Friday, 16 April 2010

A Day In The Life of a Property Finder

Am very proud to be featured in this Month's French Magazine in their 'Day in the Life' series. So proud, in fact, that I emailed my daughter and suggested she buy a copy. Her only comment, having read it, was 'what made you wear a black jacket with a blue jumper'!
To avoid criticism I have pasted the text of the article below, without the photograph..

Generally I am an easy-going calm person but you will often find me shouting at the television while watching ’A Place in the Sun’. Why are they only showing 3 properties? How far away from town are they? Why do they say it will only cost 10,000 euros to add a huge extension? Why do these people want to live in a place they have never visited before and why have they made no attempt to learn the language? Perhaps one day I will persuade Channel 4 to film me during one of my viewing days with clients to show them how I think it should be done, but in the meantime here is a ’behind the scenes’ look at a typical day of Property Finding.

9.30am - Out with estate agent to view 2 apartments I have selected after looking through his ‘book‘ (a folder containing details of every property on his books rather than just the ones in the window). The first apartment is ideal and fits the clients‘ very detailed brief but I make a note to warn them that they will have to ignore the flowery wallpaper (even on the ceilings) and budget for re-wiring as it does not appear to have been renovated for many years. It is an ’inheritance’ property and although it is sad to see all the possessions that represented an old lady’s life, I am also aware that the family are keen to sell so the price will be negotiable. The second property was actually owned by the agent himself (so he would not be charging agency fees). This was a second-floor apartment in a newly converted barn and was fabulous - with original beams and mezzanine rooms. The piece-de-resistance was that this apartment owned the largest part of the garden which consisted of a small lawned area, a shaded terraced area with built-in barbecue and finally, a swimming pool! Not part of my original brief but an added bonus in my opinion. This house would definitely go on my list of recommended viewings.

11.00am - Am now in a village just 10 minutes away from Perpignan and early for my next appointment so have time for a coffee and a wander around the town. In the ’Tabac’ I spot an advert for a house for sale that I viewed for my clients a couple of days ago and the asking price is considerably less than the price the estate agent is asking for. It would be unethical to go directly to the vendor now but it will be useful information for my clients when considering what offer they might be willing to make…

11.30am - Meet up with Christophe, an independent agent, who shows me two Maisons de Village. Although they both fit the brief, by nature Village houses are generally small and dark and these two are no exception. The final straw for one of them was that, although advertised as having a garage, the door is not wide enough to accommodate a car! I don’t think these will appear on my final viewing list.

12 noon - Everywhere is closing for lunch and I just happen to be a few minutes away from the beach….

2.30pm - Visiting a Maison de Villlage but this one is absolutely amazing. It has been renovated to within an inch of its’ life and has the most stylish bathroom I have ever seen! The two bedrooms are downstairs off a large hall, and then upstairs is a large open plan living-room/kitchen and then there are steps up to a Mezzanine level which is used as an office. Outside there is a beautiful terrace area with views up to the mountains. The added bonus is that the property also owns a garden - just 5 minutes walk away (not an unusual arrangement in villages). I thank the owner and tell her that I will be highly recommending it to my clients. (Sadly, when I met my clients I decided to cancel the viewing as the client turned out to be 6’4” tall and the ceiling height of the mezzanine level was considerably less!)

3.30pm - I’ve found it! Large garage with workshop, 3 bedrooms, a beautifully equipped kitchen and finally an upstairs living room with terrace and a summer kitchen! And best of all, it is not officially ’on the market’ yet as the owner wants to finish doing one or two odd jobs.

5.00pm - Back in the office and busy sending my ’warts & all’ viewing reports and pictures to my clients. All in all, not a bad haul of properties and I am able to recommend 4 out of the 6 that I viewed today, and have already highlighted 7 from the past few days few days of viewings. I have to admit I find it hard to hide my enthusiasm for certain properties but I try to remain impartial as it is entirely the clients’ decision - however, 2 weeks later when they flew out to view 11 properties that I had found for them, they fell in love with my ’Perfect’ house and are now happily living there.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

La Sanch - Good Friday

This took place over a week ago – Good Friday – but it has taken me all this time to try to find the words to describe it and I am still struggling. This is one of the scariest things I have ever seen (although I admit I have led a very sheltered life). The town comes to a standstill as the ‘Regidor’ dressed in red robes leads the procession and rings a bell to warn the town of the arrival of the procession of condemned prisoners. All are wearing hoods to protect their identity. Although La Sanch are a ‘brotherhood’, the religious connations are that they are accompanied by hooded ‘penitents’ carrying extremely heavy statues representing scenes from the passion to remind us that Jesus was also condemned to death.

The old town is silent except for ‘sacred music’ being played over loudspeakers and the sound of the leaders banging sticks on the ground to signify a rest. The crowd is respectful and quiet. We watched for nearly an hour but the procession takes an age as the statues are so heavy that the procession has to stop every few minutes for the bearers to take a break. Many are bare-footed, some wear designer trainers under their robes. I am glad to have finally seen this procession but the thought of it still makes me feel a little uneasy.