Thursday, July 29, 2010

Seal in Cognac (the singer not a local "plat du jour")

Sadly I didn't make it to see Seal headline the annual blues festival in Cognac last night.

The good news though is that one of my friends did and he's a far better writer than me - you can see his full report here

I like Andy's comment:

Aficionado's might say "it's not really the blues" but having been at the concert last night, I really don't think anyone in the deliriously happy audience cared!

I will need to drop in to Andy's place with a bottle of Chez Bacou VSOP as I've also stolen his picture (above).

The Charente Libre obviously thought that Seal was good too - you can read their review (in French) here.

Special first class rail fares to France until August 31st

Just seen this article on the excellent Rightmove Overseas blog.

The sharp-eyed author has seen that Rail Europe are offering special 1st class fares from the UK to entice holiday makers onto the rail network.

Travel dates between July 13th and August 31st can be booked, with the tickets able to be purchased through until August 27th.

Travelling by rail from London to Angouleme is most enjoyable and it's easy to pick up a hire car at the station with Avis, Europcar and a host of other suppliers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest blogger - Jocelyn Le Trionnaire of Rightmove Overseas

"I'm from Brittany, and I live and work in Milton Keynes, 45 min from London. So writing about the property market in the Cognac area probably doesn't make much sense at first. Unless like me you enjoy (responsibly) a glass of Cognac XO once in a while, or maybe look after the French market for the property portal

I’ve been in this position 2 and a half years so I saw the effect of the recession with its properties not selling, agencies shutting down, and unfortunately some people losing their jobs. There was a lot said on it, and there is probably a lot more to say but right now I am just enjoying the fact that things are clearly improving on every front, which I can see on a day by day basis.

I hear my French agents looking for more properties, asking for more advertising, private vendors being more confident and putting their property for sale on Rightmove themselves, generally the market is bubbling since January 2010 and this is very positive.

Graham Downie pointed out the fact that the market right now is a little strange because prices are up and down across the board, which I agree with. When buyers come back there is always a period of time in which prices are uncertain before the market finds its balance. I am an optimistic person you see, and for me buying any property is always an investment (“la Pierre” as we say in French). It has ups and downs, but in the long term you always win.

So whether you buy in Normandy, Brittany, the Riviera or the Poitou-Charentes, which are all in my top 10 most searched areas (full reports here), you can’t go wrong.

I’ve studied in La Rochelle and visited the Cognac area myself, and this is a place where I would settle down, and look for a property to buy in a few years, but for now I’ll just go through the listings and dream of a better life. Maybe one of these, currently available on our website"?

Jocelyn Le Trionnaire
Rightmove Overseas

UK house prices to fall says National Institute of Economic Research

A report in today's Daily Telegraph highlights the thin ice that the UK economy and housing market is skating on.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) claims that house prices will fall, in real terms, by about eight per cent.

It means that after accounting for inflation, “real” house prices will have collapsed to 2003 levels by 2015.

Of course any kind of speculative forecasting like this is akin to a group of very intelligent people wetting their fingers and sticking them in the air to see which way the wind is currently blowing. Property forecasting is notoriously inaccurate.

What it could mean though is that people who have been hesitating over a move to France may well decide to take the leap. 

One of the things that concerned me before we came here in 2003 was that if we sold in England but wanted to go back after a couple of years how much more expensive housing would be.

Happily we have never looked back and with a "stagnant" UK property market maybe one or two others will now be tempted to do something similar without the fear of rampant house inflation to hold them back.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

France "bucks the trend" in Eurozone property

The RICS released quarter two figures today for their global property survey.

It's based on commercial property rather than residential but it does make quite comforting reading for those of us who make a living in France.

Indeed, the press release that accompanies the report says:

Significantly, France is bucking the negative Eurozone trend with more material signs of an upturn in sentiment towards real estate reflecting, in part, the relatively resilient performance from the domestic economy.

You can read the press release here or if you're feeling adventurous and have time on your hands can read the full report here.

Chateau de Joinville brings back fond memories

A long, long time ago I worked for Jackson-Stops & Staff in Curzon St.

The PR director was a good friend and suggested that I take my then fiancée for a romantic week-end in Northern France.  Being "before kids" we could afford to do things like that.

We had a terrific time and so, as a treat, I planned a surprise visit there last week on our way back from the UK.

It was just as good as we remembered (although my memory isn't so great of anything that happened over 20 years ago) and for anyone looking for a romantic get away that's not too far from Calais, Boulogne or Dieppe it's ideal.

As you can see the kids thought it was great too and particularly liked our room which was, in fact, more of a house (the ancient four au pain).

You'll find the Chateau de Joinville in the beautiful town of Eu and can see their website here.

Heartily recommended.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What is a "bargain" price

It's a strange market here in France at the moment.  Some vendors have slashed prices (from a silly starting point in most cases), some refuse to budge and - according to Century 21 at least - some have put prices up.

There's an online tool that helps you track individual house price changes on portals such as Se Loger and you can while away many an hour just browsing around.  I don't want to give away too many trade secrets on here but send me a direct email and I'll send you the url.

One terrific house that I visited recently has come down in price by over €100,000.  On the surface it looks as though it's now a real bargain but, of course, one can't automatically assume that this is the case.

It's my job to try and find other similar houses as "comparable evidence" so that between us my client and I can make a proper judgement as to whether it provides value for money.

I have a mandate going through where my clients had an offer accepted that was around €20,000 (8%) under the asking price.  The house had just come on the market and had been competitively priced and we think that we have struck an exceptional deal.

Don't be misled by dramatic falls in price or, alternatively,  put off by owners refusing to drop much.....research, research, research and then act decisively and you won't go far wrong.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Top 20 ways of adding value to your home - Phil Spencer

It's easy to knock him but I have a lot to thank Phil Spencer for.

Before he and Kirstie Allsopp became TV stars nobody (other than the super rich) knew that buying agents existed.  Now pretty much everyone knows what we do and people understand that you don't need to have millions for us to be able to save you worry, time and money.

The Daily Telegraph has just run this story where Phil gives his top 20 ways of adding value to your home and it's a pretty sensible list too.

I won't repeat the article here - click the link and read it for yourself, just don't forget to come back - but I would like to highlight one of his "things to avoid":

Outgrowing your street

If houses in your street cost £250,000, don’t build an enormous extension and ask £400,000. People looking for a £400,000 house won’t want to live in a £250,000 street.

The same principle applies in rural France. 

Don't go over the top and spend a fortune doing up a house to the highest specification unless it's for your own long term're unlikely to see a return on your investment when you come to sell.

I have seen a lot of people getting their fingers burnt by putting in top of the range pools and creating executive class gites.....maybe you'd see a return on the Cote D'Azur but in deepest Charente it's best to keep things simple.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Charente property prices soar - hmmmm

I remember my Economics A level teacher writing "there are lies, damn lies & statistics" on the blackboard in Esher College and us spending a whole lesson discussing this (it was a double period too).

Century 21 have just published some research showing house price movements across France.

The Charente Libre roars:

The Poitou-Charentes region has experienced the biggest rise in property prices in the country in the past 12 months, according to a price survey. Between the first quarter of 2009 and the same period this year the price of older homes rose by 15.56% in this region, well above other areas.

You can see their full article here.

Now, I have blogged before about the impossible task it is to value property and track price movements here.  Volumes are too low and houses too disparate.

However, I would swear blind that the one thing they haven't done is gone up by 15% in the last 12 months and I don't know a single agent who would claim this privately or publicly.

Sorry Century 21 but I've been in this game for 25 years and this particular piece of research is about as worthwhile as a chocolate teapot.