What became of Crosby Doors?
Opening the Red Shutters

Looking for property?, consider a scout.

Even if you live in the UK, finding a house in a different area to where you want to move to can be a daunting, if not expensive experience.

Looking for property in another country takes it to a new dimension and the expense can be multiplied if you do not prepare properly

. Before you travel it is worth doing some research into your subject and making a list of priorities.

Speaking from our own experiences we certainly spent many an hour trawling through web pages and looking at pictures.

Of course, as we all know a photo can be manipulated and with the right shot or angle the 100 foot pylon can be left out of view or with a strategically placed tree in the shot of the panorama the agent can easily obscure the view of the Route Nationale passing the house.

So ultimately you really have to make a visit to the property but the geography of France means that houses you wish to view may be up to a couple of hundred miles apart. If your short list contains 3-8 properties this can be a serious round-a-bout of viewings and expensive too.

If you have a contact in the area then this is a real bonus. You can literally save hundreds and hundreds of pounds by enlisting the help of a friend or even a friend of a friend to do some detective work in advance.

The pictures on the web are sexy but you need the grit,. you need the warts and all view. For example, as I say above, what has the agent hidden that will spoil the property for you? Remember, the agent is not necessarily interested in selling you the property you are making the trip for. The agent just wants you to come.

I suspect that in many cases, when a viewing goes wrong and the dream is shattered because of a little bit of manipulation the buyer will often buy another property because suddenly they are vulnerable. Once you are in France, there becomes a surreality that can cloud your judgement and its possible you start living a dream rather than smell the reality.

In our own case, we fell in love with a small ensemble of properties near Monpazier which quite frankly, knowing what we know now, would have stretched our finances, relationships and sanity to breaking point.

It actually took a total move to France and several weeks of exhaustive looking for us to feel comfortable with our final choice.

The statistics are staggering, 30% of people who move to France return within a year and something like 80% who eventually buy end up moving onto another house.The point is, stay focused, be prepared for flexibility and above all be business like. If you know of someone who can act as an independent scout then be prepared to use them. Be prepared to pay expenses and a fee for their time because this can ultimately pay you dividends.

You will want your scout to:

  1. Photograph or video the property from all angles and the same with the views from all angles.
  2. Photograph or video any defects that potentially can have an impact on the financial situation if you were to go ahead. For example, if the property has crack in the fascia of the building you need to ascertain if this is structural or superficial. If the view is it is structural then be prepared to walk away. With prices now cooling there will be plenty of other choice.
  3. Examine the Fosse Sceptique to see if it has been upgraded. The new rules in France mean that every house needs to have the Fosse Sceptique upgraded to the new specifications and as a rule of thumb the cost for a new 3000 litre tank with sand filter bed can set you back 12,000 euros.
  4. Measure the distance and the time it takes to drive into the local towns. Establish if there is a Le Clerc or Intermarche supermarket. If you are on holiday then it can be fun to drive through the countryside on a warm summers day for a foray looking for the wine and cheese but when you are up to your elbows in painting and decorating etc then this can become wearing.
  5. If you have children and are planning to re-locate you will need to establish what schools are available and the locations of the college etc.

It is easy to set up a blog site for the agent to upload the photos to. It can be kept exclusive to you.

A scout can do all of this for a fraction of the cost that you can do it for and if the scout is a friend, then let them tell it to you straight. If it is unsuitable then cross it off and don't talk yourself into it.

If and when you do make the trip to see for yourself then there are plenty of Gite owners who will rent their property for a long weekend. Send a few emails in advance and be prepared to barter a bit.

You may well be loaded and stay in a hotel and make a nice break of it but if you want to conserve cash then a short stay can be cost effective.

Lastly what agencies to use? We used the Internet French Property IFP site for general trawling. We found this to be the clearest but there are many others.

Here are few resources for general research and asking questions.

This French Life , Lost in France, Frenchentree, French Property Links, Living France Magazine

Here are some examples of French Immobliliers.

We eventually bought through Lafayette in Monflanquin. They also have offices in Cenac, Issigeac, Le Bugue, Les Eyzies, Monpazier (where we started our own hunt), Prayssac and Montcuq, Nerac & Tonniens .

When we first arrived we spent lots of time with Jeannine Leygues. Both Jeannine and her daughter-in-law Issobelle were extremely helpful but unfortunately, apart from the ensemble we fell in love with they did not anything for us.

Valadie, situated in Villereal is a little closer to the mark for house hunting. They tend to get a lot of properties that are being sold by the French so they have not been subjected to major restoration and remain in a condition that you can realise some value from your investment.

Whatever you decide, good hunting and good luck!