Thursday, January 27, 2011

Google retreats with a bloody nose

Rightmove shares soared today as Google sheepishly announced that it was binning its property maps search.

You can see the full story in Estate Agent Today here but they say:

Google Maps is to drop property, less than two years after the launch that threatened to change the entire property portal market.

The search engine giant had offered the service for free but blamed low usage.

In a totally unexpected move, which this morning its own press office did not know about when we asked them for a comment, Google announced that the property search feature will be dropped in all the countries where it operates, including the UK, on February 10.

I was never privy to any of the meetings that Google execs held with leading UK agents but I can't help but feel that they have cocked up badly.
With such a high percentage of all property searches beginning with the buyer tapping some kind of search criteria into Google they hold a unique position in the market place.  They have a trusted brand and, presumably, some of the brightest people on the planet working for them. They have the opportunity to create something special that revolutionises our industry and shapes the way that we buy houses in the future.
As I say, I don't know the Google property team, nor their mid to long term ambitions.... but I do know that I could name half a dozen property marketing professionals who would be able to haul them up off the floor.
With or without my help as a recruitment consultant I get the feeling they'll be back before too long.....

Shortlisted for Primelocation blog awards again!


The shortlist for this years Primelocation property blog awards has been published and I'm on it again.

This year I'm up against even stiffer competition including top journalist Graham Norwood and his blog Property Newshound.  Graham writes for all of the quality dailies and often champions the need for clarity and quality in property PR and reporting.  He gets my vote.

Also shortlisted is the excellent Melanie Backe-Hansen and her blog for Chesterton Humberts, The house historian.  Melanie also writes regularly for Country Life and she too would be a deserved winner.

Sadly both Graham & I are bringing up the rear in the public poll but to be truthful I'm proud to be nominated alongside such true professionals. 

For a "one man band" buying agent who doesn't even live or work in the UK I'm happy with my lot.

I was a bit miffed though when my lifelong friend (and best man at my wedding) Chris cheerily told me that he'd cast his vote.....for Tracy Kellet and her buyingagent blog!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New tax breaks for French holiday home owners....

I had been meaning to post something about this but was reminded of the importance today by two friends on Twitter (@HenryPryor and @WAEllis1868).

Tax on furnished holiday lettings is a complicated area, so please do seek specialist advice and take a look at the Government explanatory notes which you can find here.

To make sure your property qualifies as a furnished holiday letting, it must be:
  • in the UK or EEA (which France is of course)
  • furnished
  • available for commercial letting to the public, as holiday accommodation, for at least 140 days a year
  • commercially let as holiday accommodation for at least 70 days a year (the rent must be charged at market rate - not at cheap rates to friends and family)
  • a short term letting of no more than 31 days
The Landlord zone blog gives a decent write up (here) from which you'll see:

Owners and prospective buyers of French property may find it possible to save considerable sums of money through claiming tax relief called Capital Allowances on furnished holiday let properties.

The tax relief known as ‘Furnished Holiday Lettings’ (‘FHL’) has been under government scrutiny with plans to tighten up the tax rules. Finally draft legislation has been published setting out the future tax treatment of an FHL business.

The complex rules contain three nuggets of important information. Firstly, the FHL rules offer some very generous tax treatment for properties meeting the ‘qualifying criteria’.

Secondly, a significant part of the purchase price paid can be recovered through a combination of ‘loss relief’ and claiming ‘capital allowances’.

Thirdly, the FHL rules apply to holiday properties in all 32 countries across the EEA and applies both to properties acquired in the past and those bought in the future. In many cases, the result is a refund of taxes paid in previous years on total income including tax on employment income; in effect a ‘cashback’ on property expenditure.

I'm not sure if any of my historic clients are claiming this tax relief yet but I'm going to ask around (easy to do so as many of them have turned into friends, which can prove difficult in the Summer when I'm supposed to work but the aperitif invites are too good to turn down).
If I can find any real life examples of savings made I'll post them up (changing names & places of course).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A stroll by the river Charente

My good friend Andy is going to be fed up with me nicking his photos soon but seeing as he hasn't sent the Gendarmes round yet I thought I'd share some more with you.

I have just taken on some new clients who want me to find them a holiday home with river access.  I met them at the show in London and was trying to describe how wonderful the valley along the river Charente is.

Shame I hadn't seen this post about the weir at Vibrac at that stage, I could have fired it up on the laptop.

I often cycle along the "ponts et bras" of the Charente along here and it always takes my breath away....fortunately these pictures do it justice and I'm sure you can see why it's one of my favourite spots.

I'm not sure I'll be able to find my clients a view quite like this one but they do know that I'm going to do my damndest to hook them something special.

J'aime la Charente - it truly is a special river.

French property - optimism kicking in

Morning all and apologies for a lack of posts recently.  I have been in the UK attending The France Show in Earls Court.

It's something I do every year as it's the biggest show of its kind and a good barometer for the market.  This year was the busiest I have seen it and there was a general air of optimism and positivity (if that's a word).  I have just been going through the leads we took with the team at FrenchEntrée and they have pretty much doubled in number from last year.

It's not just the number of enquiries that we took though. 

Whilst talking with visitors to our stand they seemed a lot cheerier than in the last two years and were no longer talking about putting off their French house purchases.  On the contrary most people seemed to think that 2011 was the year that they were actually going to turn their dreams into reality...they were fed up waiting and had now made the decision to buy.

This decision may well prove a wise one in hindsight with the FNAIM predicting both single figure house growth for 2011 and a big rise in the overall number of transactions.

On my way back on the Eurostar I read that Monday (17th Jan) was supposed to be the saddest and most depressing day of the year...well not in my household. 

I have been energised by the amount of positive people I met over the week-end - only time will tell if these initial enquiries will result in mandates and sales but I, for one, am happy and optimistic.... no matter what the papers say.

Monday, January 10, 2011

If ever a village was aptly named....

I took a hooky day last week and my pa-in-law & I drove down to the Pyrenees to map out our route for the cycle ride we're undertaking later this year.

Of course, the summit of the Col de Tourmalet is closed at this time of year but we wanted to make sure that our route took us on small roads through pretty villages with plenty of welcoming cafés and bars to stop at along the way.  There's plenty of preparation needed for a ride like this but fortunately France is incredibly cyclist friendly and beau pere has plenty of experience having tackled many mountain stages previously.

Handily the Ryanair flights from London arrive in Pau at 9.15am, so we're picking up the English contingent, having brunch, then setting off from Luz St Saveur at the foot of the mountain.

Up and over the Tourmalet then we're stopping in the famous town of Lourdes after a 70km day.

Day two sees a 120km trip through the foothills of the Pyrenees and up to Mont de Marsan, then on day three we're cycling another 120 km's through the forest of the Landes up to the famous vineyards of Cadillac.

It's on day three that we'll be pedalling through the aptly named village of Sore.  I was tempted to cheat here as there's a village outside Cognac called Ars and I was going to put both photos together.  Sadly though we won't actually be going through it and I guess we won't feel like making a 20km detour at that stage just for a tacky photo opportunity.

The last day sees a straight run home through St Emillion and up to Cognac - 120 km's of gruelling hills through the rolling vineyards of the Charente.

Lourdes, Tourmalet, St Emillion, Cognac - it's going to be an epic journey and I'm determined to make it. Now I just need to lose a dozen kilos and step up my training to three days a week!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Sales of Cognac soaring - good news for the Charente

It's always good to see ones local economy booming and I was heartened to read this report on Michael Streeters excellent blog.

Michael begins his report by saying:

While many in society will be starting 2011 with the same uncertainty as they ended 2010, one sector at least will be raising a glass for 2011. The cognac industry.

At the peak of the financial and economic crisis sales of the famous drink plummeted around the world, going down to levels not seen since the dark days of the late 1990s.

In 2010, however, cognac was back with a vengeance. By the end of November 153 million bottles had been sold in the previous 12 months, the third best performance in history. (The best two were 157.1 million in 1989 and 159.3 in 2007 just before the crisis fell.)

In 2009 the equivalent figure had been just 130 million bottles.

Strong sales of Cognac around the world are good news for my friend Christian M who owns a vineyard, Christian G  who is a cellar master, Jean who works making barrels and even Martine who runs a bar (if the local economy is thriving then people spend more).

Of course more money sloshing around the Charente will also help the local housing market and we could well see the average house price in Cognac rise from its current level of €120,600 this year.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Route 403 - the best band in SW France

Call me biased (which I am because one of the members is a good friend of mine) but there is one "stand out" band currently playing in my small corner of France.

Route 403 is a trio of British musicians currently living and working in South West France.

Their repertoire of energetic Swing, Jazz and Blues, featuring cool three-part harmony, is drawn mainly from the 1940s and 1950s and includes material by such legendary artists as Louis Jordan, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee and Duke Ellington.

I have seen them play quite a few times and each time have come away with a smile on my face and a tune on my lips.  It's my 50th next year and I'm hoping that they will play a big role in the celebrations (I need to ask if they can add some Eagles to their repetoire!).

If you're planning a trip out to the Charente this year then I heartily recommend looking up their gig guide in advance (click here for a link) and taking in a show.  They often play at the Auberge de Condé in Bassac and La Courtine in Cognac - both of which do excellent food too.

Now, don't forget, if you see them on W9 in the French X factor being mentored by Christophe Willem you heard it here first!