. French estate agents are very busy these days with English clients.

· Speak to the agent before you cross the Channel. You'll feel more comfortable on the day if you've already spoken to your local contact and it helps to know that they speak English if your French isn't up to speed.

Ensure that the houses on the website (or the ones for which you hold details) are still on the market - you don't want to make this trip and find you can't view the properties you're interested in.

  • Book your ferry crossing or flight in advance.
  • Allow at least one full day to view properties so that you can spend enough time in each to get a decent impression. Remember too that properties may be quite some distance from one another.
  • Try to arrive the day before viewing rather than on the day itself. Viewing is very tiring and you'll need all the energy you can get. If you have time, it's good to take several days for your trip, so that you can travel on the first day, see the area on the second, view properties on the third, and then leave yourself a final day to take a second look at something you're interested in, or get started on the paperwork.
  • Go ready to buy the house (arrange finance in advance if you can). If you delay, someone else might snap up the property from under your nose.
  • Take refreshments. You may not be able to stop for food and many French restaurants are open only at lunchtimes and evenings, especially in rural areas.
  • Wear sensible clothing: you may be crawling through derelict or dusty properties or stomping over muddy fields. Wellington boots are very useful. If, however, you are visiting elegant properties such as chateaux, dress appropriately - business dress is usual.
  • Meet the French agent in his office so that you can see his set-up. Don't just arrange to meet up in a car park.
  • Be on time. If you are running late, let the agent know.
  • Inform the agent in advance if you are taking children with you so that he can tailor the day accordingly (he may, for instance, want to build in more breaks).
  • Try to take with you only the people actually involved in the purchase. It's not useful to have endless second opinions from friends and relations.
  • You may be asked to sign some paperwork before going out to see houses (a 'bon pour visite' or a 'mandat de recherche'). Neither of these documents commits you to buying anything, they are simply there to prove which agent has shown you which properties (and thus protect their commission, since each property might be with several agents).
  • Be honest with your agent. Tell him what you like and what you don't, and why; this gives him a better chance to show you the right properties.
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