Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Schools in the Charente go back this week....

It's a big week in the Downie household as our eldest prepares for her first day at Segonzac college (secondary school) on Thursday and our youngest gets ready for CM2 at Gondeville school (pictured above).

I guess that the step up from junior school to secondary is just as big in the UK but they do seem to take it very seriously here.

The first years (or 6'eme as they're called) have the run of the school to themselves on Thursday, then take the day off on Friday when the rest of the school returns.  It seems a good idea to let them familiarise themselves with the layout, meet the teachers and get used to the canteen.

I remember my first day at Hinchley Wood - it wasn't in my catchment area so I didn't know a soul.  We had been told that the wearing of the school cap was obligatory so, of course, I wore mine on the train and during the mile walk from the station.

Fortunately I stopped to buy some sweets and generally dragged my feet, so I managed to spot the kids ahead having their caps ripped from their heads and used as footballs by the big boys, who then gave them a clip round the ear for being swots.

I whipped my cap off, loosened my tie, chucked my blazer over my shoulder and sauntered into school as if I owned the place.

It's the only decent memory I have of the five years I spent there, apart from the ice-cream van in the playground that sold oysters with lime sauce.

Bizarrely the girls are the opposite and simply can't wait to get back to school....I know the food's good but surely that can't be natural.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Water-skiing in St Meme les Carrieres

I live in a small village called St Meme les Carrieres, around 10 minutes from Cognac.

At the crack of dawn each morning I take my dog for a walk through the vines and she goes for a swim in a beautiful lake, that is actually a dis-used quarry.

It's also the home of Planet Ski, run by a fascinating chap called Denis Garcia.

He's an ex water-skiing champion of France and he looked all over the country to find a site good enough for him to train the champions of the future. He teaches skiing and wake boarding and one of the big benefits is that he offers reduced rates for local children.

As you can see from the photos above and his website it's a truly stunning location and we're lucky to have it on our doorstep.

Sadly another summer is sailing by without me plucking up the courage to give it a go but I can assure you that at 7.30am each morning I always think that "today's going to be the day".


Marketing techniques need an overhaul?

My brother-in-law just happens to be the best thing since pop up toast and I'm delighted to be able to give his new business a plug. 

He has the joint attributes of being able to talk in plain English (he should be good at this having spent all of his adult life standing in a pulpit each Sunday) and of quickly getting to the nub of a problem.

In a massive career change he has just launched a website design business aimed at the golden generation.

He believes that there are a huge number of small businesses, run by people of a certain age, that have no idea of how to join the online world.  They know that they are missing out but are scared of the technology and terminology. 

What they need is someone who can talk to them in a language they understand, take the brief and deliver simple & cost effective solutions tailored to their business.

I can't think of anyone better to do this than Graham.

So it's now my turn to "spread the word". 

If you know an offline business that could benefit from an online presence then why not suggest they use http://webworduk.com/ .

As it says in 1 Corinthians III v13:

"Every mans work shall be made manifest".


Friday, August 27, 2010

Whatever happened to Caveat Emptor?

As the saying goes "hindsight is always 20/20".

In October 2008 global markets collapsed and took property markets with them.

In the USA the housing market is still reeling with a simply appalling number of bank foreclosures and devastatingly sad stories abound.

In the UK "buy to let" had been all the rage and banks had been offering 100%+ self certification mortgages to anyone who could write with a pen rather than crayons. 

Since the crash they have gone full circle and getting money from them ranges between pretty damn difficult and nigh on impossible. Many of these buy to let investors are only remaining solvent thanks to the artificially low interest rates.

Catastrophic for lots of people....including those of us who earn our living from the property industry.

But it makes my blood boil to read this article in The Independent.

A group of Irish investors have decided that rather than accept the fact that they have been caught out by the market they would rather blame the property press and are seeking legal recourse.

"Places like Bulgaria have fared very badly, and people are feeling angry with the journalists who promoted it.". 

Get a grip.  Even experienced investors who employ full time sector analysts were caught out. Stop looking for a scapegoat.

I'm not saying that journalists don't have a responsibility to their readers.  Of course they do and if you read the article you'll see that Graham Norwood expresses this eloquently.

But I couldn't agree more with the Dublin lawyer quoted who says "these people are desperate for someone to blame" and are "barking mad".


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My top 10 tips for buying property in France

I'm often asked to share some of the knowledge and ideas that I have picked up over the years and so have set out my top 10 tips for those looking to buy a property in France this year.

1. Choose your location: France is a huge country offering seaside resorts, skiing, cheap equestrian property with acres of land, plush penthouses in Paris and much more. It’s essential to do your research and find your ideal area before beginning your house search. We made four or five trips to France without seeing a single property before we decided on the Charente. Buying a house is a huge investment and a good location is the most important part of the brief. Speaking of which:

2. Decide on your "brief": If you're vague with agents then don't be surprised if what they show you doesn't take your breath away. The more thought you put into this the better the results. You should know your budget and it’s important to communicate this to the agents. Make sure they know that this is “all in” to include both their fees (unless you’re buying privately) and those of the Notaire.

Make a list of those things that are “must have” and those that are “would be nice”. If you want a garden do give an idea of size. If you have small children then issues such as safety (roads, rivers, garden wells) and schooling come into play.

3. Make sure you see a good cross section of the market: You'll find that some agents are friendlier and more knowledgeable than others but don’t forget that you're buying a house not going on a blind date. The grumpy one who doesn’t speak a word of English may well have the best house for you.

Most agents I know around here are incredibly knowledgeable and offer good value for money. For those really brave (fool-hardy?) souls who aren’t scared to tackle language, procedural and legal barriers then you should know that every second house purchase in France is actually a private sale and done without an agent.

If possible use a buying agent (see 10). We were recently described as “The miracle workers” by The Times. While that may be a little over the top, having your own “Phil or Kirsty” acting on your behalf should save you both time and money.

4. Get your finances in place: It's pointless finding a little gem if you're not in a position to buy it. This is a simple thing to do and will save masses of heartache.

There are plenty of banks in both the UK and here in France who will be happy to help. Click here for a "best buy" table.

When you are ready to move money across use a reputable FX company to get the best rate. I use these people.

5. Try looking out of season: The annual Brit invasion usually starts around Easter and you see prices rise accordingly with viewings continuing over the summer.

Why not plan a viewing trip for October or November when there are less people around to compete with?

6. Don't deal with an unlicenced agent: Despite President Sarkozy’s best efforts there are still plenty of sharks around.

Ask to see the carte professionelle held by the agency or you could get your fingers burnt.

As I said earlier, most agents I have met are professional, licenced and fully legitimate but believe me when I say that I have also seen some rogues. The FNAIM (www.fnaim.fr) is a good starting point for a list of agents in the area you are interested in.

7. Use a good notaire: Quality differs among notaires and you 100% have the right to choose (don't be told otherwise), ask around and find one you are comfortable with.

Be aware that the notaire acts for the state and not the buyer or seller. If you want your own legal representation then there are plenty of UK based practices that will be delighted to act on your behalf.

Similarly there are a growing number of RICS qualified surveyors who offer pre-purchase surveys like you are used to in the UK.

8. Try and collect as much comparable evidence as you can: Houses are notoriously difficult to value in France and it's often the owner who sets the price. This is why it is so common to see the same house at different prices on the same high street.

For example, the owner might want €200,000 for his house. Agent A charges 4% and will put it in his window for €208,000 while agent B charges 8% and will be marketing it for €216,000.

Visit as many "similar" properties as you can and use this comparable evidence to help negotiate a good price.

9. Don't be greedy: It's tempting to get more land than you need (you'll live to regret it) or to buy a house with masses of barns (roofs cost a lot to repair).

Land prices are generally far lower in France than they are in the UK and all males secretly fancy playing at being Jensen Button on their sit on lawnmower. Remember though that grass and weeds grow quickly in most parts of France. If you’re buying a holiday home then you’ll need to find someone to look after the place while you’re away. If you’re planning a full time move then having to spend four hours a week mowing the lawn seriously cuts into your leisure time.

Similarly the reason that most tumble-down barns are cheap is that locals know only to well the costs of renovation.

It’s easy for the owner to dismiss it with a casual wave of the hand but it’s critical that you’ve done your homework before signing on the dotted line.

Sometimes less is more.

10. Use a buying agent: Let's face it you may well not be fully conversant with the language, laws, process and local area. Buying a house is a huge commitment and a good buying agent will save you time & money as well as give you peace of mind.

If you’re not sure where to begin then go online to www.frenchentree.com/french-property-finders/ and you’ll find a dozen fully licenced property finders stretching from Bayeux in the north to Nice in the south and from Lorient in the west to Chamonix in the east.

Alternatively you can visit the website of our national federation (The Fédération Nationale des Chasseurs Immobiliers) who have a list of members on http://www.fnci.fr/

Bon courage....


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

5 magical restaurants in and around Cognac

Here's a list of (and links to) my five favourite restaurants in and around Cognac....do let me know if you disagree or have others to add to the list:

5. Auberge de Condé, Bassac - set in the heart of a picture perfect riverside village, 100 metres from the famous Abbey.  If you go on a Friday night you may even get lucky and be treated to live music from the superb "Route 403".

4. Chateau de L'Yeuse, Cognac - attached to the most famous hotel in Cognac you can try a bit of star spotting, particularly during the blues festival. The food is excellent and it's a superb ambiance.

3. La Ribaudiere, Bourg Charente - renowned as the best restaurant in the area it's possibly also the priciest. Sensational food, you can even book a days lesson if you want to try and copy some of the dishes.

2. La Courtine, Cognac - a personal favourite, often with live music. The outside terrace, overlooking the river charente is simply divine. Reasonable prices and sensational profiteroles.

1. L'Essille, Bassac - Incredible really that a village with a population of 461 can boast two such superb restaurants. L'Essille is my absolute favourite (pictured above) with unbeatable food, wine list, service and setting.

Hope you get the chance to visit some of them!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Rock climbing in the Charente

One of the big differences between our life in France and the one we had in the UK is the participation in organised sport.

When I was at school, Wednesday afternoon was always devoted to rugby or cricket and the summer holidays were simply spent playing with friends.

Over here the schools don't seem to organise any sport at all, it's down to you to sign up for the events run by the local communes (of which there are plenty).

During summer the local children in the Charente all seem to join clubs under the banner of "Eté actif". Last year our two tried their hands at water-skiing, horse-riding and archery this year it's rock climbing, horse riding (again), pottery and flower arranging.

The lessons are cheap and it gives them a little taster of different activities.

Rock climbing is the most popular by far in our house-hold.  Katie had tried it in the Pyrenees with school so when we turned up at "La font qui pisse" she scoffed at the 24m high sheer rock face.....although it certainly looked daunting enough to me.

A quick briefing from the instructors and she was scaling the sheer face like Spiderman while her mother was having kittens below.

I have no idea if she will take this further and move on to Mont Blanc and  Mount Everest but it sure was lovely to see her trying something well outside the usual Downie family comfort zone.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Cognac sales up by over 10%

Here's another positive announcement for the region. The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) say that there was an increase of around 160 million bottles over the previous year.

You can see a breakdown of the statistics here with sales in Asia increasing by 24%.

I know so many people involved in the industry that it's cheering to see such good results.

From my friend Christian Martin who's family have owned the 33 hectares at the little known Chez Bacou since records began to Christian Guerin who is cellar master at one of the leading Cognac houses it's nice to know that some businesses are still thriving in these uncertain times.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The charente between Jarnac & Cognac

As I have said in previous posts no matter which part of the Charente I take clients to I often come back to the towns and villages close to the river.

Indeed, my latest clients have had an offer accepted on a beautiful house in the charming riverside town of Bassac. It's an idyllic location.

If you click on this link you'll see why folks here love the river so much.  It will take you to some photos taken by Andy & Sarah of "Prunings from the vines" fame.  In fact Andy has a new camera so I'm hoping to post more of his photos as he gets out and about in the local countryside.

As Francois 1st so famously said "the Charente is the prettiest stream in my kingdom".

He was right.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bloomberg - "the rise of the buying agent"

Yet another article on the rising use of a house "buying agent". 

An interesting piece in Bloomberg, about how UK buyers are evening up the score by employing their own representatives... the buying agents. According to Savills' Noel de Keyzer, buying agents have quadrupled over the last five years, led by the prime market, but not exclusive to it.

I picked this up from the excellent property blog "The rat and mouse" and you can see the full Bloomberg story here.

It's clear that buying agents or property finders are becoming increasingly popular and I honestly can't see why anyone wouldn't use one when buying overseas.

If you're looking to purchase property in France then follow this link to see a list of registered property finders stretching from Bayeux to Nice.


Investing & Living abroad - BNP Paribas

Huge thanks to Craig McGinty of This French Life  for digging out this (2009) research document from BNP Paribas - Investing & Living abroad.

The figures are well out of date and relate to the time before Lehman Brothers collapsed in autumn 2008 and the world went to pot. It has been interesting though to take some of the statistics and compare them to my own business.

Some of the headline figures were:
  • more than 75% of international buyers came from Europe (26% from GB)
  • more than 75% of these buyers bought "old" houses
  • average purchase price of "old" houses was €248,000
  • 25% of purchases were in PACA
Since 2003 my own business has seen 90% of buyers coming from Europe and 75% of my buyers have bought "old" properties.

My average purchase price has been €280,000, well above the average price in the Charente of around €150,000.

Nothing particularly shocking here but it's so difficult to find statistics on international buyers in France that I thought it worth sharing.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Cognac - is this the most attractive town in France?

Regular readers will know that one of my favourite blogs is written by an ex client of mine and is aptly called "Prunings from the vines".

Andy has recently posted some cracking photos of Cognac town centre, you can see them all by clicking this link. I have reproduced one of them above.

They capture the essence of the town well and don't forget that to be genuinely attractive you need more than just a pretty face.

It's not "twee" like Aubeterre, or a tourist hell like Rocamadour.  It's a bustling, working, town that hasn't forgotten its roots and it makes the most of its natural beauty.

Jarnac is prettier and Angouleme has a more imposing presence but to me Cognac is "ma ville" and seeing the pictures that Andy & Sarah took gave me a real sense of pride in living and working here.


Long live the "MAMIL's" (middle aged men in lycra)

I was out on my bike with Paddy and my father-in-law, David, yesterday morning.

There was great excitement as we discussed our plans for an epic cycle ride to celebrate my 50th birthday next year.  We hope to meet up with Chris, Tim & Steve, of "three peaks" fame", and cycle from the Pyrenees back to Cognac in time for my (surprise) party.

David is an experienced cyclist and has cycled throughout Europe as well as completing six stages from the Tour de France. He has made mince-meat of Mont Ventoux and other near vertical mountains.

However, even he is quivering with anticipation at this particular challenge as we discussed starting our mini tour by tackling the mythical Col du Tourmalet.

It is the highest road in the Pyrenees and the most used mountain stage in the history of the tour.  It's also the one major French mountain that David has never conquered.

We were talking about starting in Lourdes, sweating our way up (and down) the Tourmalet before making our way up through the beautiful "Parc des Landes" into the sweeping vineyards of Bordeaux and St Emillion. 

The last leg would take us home to Cognac and a rapturous welcome from our family and friends.

As I say, the three of us were full of ideas and making plans to drive the route next month to check out the smaller country lanes and look for suitable accommodation. 

We felt like true adventurers.

Then, last night I read this article that Chris had posted on Twitter.

It turns out that we are not alone and that there is even an acronym for sad old goats like us.

MAMIL's....middle aged men in Lycra.

The correspondent from the BBC says:

Flashy sports cars are out, now no mid-life crisis is complete without a souped-up road bike. Why?

Every weekend, across the nation's rolling countryside, watch out for the Mamils: middle-aged men in lycra.

Research conducted by the retail analyst Mintel suggests there has been a surge in the number of middle-aged men choosing to get on two wheels.

So there you have it...our great adventure is actually no more than a mid-life crisis and as we're slogging our way up the Tourmalet we'll probably get stuck behind a long queue of balding men with tight lycra suits bursting under the strain of all those middle aged stomachs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hurrah - 2011 Tour de France to start in Vendée

Yay, great news for us residents of Cognac that simply love seeing a stage of Le Tour live.

The 2011 tour kicks off on the 2nd July in the Vendée which is only a two hour drive away.

You can see details of the opening stages on the official site here.

If you have never been then I heartily recommend it as a day out.  It's not just for cycling enthusiasts and the "caravan" that precedes the race is a real sight to behold.

For those gamblers amongst my readership I see you can currently get 5/2 on Andy Schleck being the outright winner....a wee flutter and you may even be able to book into the beautiful Chateau de L'Yeuse in Cognac to round off your day.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Best buy" table for French mortgages

One of the (many) reasons that my clients use me is for my "little black book" of local contacts.  It has been built up over seven years and I only add people that I am confident will provide an excellent service. From local notaires to foreign exchange dealers and from plumbers to English speaking IT specialists.

If they let me, or my clients, down I strike them from the list.

I have always been loathe to talk to clients about mortgages as it's an area I know absolutely nothing about but I have recently added a man who is an expert in this area into my list of contacts.

Before I give you his name I must point out that if you were to use his company to obtain a mortgage, and said that I had recommended them, then I would be paid a referral fee. 

I'm satisfied though that his references are impeccable and his company, International Private Finance, have been working with my partners at FrenchEntrée for many years and come highly recommended.

You can contact John Richardson by email at john.richardson@internationalprivatefinance.com or by phone on +44 (0)207 484 4610

If you want to see the IPF current "Best buy" table for French mortgages then click here.

Welcome to the book John....


Six in ten would like to leave Britain says the Telegraph

"Will the last person to leave Britain please remember to switch off the lights" says Ian Cowie in this article in the Daily Telegraph following a survey of 7,500 people by Aon.

They claim that nearly six in 10 Britons would like to retire overseas, making us the most unhappy Europeans about the quality of life in our home country.

By contrast 81% of French people said that they would be happy to retire in their own country.

This headline seems to crop up every August.  PR people know that it's a great time of year for surveys like this as journalists scrabble around for heavyweight news.

It seems to me that my French friends and neighbours here aren't particularly great explorers and travellers. 

Many of them make the grand trek from the charente to the charente maritime for their summer break. 

You can hardly blame them as we have some of the best beaches in Europe close by and the "Ile de Ré" off the coast at La Rochelle is simply beautiful....but you get my point.

As I have said before life in France isn't necessarily better, it's just different.

It happens to suit our current family circumstances down to the ground.  We love the schooling, healthcare, general facilities, low crime rate and general slow pace of life.  We're really happy here and our quality of life is superb. I'm able to fully participate in my childrens life and, to me, that is worth more than the BMW, big house and big salary I left behind.

However, when the girls go to university or start their career I can think of no better place than London.  It's cosmopolitan, fast paced, fun, full of bright people and it's where the money is at.  I want them to experience both worlds so they can make their own educated choice as to which they prefer.

Ultimately life is what you make it.  If you are one of the 6 out of 10 that want to leave Britain then my advice would be to make sure it's for positive reasons rather than just because you think moving abroad will solve all your problems.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Savills Residential Property Focus - August 2010

Here is the link to the full report that I blogged about yesterday.

It is beautifully produced and well written by one of the most respected property researchers in the UK.

I heartily recommend that you download it and spend time reading it.

On page 5 you'll see forecasts for the market in 2015 - the analysis is carefully thought through and well presented.

But.....on a day when the economist at World First tweeted "Errr.... The US is bankrupt. Why has everyone not realised this"? (albeit in jest I hope) and Trulia saying that one in four of their US property listings has seen a price cut, can these forecasts be any more than an expensively educated guess?

It's all good fun though and it fuels the flames of media coverage.


Charente Maritime beaches hit the spot

It was the senior partners birthday on Monday so I took a hooky day off work and we went to the coast with the girls.

Being August Royan was pretty packed so we took a side road and ended up in a cove on the north side called Conche de Pontaillac.

It was far less crowded and we even nabbed the last beach-facing table at the "Le Calu Met" restaurant next to the casino where J-A and the girls had grilled sardines and pronounced them delicious.

The sandy beach was impeccably clean and the water warm and clear.  There are a host of ice cream parlours to choose from and we'll certainly be making a return visit soon.

We're spoilt for choice living here and we could easily spend a week exploring the coastline rather than the "hit and run" day jobs that we tend to do.


One in four UK first time buyers looking to buy abroad...

...and it would be nice to think that after they have done their research they plump for this slice of paradise we call the charente valley.

Todays Daily Telegraph has run this amazing story (well it is August) with FX dealer Moneycorp claiming:

“Despite turbulent economic times our report shows that a staggering one in four first-time buyers are considering investing in overseas property at the moment,“ said David Kerns, money-dealing manager at Moneycorp, which commissioned the research.

What they don't say is what a huge gap there is between "considering" and "doing".

I well remember that when I was a teenager I considered flying to the USA and asking Jaclyn Smith (always the classiest of Charlies Angels) out on a date.... but then I met a girl at Esher College and decided it was easier and cheaper to remain close to home.


Rising/Falling house prices - it's irrelevant to an estate agent

There is a huge amount of press coverage today about the current state of the UK housing market.

There is this, tongue in cheek, take from The Guardian where Patrick Collinson laughs at the members of the RICS who blame falling prices on the media.

The Savills "suckers rally" report has attracted plenty of coverage too but my favourite is this article by Tracy Corrigan in the Daily Telegraph.

She says that falling prices would be good for first time buyers and struggling home owners. She finishes by saying:

The problem with the British housing market is not that we all aspire to own property. That is perfectly sensible. The problem is that we sometimes forget why we want to own our own homes.

As I have said before house prices are actually pretty irrelevant if you earn your crust as an estate agent (or buying agent come to that).  The only figure that really counts is the number of transactions in your particular marketplace.

Sadly these statistics simply don't grab the headlines and aren't seen as the latest "hot topic" at dinner parties. Try talking about them and watch the eyes glaze over.

If you are interested though then there's a great article here showing where you can find these crucial (but slightly boring) statistics for the UK market.

If anyone knows where I can find similar stats showing international buyers in France please do get in touch.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Suckers rally" say Savills - a headline that may take some explaining

My old colleagues at Savills may have some explaining to do if any recent clients happen to drop in for afternoon tea over the coming weeks.

Yolande Barnes is their head of residential research and is quoted in this Bloomberg article as saying:

“The mainstream housing market is at a tipping point....the lack of homes for sale and drop in transactions resulted in price gains that some in the stock market might call a ‘sucker’s rally.”

They also say that the market probably won’t recover until 2012. Prices will drop 2.5 percent this year and 1 percent in 2011.

Hmmm...fighting talk but if I had just bought a house through Savills buying agency Prime Purchase I'm not sure I'd be best pleased at the colourful and headline grabbing description used.


Six hectares in the heart of Grand Champagne

I took a client to view my favourite house recently.

It sits atop a hill in the heart of the prime Grand Champagne region, surrounded by over six hectares of private woodland. The location and beauty of the neighbouring vineyards make it a truly unique property (and I try to limit myself to using that word once a year).

On the market for €400,000 I know that the owner is desperate to sell this summer - I won't dwell on the sad reason for her wanting to move. Suffice it to say that the lucky buyer will pick this amazing property up for a bargain price.

There's something magical about the place and if I had the funds I would be signing the compromis for myself right now rather than writing this and day-dreaming.


Monday, August 02, 2010

FT says it's "insane" not to use a buying agent

Wonderful article in this week-ends Financial Times about the benefits of using a buying agent.  You can read the full article here. Meanwhile here's a quick taster:

Indeed, what is anyone doing buying a house at any price without taking advice? Think about it and it is all a bit nuts. Most people wouldn’t dream of investing even a few hundred thousand pounds in the stock market without a wealth manager holding their hand. And they couldn’t imagine spending their only million on a painting on the advice of one gallery owner.

Yet when we buy houses, we trawl around a few estate agents until we find one we think we like. Then, ignoring the fact that the agent is acting for the seller, we look at it for an average of 96 minutes, negotiate with him ourselves and, after the odd interjection from our solicitor about whether or not the dishwasher is included, we pay up.

That’s not just insane at the top end of the market – it is insane throughout the market.

Search agents were invented to suit a bubble market – the idea being that they would seek out houses for their clients before they came to market and buy them before the competition even knew they existed. That still makes sense in a few areas. But in a market like today’s, where prices and supply are uncertain and estate agents are desperate to make sales, all buyers need someone on their side, whether they are spending £400,000 or £4m.

Get a good agent and they should be worth every penny of the 1-2 per cent they cost.

Here here (and the advantages multiply if you are looking to buy abroad).