Monthly Archives: May 2014

French Property Learning Curve

We learned a lot from our first property finding visit. Here are our findings on aspects of French property.

French estate agents only provide a basic description and a few photographs. They never provide a floor plan – though the vendor may be able to provide one. They are also very rarely willing to provide the property’s address. They usually want potential buyers to sign a “Bon de visite” which prevents you from buying the property through another agent of directly from the vendor. The reason for all of this is that properties are usually being sold through several agents often at different asking process depending upon the agent’s fees. Agents don’t want to risk losing their commission!

Property sizes are designated by the ground area in square metres along with the total land area in square metres. There are often building restrictions that the property area is less than 0.1, 0.2 or even 0.4 times the land area. These restrictions are sometimes local to a town or even to a street. It is important to verify whether it is possible to extend the building if it is required.

Beware! After the floods of the late 1990s, areas close to the sea, rivers and canals have been given designations of zone blue and zone red. Zone blue is fine and you can build on it given the existing constraints. Zone red is a disaster area. It is forbidden to do anything with zone red land. It can’t even be used as a recreational park area. Many people now own zone red land which was once worth a fortune and is now is totally worthless.

Properties are often described in terms of the number of rooms (pieces). Sometimes the number of bedrooms (chambres) is also provided. A room which is below a certain size should be designated as an office (bureau) rather than as a bedroom. Agents often blur this distinction.

There are two types of bathroom. There is a salle d’eau which is a shower with a wash basin and possibly a bidet. Then there is a salle de bain which will also contain a bath.

Toilets are almost always in a separate room as the French find it distasteful to put the toilet in a salle d’eau or salle de bain. The toilet room may also contain a bidet but often not. It does make one wonder about the potential consequences of having the toilet and bidet in separate rooms!

There are several types of kitchen. A cuisine is a separate room. A cuisine Americain is a kitchen built into a living room. A cuisine été is a Summer kitchen designed for outdoor cooking. A barbecue is quite common either on a balcony or as a separate outdoor unit.

Swimming pools have to have one of three safety features. They can be fenced off with a gate. They can have a pool cover. They can be fitted with an alarm which goes off if someone, or something, enters the pool without disarming it.

Another thing to check for is does it have a forage – free ground water for swimming pools and watering the garden. Mains water is quite expensive.

Initial Search – May 2014

We went back to Le Grau d’Agde over the period 17-25 May 2014, and stayed at Villa Littoral.

We had a viewing scheduled for the Monday morning with Julien Sanier from S’Antoni. The property we saw we both liked. It seemed to tick all of the boxes.

We then visited 9 properties through Neale from French Entrée on Tuesday and Wednesday. None of these reached the bar we had already set.

We then visited another property with Julien and then revisited the first property on the Thursday. We were both very keen on it and having discussed it over lunch we put in an offer. This was rejected for being too low and the seller only came down in price by €5,000. We made a higher offer. We discussed the property with Jean and Laurent at Villa Littoral. They said that the property was over priced and needed work. They said that our offer was about what the property was worth.

On the Friday our offer was rejected as the owner wouldn’t drop the price by more than €15,000. We pulled out as we were not prepared to increase our offer. We also decided to revisit our requirements.

We will be returning in June to continue our search.

Red Tape

As previously stated a A Chambre d’Hôte must be registered with the local Mairie.

A Chambre d’Hôte has a number of requirements:

  • A maximum of 5 bedrooms and a maximum of 15 guests.
  • Prices and other information must be exhibited on the exterior of the premises, on the interior near the entrance and behind the door of each room, and a receipt must be supplied to the guest.
  • The room rate must include breakfast.
  • The property must be cleaned and maintained and conform to health and safety regulations.
  • Each bedroom must have direct or indirect access to a bathroom and WC.
  • Towels and bed linen must be provided.

A Chambre d’Hôte with a Table d’Hôte allows evening meals to be provided at extra cost to the guests. The rules are strict. The guests must eat the same meal at the same time and at the same table as the hosts.

Property Hunting

This is the most difficult and critical stage of the process. We have got to find the right property in the right location, as we have no desire to move again!

We got our first 5 property details from French Entrée. All of them were in Agde which is a bit far from the sea. Only one of them was worth visiting. It has a lot of ground, pool and development potential.

We also found that we need to visit the local Mairie (Mayor’s office) before making a purchase. In order to operate a Chambre d’Hôte it needs to be registered with the Mairie, so we need to be sure that the Mairie is happy for us to do this. We found some useful information on the Complete France and French Entrée Websites.