Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lonely Planet votes Poitou Charentes in the top 10 places in the world

The Lonely Planet "Top 10 places in the world" has just been can see their full list here.

It's probably not too surprising to see the Mayan Route in South America, the tropical island of Borneo, or Queenstown national park in New Zealand listed as the best spots on the planet.

But it may come as a surprise to see Poitou Charentes alongside these illustrious and exotic locations. 

Lonely Planet says:

With quiet country roads wending through vine-striped hills and wild stretches of coastal sands interspersed with misty islands, the Atlantic coast is where the French get back to nature. Much more laid-back than the Med (but with almost as much sunshine) and ideally suited to family holidays, this is a place where you can slow the pace right down.

And there are numerous ways in which to do this. You could spend a morning quietly greeting curious ducks as you kayak down the glowing green canals, rivers and streams of the Marais Poitevin. You could cycle over the lazy landscapes of the dreamy Île de Ré or raise a glass in the pretty town of Cognac.

The article ends by saying that we are "woefully under-visited by foreigners".

With an average property price of just €140,000, yet easy access to airports in Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Poitiers, you can see why 2012 may well see an influx of international buyers to our region.  Each one looking for their own slice of paradise.

The top pic is the view from the terrace at my parents-in-law who live in "my" village here in the Charente whilst the two above were also taken in our village (midway between Cognac & Jarnac). 

We always thought that our secret was safe but it looks as though Lonely Planet has well and truly let the cat out of the bag.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bruno Mars rocks Nantes

I have always wanted to visit Nantes as it is consistently voted one of the best places in France to live.

So last Friday I took the girls to see Bruno Mars in the Zenith concert hall and we spent the week-end exploring the region (more of which another time).

Nantes centre was impressive - it's clean, attractive and has an upmarket feel about it. We had a beautiful lunch in L'Entrecote followed by dessert in the Haagen-Dazs café. The streets were filled with students and there was a real buzz about the place.

The concert was superb. 

It's an excellent venue as it's pretty small (6,000 capacity) and you really feel part of the spectacle. The crowd seemed to consist of middle class teenagers who looked as though they were on a day out from Hogwarts College. I'm sure that one of the girls in the queue next to us was called Hermione - they were polite, excitable and there wasn't a "hoodie" in sight.

I've seen some showmen - including Robbie Williams at the Albert Hall - but Bruno Mars really does top the lot.  His vocals were spot on and he was a true pro.  His guitar stopped working just before he launched himself into "Marry you" but he just said "blow it" (or words to that effect) and carried on without it.

He also did his best to interact with the locals, despite the language barrier, and he simply couldn't have put more energy into it.


If you get the chance to go to either Zenith or Bruno Mars I heartily recommend both.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

French Magazine - international buyers returning

Here's a copy of my latest article for the excellent French Magazine.

Read it through and you'll see that there is evidence to show that international buyers see France as a safe haven at the moment and are, once again, back in the French property market.

Analysts at both Savills & Knight Frank have been pushing property over here to their wealthy clients.

I also set out the role of a private client buying agent and explain how a good one could help you save both time and money.

Hope you enjoy it.  This month you will see that French Magazine is rebranding to FrenchEntrée Magazine - it's available in all good newsagents and well worth picking up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest blog - The lowdown on French house insurance

Today's guest post is from the insurance specialists at Policy Expert:
As in the UK, if you buy a property in France – you’ll need to insure it. As a general rule, purchasing your home insurance direct from a French provider will be the most cost effective way of going about it. However, for some foreign buyers, they may feel a little unsure about buying French insurance due to the language barrier. For the most part, it works in a very similar way to insurance over here - so don’t feel too daunted by it.

If you’re looking to cover your French home, here are a few useful pointers that should be helpful:

Common ways to buy

As you’ll find in this country, there are a number of channels through which to purchase your insurance – here are 3 of the most popular. Firstly, there are the insurance agents (agents généraux/agent d’assurance) who act on behalf of a particular insurance company to sell their products to the public. You may find an agent who is local to your property, making it easy to go in and have a face-to-face chat with them about your requirements. Remember, you obviously won’t be offered a choice of providers and that the price may be more than if you went direct.

Next, you have insurance brokers (courtiers) who will normally represent a small pool of insurers – thus giving you more choice, but not usually the whole of market. They may not offer you the cheapest deal on the market but they should be able to find you the cover you need. They may work on a commission structure, so be careful you’re not being unnecessarily oversold.

Finally, there’s the Groupement des entreprises mutuelles d’assurances (GEMA) - which is a non-profit making cooperative of providers who operate without intermediaries.

Going direct

Unlike in this country, it seems that the French are less likely to go direct to the insurer – but this doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Many well-known insurers such as Groupama and Aviva operate in France and you can always go straight to the source and contact them by phone or via the internet.

Online comparison

If you’re a fan of online comparison sites and want to go down that route – here are three French ones you could try:, and

The process

Much like our UK system, you’ll be asked to complete an insurance application - which is called ‘proposition d’assurance’ in France. This will be in the form of a questionnaire that’s designed to help your insurer establish the amount of risk your property poses to them. It’s absolutely crucial to be accurate and honest with your answers, or your policy may be deemed invalid should you ever need to claim. With that in mind, it may be advisable to get some translation assistance at this point if your language skills are a bit rusty.

The insurer will then provide you with written details of the premium you must pay, the cover you’re buying and any terms and conditions that apply. Again, if you only have basic French, it may be wise to seek a native speaker to run through this with you before you sign anything.

This article was written by Policy Expert who are insurance specialists, providing house insurance to homeowners in the UK.  You can use their website to compare quotes and buy online.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Why use a buying agent - reason #237

 This is a terrific ad for Google streetview (you should click on it to see it clearly).

It also demonstrates one of the many reasons that you should use a local, professional, buying agent if you're considering buying a property in France.

As you may well know, it's customary here for many immobiliers to give the name of "the next village along" when advertising houses.  They don't want other agents to pinch the instruction.

Similarly, private sellers on Le Bon Coin or PAP rarely give out the address of their house.

This means that viewings are often a journey into the unknown.

Mandate a buying agent and they will have visited the property and given you their opinion on it as well as offering you photos, video, google earth imagery, location plan, cadastral plan details and pretty much anything else you want to know.

I can stand outside a house, take a panoramic pic on my mobile, send it immediately by email and chat it through with my client in the space of a minute.

Forget the fact that I know the market in the Charente valley like the back of my hand, will scour it fully on your behalf, will negotiate the lowest price possible (using comparable evidence I have collected along the way) and will be acting solely for you....I think that reason #237 is a pretty compelling one all by itself.

Estate agency is a rapidly changing business, the buyer is king and we need to meet their needs to prosper.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How's this for a tidy wood pile....

Just back from a lunchtime walk in the vines with the senior partner.  This month we celebrate eight years of living in the Charente and we were saying how happy we are that we made the move relatively early on in life.

In our previous incarnation she would spend her lunch break stalking the boutiques of Bond Street and Regent Street in search of a new pair of shoes.

Fortunately this is no longer an option (although she does rate Rue St Catherine in Bordeaux pretty highly) and she's perfectly happy strolling through the local vineyards with nary a shop in sight.

She was in seventh heaven today when we walked past this wood pile as she does like things to be particularly neat & tidy, in fact she was most insistent that I take a photo.

 It made me chuckle.....oh how our lives have changed since coming here.

International property buyers flock to France

I was up early this morning looking through some of the stats from around the FrenchEntrée Property Finders network. 

One noticeable trend is the increase in buyers from around the world.  Of course, we get our fair share of mandates from UK residents looking to appoint a buying agent in France but take a look at some of the other countries that our clients have bought from in the last 12 months.

Hong Kong
South Africa

If you add in countries that we have current mandates from then this list increases further.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.  For any international purchaser looking to buy a house in France it must be a daunting prospect and instructing a professional to act purely on your behalf will be a natural reaction.

Central London is seeing a huge amount of interest from international buyers at the moment - investors see prime property as a safe haven in these turbulent times.

French property offers a similar kind of appeal.  The property market here is traditionally one of the most stable in the world and we have an economy that is amongst the strongest in Europe.  Both Savills & Knight Frank have recently identified France as a place the world's wealthy want to buy and it's clear from our figures that this is the case.

Our agents work well with vendors,  local immobiliers and notaires all over France and another interesting stat to come out this morning was that we have helped clients buy property in a price range that stretches from €52,000 to €4,500,000.

Looking at the lower figure perhaps it's not just the super rich that know a good thing when they see it.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Guest blog - Quick Move Now

This month I have invited the team at Quick Move Now to present a guide to the top 10 unusual UK mortgages:

1. Muslim mortgages

A large Muslim population in many cities in the UK now means many lenders are offering Muslim mortgages. These are ones that comply with Sharia Law.

2. Unusual home mortgages

Unusual homes such as lighthouses, windmills, barges or even shipping containers may need a special type of mortgage. Many high street lenders and mainstream insurers may be loath to take on such business, preferring instead the more straightforward flats, family homes and bungalows found in every town and village. As a result, many lenders and insurers will charge a premium to those opting to live in more individual surroundings.

3. 125% mortgages

This is where the lender will advance funds up to 25% more than the purchase price or re-mortgage valuation. The funds are obtained purely with proof of income. Applicants normally need a very good credit history. Lenders who offer this special type of mortgage include Northern Rock, Mortgage Express and BM Solutions.

4. Builder deposit mortgages

This is where a builder genuinely provides 5%-15% deposit without the need for you to provide one for yourself. This has to be a medium sized local builder or a large national builder.

5. Self certification mortgages

These are designed for self employed people and those who find it hard to prove their earnings. Borrowers state their own income and the mortgage amount is based on the declared earnings. Self cert mortgages are open to abuse by people fraudulently declaring their earnings to be higher than they are. This is, however, a criminal offence. The FSA (Financial Services Authority) estimates self cert mortgages make up 6% of the market.

6. Shared equity mortgages

Ideal for first time buyers, shared equity schemes allow people who are struggling to get on the housing ladder a chance to buy a property in partnership with the lender or government. Under the Government HomeBuy shared equity scheme you buy 75% of a property yourself with a shared equity mortgage from a select number of lenders and the remaining 25% with the help of a 'top up' shared equity home loan from the mortgage lender and the Government. After 5 years, a small amount of interest is payable on the ‘top-up' shared equity loans which are fully repayable when you sell the property. When you sell the shared equity property you may have to also forfeit a portion of any increase in equity.

7. Shared ownership mortgages

These often occur in partnership with housing associations where the tenant elects to buy a percentage of the house and pays rent on the rest. You may be able to increase your share as time goes by, sometimes to 100%; this is called 'staircasing'.

8. Euro mortgages

A Euro mortgage is basically the same as a UK mortgage except it is denominated in euros rather than pounds, and its rate will be allied to the interest rate set by the European Central Bank. Switching your mortgage away from pounds to euros may seem attractive for pro-Europeans or a chance to make some money on the currency markets, but is it worth risking your biggest financial commitment? Switching to a euro mortgage for most people is a high-risk gamble, which could easily backfire. Currency markets are fairly volatile - and you could get caught out.
9. Guarantor mortgages

With a guarantor mortgage a parent or close family member can either cover the shortfall in the mortgage needed to cover the borrowers income or can cover the full mortgage amount. By covering the mortgage, or part of it, the guarantor is liable to make payments if the principal slips into arrears or defaults. For instance, if you earn £20,000 you could borrow £80,000. If the property you want to purchase is worth £130,000, there is a shortfall of £50,000 that the guarantor would cover. The mortgage lender will assess the guarantor’s income, current mortgage and other financial commitments to ensure that they can cover the loan amount.

10. Buy-to-let mortgages

Buy to Let Mortgages are mortgages specifically designed for people who want to invest in the property market by purchasing one or more houses and letting them out to tenants. The Owner is then able to benefit from any appreciation in the capital value of the house itself. They are also likely to be able to maintain the property and meet much of the loan repayment from the revenue realised by letting. The buy to let phenomenon has driven house prices higher over the last few years while making a broader section of rental accommodation available. Most buy-to-let mortgages are interest only, and the max amount borrowed is usually 80% of value of the property. Rent often has to be 125% of the monthly repayment (although this has recently relaxed because of rising house prices)

Quick Move Now are one of the leading house buying companies in the UK. They pay up to 90% of the value of your house and can turn around in as little as 7 days. Visit for more info.