As with many things in life, good planning can make all the difference. We offer some helpful tips on how to prepare and make the best use of your time before and during your property buying trip.
Before booking your flights or making travel and accommodation arrangements, think carefully about the timing of your trip. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to take time out of their working week so sometimes weekend flying visits are the only option. In most parts of the region, however, you will be lucky to find estate agents open on a Sunday except in the busier destinations. In some cities you may even find them closed on a Saturday. Don’t forget to check the French public holidays as they are not necessarily the same as in other European countries. The best option is a three to four day midweek trip. This will allow you to divide your time between viewing properties and exploring the region.
Any prospective property hunter should concentrate first and foremost on the region itself before an individual property. The Mediterranean coast is much larger than most people realise until they actually get here. As a result, looking for a property without first settling on an area is rather like looking for a needle in a haystack. There is also little point in looking at a property until you are sure you like the surrounding area.
Start with some good large scale maps of the area. Also take advantage of internet-based research tools such as Google Earth, a free and interactive programme which contains maps, satellite photos, computer simulations and 3-D images which can be viewed from different altitudes and angles.
Also consider geographical factors that may be important, for example proximity to an airport, distance to the sea or mountains and accessibility by road. Much of Mediterranean France is still very rural so also take into account the distance you may have to travel to the nearest hospital or doctor, especially if you are thinking about a permanent move.
If you have narrowed your area of interest down to a single location, then a good idea is to give over your first day to just driving around and familiarising yourself with the area. Take in the very varied landscapes, terrains, and climatic conditions. Don’t forget about seasonal variation, both in population density and climate. Certain areas can get extremely hot and crowded in the summer and others can be extremely quiet in the winter months.
If you have already visited the area and roughly decided where you would like to live, then wherever possible, have your appointments made in advance and know exactly which properties you are seeing. A great deal of time can be lost sitting waiting in agents’ offices discussing your requirements or viewing properties which don’t match your criteria.
You shouldn’t aim to visit a hundred properties during your trip. If you have a realistic and specific list of criteria then it is perfectly feasible to visit a small number of properties that will match your requirements. You may want to consider trying a property finder service whereby an agent takes your list of requirements and searches out a short list of suitable properties that meet your requirements. When it comes to home hunting, quality of viewings is far better than quantity. What’s more, you will find that the sheer amount of information you will be taking in just visiting 3 or 4 properties will be enough to get your brain in a spin! It is very important to be able remember enough about each property in order to be able to review it later. Don’t forget to make notes on each property as you visit it and to take lots of photos or shoot some video – this will be an invaluable ‘aide-memoire’.
When you come to reviewing the properties you have visited it is important to consider carefully the pros and cons of each one. In 99% of cases, each property will have its own strong points and weak points so invariably a compromise has to be made. This is often the most difficult decision so careful thought (and usually a good bottle of local wine) will be required! Keep your original budget and criteria in mind and don’t allow yourself to be swayed from there.
Finally, and equally important, leave yourself some time free at the end of your trip. This will allow you to go back and have a second look at any properties you are considering. A second visit is a must – you’d be amazed at just how much more you will notice on a second viewing that you might have completely missed on the first visit.
Whilst it is not essential that you make a decision to buy during your trip, it is usually much easier to decide on a property, make an offer, negotiate a deal, and sign the purchase paperwork with the agent or Notaire whilst you are still there.
If you are planning a property buying trip to France and need any help or advice our Luxury French Property experts are on hand to offer you their advice.