Monday, October 04, 2010

How to value French property...

Last month I was mandated by some international clients to find a chateau & vineyard close to Bordeaux.

The lead originally came from the team at FrenchEntrée and they have some excellent existing relationships with immobilers who specialise in this type of property.

We sourced some spectacular places and so, last Saturday, I met my clients at their hotel and we spent a day viewing a couple of them.

We stopped off at a local restaurant for lunch (it's near Langon and is called Le Nord Sud, I heartily recommend can see their website here) and over a terrific meal we had an interesting discussion about how you value a chateau & vineyard.

Clearly one needs to look at it as an existing business but then you also need to factor in:

  • the value of the chateau itself and any other buildings
  • the value of the vineyard and land (soil type, orientation)
  • the stock of wine currently held in the cellars
  • the machinery that comes with a working vineyard
  • the "x factor" that is given by the history of the property & grounds
Some of these are incredibly specialist areas.

I have a very good friend who is cellar master at Polignac which is one of the leading brands of Cognac. For ten years he was also the cellar master at one of the leading Bordeaux producers in the Medoc. He tells me that while he is perfectly capable of tasting and testing the existing wine stock he would not be able to give an accurate forecast as to its worth - that's a different job entirely.

Similarly, one of the chateau's that we visited is the former home of one of the world's most famous post impressionist painters. What kind of value does this add to the property?

So, at the end of our lunch we decided that any valuation has to include a combination of balance sheet analysis, collective expertise and comparable evidence...but it's also going to include plenty of shoulder shrugging and a dash of "je ne sais quoi".

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