Friday, September 30, 2011

French Magazine - a trip through western France

This is a reproduction of an article I wrote for French Magazine this summer.

I took a trip through some of my favourite parts of western France, a couple of hours north of where I live - from La Rochelle up towards Tours.

You'll see that I also took the opportunity to promote this blog by listing it as one of six that cover France and French property - a bit cheeky I know but hey I put a lot of effort in and need the readers!

If you would rather read the article in your browser then just click here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

French magazine - six sizzling hotspots

This is another of the articles that I have written this year for French Magazine.

In this one I identified six towns and cities that I thought readers might find interesting (whether to buy property or just to visit) - they are spread out throughout France but all offer something different.

One of the towns is Segonzac, which is the capital of Grande Champagne and where my daughters go to school.  Of course I'm biased but if you are looking in the charente valley then Segonzac is an excellent starting point with easy access to Cognac, Jarnac, Chateauneuf and the other pretty towns in the region.

The article also gives details of the compulsory tests that owners need to complete before they can sell their house.

If you would rather read the article in your web browser then just click here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

French Magazine - Top 10 tips for buying in France

This is another article that I wrote for French Magazine earlier this year.

Entitled "Top 10 tips for buying and selling in France" I tried to pass on some of my experience to readers.  That's over 20 years experience of the property industry (with Savills, Jackson-Stops & Chesterton) and eight years of the French property market as a private client buying agent.

If you want to read the article in your browser click here.

Hope you enjoy it.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

French Magazine - It's the early bird

This is the reproduction of an article I wrote for French Magazine at the start of the year.  If it's easier you can click here to view it in your browser.

In the article I talk about the best time to view French property and the best time to sell it (not necessarily the same) as well as giving an example of how I sourced two houses for clients before they hit the open market.

I hope that you enjoy it - I have just been sent PDF's of three other articles I have written and intend posting them up in case you missed them first time round.

You can buy French Magazine (now rebranded to be called FrenchEntrée) in any good newsagent or subscribe here

Monday, September 26, 2011

France now UK's top 2nd home choice

Good old Savills.

They have published some research into where UK buyers invest in second homes.  You can see their findings here and they open their comments with: 

"France has replaced Spain as the favourite destination for second home owners to invest. Its perception of stability, limited house price decline and ease of access help make it a safe bet for UK buyers"

 What's more they gave an exclusive preview to respected property journo Graham Norwood and you can read his article in the Daily Telegraph here.  An extract I liked was: 

"Prices across France fell 20 per cent between 2007 and 2009, but are bouncing back. Estate agent Century 21 reports an 18 per cent rise in Paris last year, while FNAIM, the estate agents’ association, reports five per cent rises across France this year.

“French banks have continued to lend on second homes, stimulating the market,” says the Savills report. Now is the time to buy before further increases".

As regular readers will know I take French house price rises/falls with a huge dollop of salt but I can't help feeling that French housing looks as good as (or better than) just about every other European asset class at present.

Viral marketing genius or a "Ratner moment"?

There's been a buzz going around the UK estate agency industry following a viral marketing capmpaign from upmarket London agency Douglas & Gordon.

The first of what we assume to be a series of "mockumentary's" was released last week and already the Daily Mail are on the case

Housing commentator Henry Pryor wonders if it will be seen as marketing genius or a "Ratner moment" for D&G in this blog post.

Personally I agree with Henry that it will do D&G far more good than harm.  Their target audience are the chic central London upper middle classes and I think that they'll appreciate the parody.  Like all good humour it's actually pretty close to the mark and anyone who has bought or sold in Central London will recognise the type of character portrayed.

Of course it will also upset a lot of people (The Sun are on their case too)....but I guess that D&G won't lose a lot of sleep over this. A quick look at their website shows that they have 12 properties under £250,000 (and none at under £200,000) but 84 at over a million.

The biggest winners though will probably be the production company who made it on behalf of D&G.

It will be interesting to see the continued reaction to it - there has already been some adverse comment from competitors but then there would be wouldn't there.

Have a look and let me know what you does contain some strong language though so be careful if playing it in the office or in front of your kids.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's vendange time in the Charente

Yup, it's that time of year again.

We need to add ten minutes onto the school run because of slow moving tractors and the roads are covered in crushed grapes that have spilled out from the trailers hurrying to take them to be pressed.

We live in the heart of "Grande Champagne" which is 13,766 hectares of the most beautiful countryside on the planet.  The people here are renowned as being "laid back" and sleepy and the roads reflect this by being as quiet as can be.

Normally it takes me eight minutes to take the girls to their school in Segonzac but this morning we were stuck behind one of the colossal grape pickers.  The country lanes are small, winding and not condusive to overtaking - try it and you could well get a closer view of the ugni-blanc grapes than you really want.

A few years ago we helped with the picking and the machines really are like something out of War of the Worlds. 

The good news is that it doesn't wind me up. There used to be a time when the M25 was a major part of my life and I suffered road rage with the best of them.  An hour to get from one side of Weybridge to the other and steam would be coming from my ears.

I'm a changed man though.

Now I just wind the window down, take in the distinct aroma of freshly picked grapes, and look forward to sampling the end product! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

RICS forecasts choppy waters for UK property sector

Have you seen the powerpoint slides from this presentation that the RICS chief economist gave to a bunch of property bigwigs at Lloyds last week?

If not then I suggest you take a look but do put your tin hat on before you open them up.

The title slide is "Economic headwinds pose new threat for property sector" and here's a selection of subheads:
  • Reality dawns - deleveraging will depress growth for forseeable future
  • Economic expectations have deteriorated over the last month
  • Consumer confidence is heading towards Jan '09 low
  • In the resi sector activity remains subdued
  • restricted mortgage lending is not the only problem
  • pressure on the property sector will continue to grow
The very last slide finishes with the words "European sovereign debt crisis - how will it end"?

Now that's a question I'd pay a bundle full of francs & centimes to know the answer to.....

Monday, September 19, 2011

France - where the wealthy want to buy second homes

Just read another decent bit of research from the Global Briefing team at Knight Frank - "Where the wealthy want to buy their second homes" - you can see the whole paper here.

In terms of countries, France was the most popular second-home choice, accounting for almost a quarter of the properties in the survey respondents' portfolios. This popularity can be explained by the country's many second-home options across all location types. France was the most popular or second-most popular choice in all categories.


They say that when investing in property you should always go for the best location you can afford and with an average property price outside Paris of €163,000 it looks like that location isn't just for the uber-wealthy clients of Knight Frank.

Charente gardens bloom in the sunshine

A few years ago I helped some clients buy the most delightful house, in the middle of the vines on the outskirts of Segonzac.  This is a pic I took from the first floor window a while back.

It really is a stupendous location and it always raises my spirits when I drive past or when I visit my ex clients to break bread and share a glass of the local plonk.

It so happens that my wife and her gardening team were at the house this afternoon - cutting the lawns, tidying up the flower beds and pulling the weeds from the driveway.  So I took the opportunity to pop across and offer a bit of support, encouragement and advice (the latter never seems to go down well though).

The sun was shining and the house looked a picture - it's at times like this that I love my job.  I know for a fact that my clients never would have found the house without me and I'm equally sure (because I have the emails to prove it) that they love the fact that my wife and her team are so diligent and meticulous with their gardening duties.

It's not all "a bed of roses" living out here but sometimes I honestly feel as though I'm the luckiest guy on the planet. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Retiring to France? Join the queue....

I've just picked up this story from the Daily Telegraph with the rather dramatic headline of:

"Expat pensioner exodus: would the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights".

It's clear that many people of (and coming up to) pension age are looking into a move abroad.  The pensions guy from Standard Life is spot on though when he says:

"Retiring abroad is a dream for many people, but does require careful planning and advice. Many people think living abroad is cheaper than living in the UK, but this isn’t always the case".

As with anything you really must do your homework if you want your move to work.  There is a small but relevant number of expat retirees in my part of SW France and it's always sad to see people arriving with high expectations but then struggling because they haven't done their homework.

The good news is that France is a pretty attractive destination (and not just because of the sunshine, scenery, pace of life, healthcare system and local plonk).

As Leggett Immobilier's respected Chief Executive, Trevor Leggett, says:

"The new wealth tax rules coming into place are making France one of the most attractive destinations in Europe, as the threshold for this tax (ISF) is increasing from €800,000 to €1.3 million. Households with assets of between €1.3m and €3m will be subject to a tax of 0.25% and for assets over €3m the tax will be 0.5%.   

There has also been one recent change to the law on Capital Gains Tax.

Previously, a reduction of 10% per year, beyond the fifth year of ownership, has been applied to the gain calculated. Therefore, sales made beyond the 15th year of holding the property had been fully exempt from CGT and social security contributions.

Now though, the tax due on the sale of these "non primary" residences will be calculated in accordance with the "Indice du Cout de la Construction" (rate of building inflation) at the time of the sale - taking into account the year you bought the property". 

Certainly my experience has been that our move to France has exceeded expectations and we have been truly happy here.  If you're thinking of something similar though you need to take off the rose tinted spectacles and make sure that you have planned thoroughly.  A good starting point is the excellent retirement section on the FrenchEntrée site - you can see it here.

Just for a moment forget location, location, location and think research, research, research.

Bon courage.