Sunday, 22 April 2012

When is the right time to buy?

Shortly after we moved in here a friend came to stay with us and one afternoon we had lots of ‘household’ shopping to do so we dropped him off in Perpignan where he spent a happy time exploring the Palais des rois de Majorque. When we picked him up later he was absolutely astounded to hear that in just 3 hours we had managed to arrange delivery of a washing machine & tumble dryer, buy a fairly large plasma tv and choose & order floor tiles for the guest wing. This is a fairly normal state of affairs for us and I couldn’t understand his confusion; the laundry equipment was a no-brainer in that all the machines seem to do much the same job so you always buy the second cheapest; the TV seemed to be the right size and roughly the right price and we are not ‘label’ snobs so don’t care whether it is manufactured by Bang & Olufson or But; and as for the tiles, for once we both agreed on colour, texture & size and the fact that they were on ‘promotion’ made our decision even easier. ‘Worried William’ said that he never bought anything without first checking it out in Which magazine, trawling the internet for reviews and basically making sure that whatever he was buying was the best of its’ kind. He even rented several different cars over a 6 month period before finally making his choice as to which model to buy as he was so anxious not to make a mistake.

Now this kind of attitude makes me sad as ‘William’ is so scared of making mistakes that he takes far too long to make up his mind and often goes without something completely. My husband has visited his home and tells me that it is very sparsely furnished - but what little he has is of excellent quality!

The reason for mentioning ‘William’ is that I was reminded of him today when I was taking a call from a potential client. He had been thinking about buying a holiday home in France for several years and explained that he was still very much in the ‘research’ stage as to which area to buy in and what kind of property would suit him best. He specifically asked whether it is now a ‘good time to buy’ and I had to think very carefully how to reply. Last week the euro was being traded at 1.2250/£1 which is the highest level in 20 months, property prices have only just started to climb slowly so technically this is a fantastic time to buy – but not for this particular client as I know he is not yet ready and even if he bought a bargain property he would worry that there might have been an even better bargain if only he had waited.

The ‘right time to buy’ is a very personal issue. I, and my Property Finding colleagues have been involved with many many property purchases over the past few years and, to the best of my knowledge, not one of our clients have complained to us that because of the exchange rate their property is slightly lower in value now or that they wish they had bought in another area. They came to us to find a property for them because the time was right for them. Interest rates, recessions and currency fluctuations are all relevant but if you spend all your time assessing these factors rather than trusting your judgement that now is a good time, you will end up like ‘worried William’, who, by the way, is not married........

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Dinosaur in the room...

I pride myself on being ‘independant’ – not so much in my personal life where I still look for an ‘grown-up’ to deal with spiders, but in my work as a Property Finder. Although I am part of the FrenchEntree network of Property Finders scattered around France, we all work individually and run our own businesses. Being independant means I can show my clients houses listed with any estate agent (and you often see the same property in several agents windows at varying prices), any property that just has a private ‘A Vendre’ sign outside, houses that are listed by the local ‘notaires’ and through local gossip I even hear about really interesting houses that are not officially on the market yet. However, all this independence can be a bit lonely sometimes as instead of being able to have a gossip around the office water cooler with my colleagues, we have to rely on the internet and telephone to keep up to date with each other. That is why it was so good to spend a couple of days in Bath (UK) recently when Head Office arranged a conference for all of us.

Most of my colleagues I have met already, whether on our stand at The France Show in London or at the last conference held in La Rochelle, but several new members have joined the network recently and it was lovely to be able to put a real face to the website photo (and to work out who had made the best use of PhotoShop to enhance their picture)! On the Thursday evening FrenchEntree hosted a dinner at a local bar/restaurant which also gave us the opportunity to meet several members of the UK based Head Office team. This turned into a very lively social occasion and as the wine flowed freely, by the end of the evening they were all my new ‘best friends’!

The next morning found us slumped over conference tables at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. (There was a fossilised dinosaur on one wall which at first I didn’t like to mention in case it was a hangover-induced hallucination but luckily the others could see it too!) The coffee machine in the corner soon perked us up and we had a really interesting day. We had presentations from ‘The Boss’ about his plans for the company, then from the girls who ‘triage’ the enquiries from clients and forward them to the relevant property finder, we heard from the editor of FrenchEntree magazine, and also from the features editor who gave us some excellent tips on writing articles and also on the merits of using Twitter (so I now feel it is time to dip my toes in the water). We also heard from the ‘Computer expert’ who, despite the fact that I have trouble getting into my own website, managed to show us how to analyse who is ‘visiting’ our sites and where they come from. I am still not entirely sure why this is useful but it is at least helping my geography knowledge – who knew that there were so many different countries in the world!

For me the most interesting part of the day was hearing stories from other property finders – little things from sharing details about how to keep good records to advice on how to handle ‘difficult’ clients (and I’m sorry if any of you are reading this but you know who you are!). Whether we are finding ‘just another holiday home’ for a millionaire or tracking down a 50,000 euro ‘renovation project’ to fulfil somebody’s dream, we are all part of a team and share very similar experiences.

So, many thanks to all of you at Head Office in Bath for arranging this, and you will be pleased to see that I have taken on board your advice to write my Blog more regularly!