Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Twitter - 5 "must follow" property people for 2011

There are all kinds of people using Twitter to post their opinions about the property market - so many in fact that it's sometimes difficult to wade through the chaff and find links & opinions that are genuinely helpful.

Listed below are five people that can help with this.  All post reasonably regularly and, while I don't always agree with what they say, I do know that it will be well researched and based upon experience in the field.

So, in no particular order, here are five "must follow" property folk for 2011:

@HenryPryor - an ex Savills agent who, as he says, provides "Objective housing data and comment from BBC Breakfasts' “favourite property expert”.

@MelanieBien - sadly she's an Arsenal supporter but if you can forgive her that you'll be treated to some excellent research and comment. She describes herself as "Director of Communications for independent mortgage broker Private Finance and commentator on all things mortgage and property-related".

@DavidAdamsCH - frequent posts from David Adams, "head of residential at leading property consultancy Chesterton Humberts, discussing the property market in London and around the country."

@PropertyJourn - respected property journalist Graham Norwood, in this era of keen amateur bloggers he's a great example of how far removed they are from what "real" journalism is all about. Describes himself as "Property journalist and author. Devon-living, F1-obsessing, cinema-going, OU-studying, BTL-owning".

@property_whore - the always cheery Nigel Lewis. Nigel is "a property editor and writer who has worked for the Daily Mail, Channel 4 property magazines, propertfinder.com and The Digital Property Group".

Of course, there are plenty of others in the Twitterverse and all of the above are UK based - it's a start though and I'll leave you to start adding others from the USA, continental Europe and further afield.

Please do let me know if there are others you think should be added to the "must follow" list....


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1 in 5 UK pensioners to emigrate in next thirty years

My early morning reading today was this article on http://www.findaproperty.com/.

Heavyweight bodies such as the Institute of Public Policy Research as well as Age Concern, Saga and the government know one thing - when people retire more and more of them are moving overseas.

But why this seemingly mass exodus of third-age Brits?

The author gives five reasons:

1. We're living longer and retiring earlier - moving abroad can give a new lease of life.
2. Property is often cheaper so we get more for our money.
3. Low cost airlines mean "the world is a smaller place".
4. The weather is usually warmer and life more active.
5. The cost of living is often cheaper.

I think that the first point is an interesting one.  You often hear that people who retire miss their jobs, feel at a loose end and lack challenges in life.

If you do your research properly I'd say that moving to a new country offers all kinds of opportunities, particularly if moving from a small island to somewhere as vast as continental Europe.

When people ask why we moved from the UK in 2003 I give different answers depending upon how I'm feeling. There wasn't one single reason but a whole collection of them.  One answer that does come out often though is that life isn't a dress rehearsal. 

We get one opportunity in life and I want to make the most of it. 

So I say "Best of British" to those pensioners that fancy a change - do your research, get your affairs in order then let your hair down and go for it!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Daily Mail - expats really do have the good life

I came across this article in the Daily Mail which runs the sub-heading "It's safer, cheaper and schools are better abroad".

What a generalisation....is it safer in Afghanistan, cheaper in Japan and are the schools really better in Kenya? 

The good news is that the article pointed me to this research by HSBC bank which does make interesting reading.  I would actually take issue with some of it (particularly the bits on integration) but I will leave it to you to read and make up your own mind as to what the results show.

The two top concerns for ex-pats were firstly "re-establishing a social life" and secondly "missing friends and family". 

Hand on heart I can say that these haven't been an issue for us in the Charente.  We're seven years in now and do feel part of the local community with plenty of friends and a full social diary.  With four airports within easy reach and the TGV on our doorstep we haven't lacked for visits from friends & family either!

The bit where I'd take issue is where only 57% of expats in France said it was easy to make "local" friends compared to, for example, 62% of expats in Russia.  Sorry but I simply don't believe this to be true.

Anyway, have a trawl through and let me know what you think.  I'll leave you with one excerpt that I do believe:

"In contrast, expats moving to countries that score well on the quality of life league table such as South Africa, Spain and France are much less appealing as destinations to those looking for increased career progression and financial gain.  Less than one in five (18%) expats moving to Spain did so for potential financial gain, alongside 26% in France and 40% in South Africa".

It's a great life here in rural SW France but if you're moving out to meet fellow entrepreneurs & make your millions then you'd be better off heading for Paris or the Cote d'Azur!

You're much more likely to meet the beast pictured above than a Ferrari in Jarnac high street and I can't remember the last time that house prices or school fees dominated the dinner party conversations.

Long may it continue....


Monday, December 13, 2010

Is French property a "safe haven"?

There's quite a startling article on This is Money today. It has the headline "Dream is crumbling for home owners in PIGS" and you can read the full story here.

It highlights the drop in house prices in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain and says that there are "fears that some properties could become unsaleable in the short term".

I have little direct knowledge of these markets but a slight grin did come to my face when I read that buyers from the continent and Russia have kept the Portuguese market buoyant...I'd love to know the transaction numbers that back up that particular assertation!

I guess that the good news from the story comes at the start:

"About 425,000 Britons have homes abroad, according to market research company Mintel, with 6.5m more dreaming of owning a place in the sun".

I'm absolutely convinced that there is a huge wave of UK buyers waiting for "the right time" to buy a property in France and that once confidence is restored transaction numbers of international buyers over here are going to soar.  Of course, nobody can possibly say whether this will be in six months or six years.

What we can say though is that France has one of the most robust and stable property markets in the world.  It is not reliant on buyers from the UK, Russia or anywhere else and historically it simply hasn't been prone to rampant inflation or the subsequent deflation.

As the well named and always articulate Melanie Bien says in the article:

"Ownership should be for the long term, with decisions to buy and sell not based on knee-jerk reactions to what is happening day to day".

And I, for one, can't think of a better long term country to buy in than France.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

French property portal Seloger to "develop abroad"

You may remember me writing this post saying that German publishing giant Axel Springer were looking to buy the leading French property portal http://www.seloger.com/ which boasts over one million listings across France.

Well, the securities regulator over here, the Autorite des Marches Financiers has just given them the OK to go ahead with the purchase, reported to be for €566 million.

Estate Agent Today is running this story which says:

However, even though the French regulator has said the Axel Springer bid is valid and can go ahead, it’s not a done deal.

Seloger, which has just reported a 12.6% rise in turnover this year, did not seem awfully impressed by its suitor.

However, Axel Springer already owns 12.4% of the portal and says that its offer still stands and it is up to the other shareholders.

And here comes the scary bit: could Seloger come over to the UK? Axel Springer says it wants to see it develop further, “both in France and abroad”.

One thing we all have to bear in mind is that the French do like to buy houses privately with around 50% of all transactions being done this way. 

Websites like http://www.pap.fr/ , http://www.entreparticuliers.com/ and even http://www.leboncoin.fr/ are all incredibly powerful.

I'm sceptical that "abroad" means the already well established UK market, there would be easier nuts to crack across continental Europe.

Still, this is going to be one to watch in 2011.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Charente estate agents - my wall of fame

Fortunately I have been pretty busy lately, scouring the countryside (weather permitting) on behalf of four different clients, all of whom want to visit, and buy, either in December or January.  I have racked up plenty of kilometres in the company of many local agents immobiliers.

There are literally hundreds of estate agents on my patch.  Even I don't know them all and I'm living and breathing property out here five days a week, 52 weeks of the year (well, maybe with the odd holiday thrown in, but you get the picture).

Some of these agents really are first class - helpful, professional and trustworthy and so I thought it worthwhile sharing some of my favourites with you.

Cognac - the first house I ever bought on behalf of a client was a small townhouse in the centre of Cognac and we bought it through a delightful chap called Jerome Desset. He has since started his own agency and I have yet to find a more thorough agent out here.

Jarnac - there are some terrific agents in Jarnac including Charente Immobilier and Ariane Immobilier. The one that I would like to highlight though is an agent immobilier called Hervé Pauillac who will be starting an office on behalf of Maison d'Immobilier in the town centre.  It will be a tough market to crack but Hervé is the most honest and mild mannered agent I have worked with and I wish him luck.

Ruffec - I have mentioned them before but I always look forward to viewings with Christophe Guay and his team at TIC Immo.  They are a truly friendly and professional bunch and heartily recommended.

Chateauneuf - there's only one winner here.  I have been working with Don Kingdom of Cabinet Pellet since I started out in 2003 and it's been a pleasure.  We must have shared thousands of cups of coffee while out on viewings and his agency always seems to have something different to offer.

Angouleme - what a crowded market place with nigh on 100 agencies to choose from.  My favourite for sure is John West of Leggett Immobilier.  He's a trained architect and a true professional. When I view houses with him I tend to stand back and listen as he can spot things in an instant that it would take me a week to come up with.

St Jean D'Angely - another town swimming with agents.  My favourites are the little known Immobiliere Saintongeaise and Caroline Knight.  They are a small, friendly agency and I know from experience that Caroline really looks after her clients well, guiding them through the process from start to finish.

Villebois Lavalette - this is a simply stunning town and my first port of call is Anne Montauban of Europ Immobilier.  She's enthusiastic and knows her local market like the back of her hand (or "like her pocket" as they say over here).

Barbezieux - I usually start any searches here by speaking to Georgia Taylor.  She has lived in the area for a while now and her "little black book" of local artisans is almost as full as mine!

La Rochebeaucourt - this is a bit of a cheat as it's Joanna Leggett of Leggett Immobilier.  They actually have agents all over France including Charente, Charente-Maritime and my other neighbouring departments. Their website is one of the best around and Joanna is always most helpful.

Of course these are only a few of the agents I deal with - there are dozens more that could have made this list and apologies to those who I have left out.

If you have the time & inclination to visit them then I'm sure you will be given a warm welcome.

Don't forget though that by appointing me you would automatically be given access to all of these agents plus hundreds more (as well as those notaires who sell houses too). 

The beauty of appointing a buying agent is that we have the time, contacts and local knowledge to help you view everything that is on the market.....and often properties that aren't even being formally marketed or are only for sale privately.

Anyway, hope you found this useful and if you're an estate agent covering departments 16 & 17 and think you have something different to offer my clients then please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Who knows you might even get a mention on my next wall of fame!


Monday, December 06, 2010

Frosty the charentaise snowman

Meet Frosty - he may seem like a pretty feeble snowman compared to UK efforts but I can tell you that getting even a sprinkling of snow in the Charente is a big deal.

Airports, roads and schools were closed for a couple of days and my property viewing schedule ground to a halt.  It's no joke trying to navigate some of these rural French roads when your car is trying to audition for a guest slot on Dancing on ice.

One of the reasons we chose to live in the area around Cognac is the fact that it's the second sunniest part of France, after the Cote d'Azur.  I can't remember the exact figures but think that it gets around 2,400 hours of sunshine a year on average.

Well monsieur le soleil has been pretty conspicuous by his absence these past couple of weeks. 

Mind you, the countryside has been even more impressive than usual.  Here are some pics of my friend Christian Martin and his vineyard in the heart of Grande Champagne. You can see he's not overly impressed with this bizarre "English" weather:

Sadly Frosty has gone off to help Santa prepare for Christmas and normal service has now been resumed with children back at school and a back-log of viewings to be done asap.

'Twas nice while it lasted.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Is this the worlds best Christmas tree?

The Sofitel hotel in London St. James has gone all out to impress visitors this Christmas. Their festive tree is adorned with Baccarat crystal bottles holding Louis XIII, Grand-Champagne Cognac.

The estimated value of the sixteen-and-a-half-foot creation is more than €50,000.

The 200 miniature bottles were handmade by Baccarat and finished with 24 carat gold. At least five expert craftsmen worked on each bottle, hotel officials say.

I'm thinking of trying to get some press coverage for Cognac Property Services by emulating this feat and filling some miniatures from my old friends at Chez Bacou (remember them from this post?) and hanging them from the €15 tree I plan on buying from Jarnac market.

Sadly though I'm pretty sure that they would all be empty by the time it came to put the angel on the top :-)


Friday, December 03, 2010

Come & say hello at The France Show 2011

As usual I will be making my way to Earls Court for the three days of The France Show, this year it's 14-16th January.  You can see the official website here.

It's always great fun meeting so many people who are interested in moving to France....everyone who comes to the stand has a different story to tell.  I will be on the FrenchEntrée Property Services stand along with colleagues from all over France and it's a great opportunity for us to chat about our different markets.

We will be the only "buying agents" present at the show....all of the other agencies are traditional immobiliers who are mandated by the seller.  If you are still unclear about the difference (shame on you as you're not a regular reader) then click here to see the Wikipedia definition.

Visitors to the show this year will be able to experience the largest French market outside of France as well as try their hand at Petanque, wine tasting or even a language lesson.

Most people will also come and take a look at the Property section and we will be delighted to share our experience of living, working and buying property in France.

You will find us on Stand 91 so please do drop by and say hello.