Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Some other great French property blogs....

Fresh on the back of being shortlisted in three of the four awards run by Primelocation for property blogs I reckon that my friends at FrenchEntrée should run a similar awards scheme for blogs about French property.

There are plenty of good ones about and to get the ball rolling take a look at some of these:

Let's start with "A view from the foothills of France" where Nadia Jordan combines crisp prose with some stunning photography.  Her post "All in a days work" about a hooky day off work certainly made me jealous.

Take a look also at "Half way down on the left hand side" which gets my vote for the title alone. Val Walmsley is just setting out in the world of blogging but will be one to watch.

Rebecca Russell is a seasoned professional (it's a compliment Rebecca, don't shoot me) and this shows if you read her musings on "Cote Abode" - want to know about life and property in Nice then this is the place to go.

Just a short way along the coast in Provence you will find Neil Ranadé and "Provence property connections" - his posts are always thoughtful and well written - take a look at his writings about art in Provence.

"A word from Calvados" is another that I like - Janine posts infrequently but her thoughts are always worthwhile hearing and accompanied by interesting snapshots.

I have mentioned before that I follow Alison Morton's blog "Loire Thouet property search" - not the catchiest of titles but a real goldmine of information and written in a very professional manner.

Finally, if you still have time before you get back to work, take a look at "Perpignan Post" where Caroline Hill gives us an insight into her life down near the Spanish border.

So there we have it....a magnificent seven if ever I saw one.  Why not take a stroll around some of them and say hello.

I probably should disclose my interest here in that they're all colleagues of mine in the FrenchEntrée property finder network but, hey, you trust me by now surely.

Education in the Charente - Monty Python style

Earlier this year our President, Nicolas Sarkozy, declared that he wanted French children to learn "the language of Shakespeare" from the age of three.  Since coming to power he's been encouraging schools and colleges to embrace English and most of my French friends with children think this is a jolly good thing.

So, a couple of weeks ago my eldest (age 11) was very excited to learn that she was going on a class trip to the cinema to see an English film with French sub titles - she had been told that it was a classic comedy.

When she got back I asked her what she thought:

"Well, it was a bit gory and all the French kids kept laughing in the wrong places because the sub titles didn't follow the plot at all - but at least all the boys now know a new selection of English swear words and are having great fun in the playground"

Turns out they'd been taken to see Monty Python & the Holy Grail.  Certificate 15 and pretty difficult for an 11 year old English girl to understand the 35 year old, offbeat, sense of humour let alone a class full of French kids who have only just got to grips with the correct spelling of "Tuesday" or "February".

Having God represented by an animated version of WG Grace for example is unlikely to strike too much of a chord in a country where cricket ranks below conkers as a national sport.

Hmmm - 10/10 for the idea sir but 2/10 for the execution.....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Charente property - some fine examples

I'm often reminded by my colleague Guy (MD of FrenchEntrée) that photos of lovely properties for sale are one of the best ways of attracting visitors to a website or blog.  He should know as his website gets around 1.5 million page views every month!

People in the industry call it "property porn".

Sadly, as a buying agent, I find properties "to order" for my clients and I don't sell houses.  This means that I don't have a regularly changing portfolio of houses to show off and will always struggle when it comes to ranking highly with the search engines.

This thought struck me recently as I was driving round with some clients and showing them some simply stunning Charentaise houses.  Property in the Charente is amongst the finest in France, the local stone is creamy and particularly attractive in the sunshine, even in deepest winter.

So here's a small cross section of some of the houses that I have seen recently - hopefully it will give you a flavour of what you can expect if you are searching for a home here, these houses happen to be in the €300-500,000 range. 

No confidences betrayed, all are being actively marketed (apart from the beautiful house above which has just gone under offer to a client of mine!).

And if it helps attract a few visitors to my blog then so much the better!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Primelocation blog awards - move over Tiger

The results of the 2010 Primelocation blog awards have just been announced and what a winner they have chosen.

Propertynewshound is written by award winning journalist Graham Norwood and is in a different class to my occasional ramblings which scraped home last year.  As Graham said when he heard of his victory:

"Thank goodness that idiot in Cognac will have to keep his split infinitives to himself from now on....who cares about the French market anyway."

Actually he's probably only thinking that.  What he did say was:

“So much property writing, by industry professionals and journalists, concentrates on the most exclusive homes. They are fantastic but I wanted my blog to look at other issues, too, in a way which informed and entertained, and sometimes infuriated."

Seriously though, I'm genuinely delighted to have been shortlisted in three areas - best blog, best individual entry (for this) and users favourite as I'm aware that this year the competition was of an extremely high quality.

Any golfers among my readership will know of the tradition in the US Masters - last years winner hands over the green jacket to the newly crowned champion.

I'm the other side of La Manche from Graham and Primelocation don't present green jackets (although they do generously give Habitat vouchers) but I'm sure you get the picture.

My congratulations to a worthy winner and a hearty suggestion that you follow his blog in 2011.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bourg Charente - the jewel on the river

Bourg Charente is a cracking little village on the banks of the river Charente between Jarnac & Cognac.

It holds a special place in my heart for many reasons (it's stunningly pretty, has a Michelin restaurant, great cycling tracks with fond memories and much more).

It's come to mind this morning for two reasons.

Firstly, ex clients and now good friends Andy & Sarah have written about it on the brilliant blog "Prunings from the vines" - you can read the post and see the pictures here.

Secondly, ex clients and now good friends David & Lorraine are coming out to their house in Bourg Charente tomorrow for one of their frequent visits.  We've only known them a couple of years (and sadly they're both from the dark side and hold season tickets at the Emirates) but we've already shared many a bottle of decent red and plenty of laughter - I can't wait to see them again.

I said in my last post that sometimes I think that I have the best job in the world and when I think of new friends like Andy, Sarah, David & Lorraine it has introduced me to then I know I'm right....

The changing face of house hunting

I've been busy the last couple of weeks with two different sets of clients over from the UK.

Both couples were charming and, after three days in the car together visiting far flung parts of the Charente (I leave no stone unturned in my searches), I got to know them all quite well....conversation naturally meanders across many topics although rugby did seem to be a common denominator.

Yesterday I had a long conversation about the opportunities available to househunters in these fast changing times.  It was a lively debate and we all agreed that the customer is king and that it's the buyer who will drive through the changes.

Then I read this article in the Telegraph, written by Graham Norwood, one of my fellow nominees for the Primelocation blog award.  I heartily recommend that you read the whole article but, for me, this bit stands out:

Could apps give me more information than I could get in person from the small town’s seven local estate agencies? Yes.

Take the Rightmove app. It displays all the homes on its website within a chosen radius of where I stand.

Its interactive maps allow me to walk up a street and literally look at the house whose details are in front of me on my mobile screen – I do not need to register with any estate agent first and I can spot if the pictures of the property exclude the dodgy-looking shop next door.

Of course, there are literally hundreds of new property related apps that give you more information on a house and its neighbourhood than you could possibly need.

The three of us, in deepest rural France, decided that the Rightmove stance of not allowing private sales would have to be broken at some stage.  If you stop your car in a neighbourhood you want total information of what's for sale not partial.  So whether it's Rightmove relaxing its stance, a competitor coming in or a simple aggregating site we decided that there will, one day, be a single online source of all property listings.

We couldn't really understand the rush from single agents to produce apps showing their listings (other than PR or a short term ego boost) but decided that there would perhaps be opportunities for niche agents to do so.

All of us agreed that there's still a role for the estate agent and it was flattering that my clients described it as the service I was offering them. 

Doing initial legwork and then using my professional background and local expertise to help in the decision making process (which goes beyond the individual property to issues such as selecting the right location, advising on local restaurants, doctors, schooling etc)  and in buying their favourite house at the lowest price possible.

The internet has changed the way we live and can say where it's taking us but I'm 100% sure that the guy with the money will have a bigger say in our destiny than the person with something to sell.

Who knows.  I've had real fun over the last couple of weeks though - sometimes this is the most enjoyable job in the world....