Preventing Your Dream from Becoming a Nightmare
I know that a lot of you, while confined at home with not as much to do as usual, are surfing the Internet looking at property in France, dreaming of your new life in France or at least a part of it here.
It’s really fun, too, isn’t it? It’s like your own House Hunters International episode as you decide first where you’d like to be in France (if you don’t already know), or what kind of abode suits you best…at least within your budget. Maybe you’ve narrowed it down to three “pied-à-terres” in Paris or apartments in Nice with sea views, villas in Provence with a pool, villages houses perched way up high or even châteaux where French aristocrats once dallied. It’s all terribly romantic and exciting to fantasize about the possibilities.
If your imagination takes you further…to contacting the agencies that represent these properties, then this is where reality may slap you in the face, so I warn you before you burst your own bubble or make costly mistakes.
First off, there’s no Multiple Listing Service in France, and that changes the landscape considerably. It means that each agency represents its own pocket of properties and that’s all they have to sell. The agents therefore represent the sellers, not the buyers, and they may say or do just about anything to make that sale. They don’t care if the property is right for you, as long as they can bring a buyer to the table.
This doesn’t mean that real estate agents in France are bad people. “Au contraire.” We work with a number of wonderful agents all over the country who really do care about their clients, but it’s not their job to protect the buyer. It’s their job to list and sell the property, regardless of how good or bad that property is.
We perform a very different service, even though we are a fully licensed agency in France. Our mission statement is the complete opposite from a traditional agency as we are property consultants who work for the buyer, not the seller. Our main interest is ensuring that the buyers makes the best decisions for their own financial and lifestyle interests, not ours, nor is our goal to line our own pockets..
You might have noticed that we don’t list a lot of properties. That’s because we won’t list a property that we wouldn’t recommend our clients buy, so you can trust that any property we list or promote is a property worth owning. This is why we sell them so quickly. Very few stay on the market longer than one announcement in a Nouvellettre®. It would make your head spin and often it does ours, but we’re prepared!
Readers like you who have been surfing the Internet looking at properties often ask us to offer an opinion on something they’ve discovered by sending links to their online ads, or ask us to chase them down to learn more about them. Sometimes they fall so in love with a property they’ve seen on the Internet that they overlook some of the crucial aspects of the property…the real “bones” of the property that count. One must always remember: YOU BUY WHAT YOU CAN’T CHANGE.
What does that mean?
It means you can’t change location, views, level on which it’s located, if it has a lift or not (unless it’s already been voted to install), the size of the windows and their position for good cross ventilation, the light and orientation, the ceiling height (unless a false ceiling can be removed), the location of the sewage pipes, the supporting walls (without permissions), the ability to add air conditioning or not, the character of the building and how well kept it is, nor the neighbors you would acquire.
What you can change is everything else. That means you can take a rubble and turn it into a palace if all the other unchangeable aspects suit you. Every inch of decor is pure “smoke and mirrors.” All it takes is architectural and design talent and money to transform a property with good bones into a masterpiece. Taking a property with bad bones and investing a lot of money to turn it into a masterpiece will likely over-capitalize it and turn it into a money pit instead.
Many people have a hard time imagining a property different than it is—and tend to see just the surface aspects. They can easily be wowed by the ornate molding, the parquet or “tomette” tile flooring, the charming fireplace in the corner, the exposed beams, etc. and look past the true bones. It’s very easy to be blind-sighted by these surface elements, fall madly in love with a property that hits the right buttons and discount the elements in which they’re really investing…the “bones.”
For whatever reason, I have X-ray vision when it comes to property. Perhaps it’s my background as a graphic designer to see only the structure and layout, skipping past the color of the paint on the walls, the character of the appointments or the aspects that can be so seductive. Again, it’s like just seeing the bones and checking for any fractures or defects. Just know that I will always be 100% honest with our clients about those flaws so that every buyer can make a decision with their eyes wide open to the facts. I can’t always convince them, but I will certainly try.
This past week I had three such properties in which our clients fell in love that I evaluated and in which I found serious fault—the kind of fault that would negatively affect the pleasure of the usage of the property as well as their financial investment. Finding fault with a property that our client wants to purchase does not give me pleasure. I want to make their dream come true, but what I don’t want, is for their dream to become a nightmare. Any other real estate agent would never provide such negative opinions as it would jeopardize their sale. Remember, they work for the seller, not the buyer. But, we do.
For all of you who have been surfing the Internet, who find what you think is your dream property and are ready to make a purchase, I offer up warnings and suggestions as well as solutions to really making it happen. Here’s the best plan of attack:
1) Don’t contact the agency first. Contact us. The reason is that if we contact the agency on your behalf, rather than you going direct, we can learn a lot more truth about the property than you can. It is also highly possible the agency will be willing to share their commissions with our agency. And if that happens, we credit that fee against our fees, saving you tons of money…in fact, almost all of the fees.*
2) You can contract us to visit the property on your behalf. If the property you’ve chosen gets our thumbs up and we recommend that you make the purchase, our Purchase Transaction Assistance Service will provide all the same full range of services and resources of our Custom Search Service, but without performing the search, costing you half as much money.
3) If we don’t recommend the property you’ve set your sights on, for all the valid reasons I’ve just described, then we can be contracted for the full Custom Search Services. The truth is, we can always do a better job of ferreting out the best properties from the bunch because it’s what we’re trained and experienced to do. We know how to get beyond the surface and see “the bones”—the things you can’t change! But, don’t forget, there is still the option of sharing commissions with the seller’s agent saving you almost all of our fees!*
The bottom line is that we’re going to protect you from making a bad investment. And we’re going to hold your hand through the entire process while providing all the resources and doing the due diligence. On top of that, there is an opportunity to save you money.
* Taking fees from both the buyer and seller is a conflict of interests in my point of view. We will never do that! We are not married to any property, any agency or any agent. We are always working on YOUR behalf. Always. But, I won’t ever lie to you. Paris agents are loathe to share their commissions, so don’t expect Paris to be as open to working with us as their counterparts in the South. In Nice, it happens about 50% of the time. We have a situation right now where the commission included in a property purchase of 1.25 million euros is 60,000€. The agency is one we work with often and our share is 30,000€, being refunded to our clients, the buyers. Now, that’s a fairly big “chunk of change” that could go toward the renovation and decoration! No one is complaining!
Don’t make the mistake of acting too quickly on your own. Not only can we ensure you go about making this dream of yours come true without it turning into a nightmare, we can save you quite a lot of money as well as time and anxiety in the process. Let us contact the agency on your behalf to protect you.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
Portrait of Adrian by Rosemary Flannery
P.S. If you missed yesterday’s Après-Midi you don’t have to wonder how it went. You can easily view the entire fascinating two-hour presentation by artist, historian, tour guide and author (“Angels in Paris”) Rosemary Flannery by clicking here and watching it for yourself!
And here’s the best news of all! Rosemary has generously offered a 10% discount on commissioned works to all Adrian Leeds Nouvellettre® readers!!! Visit her webite for more information and email her to order up your portrait of yourself, your kids, your grand kids or your pets!
P.P.S. If this message interests you, but you aren’t already a reader of French Property Insider, our weekly Nouvellettre® devoted to property issues of this nature (every Thursday, 50 issues a year)—market insights, news, and advice from me—then be sure to subscribe to it now. Just click here to secure your subscription.