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In November 2018, Canadians Leah and Alan were referred to Renestance to find their French dream home, and they signed a Mandat de Recherche to hire Renestance as their exclusive buying agent.

As Francophiles, Leah and Alan had been dreaming of a vacation home in France for years. They’d already been scouring the websites and had traveled to the region numerous times on reconnaissance trips. They had planned another trip for the first week of December 2018 and were keen to visit some properties with a view to making a purchase.

They were looking for an old stone property, not requiring any major renovations, preferably with a garden or terrace with view, maximum one hour from the coast and 10-15 min walk to town center, open floor plan, with marketable holiday rental potential, and in the Hérault or Aude departments.

These criteria are very popular with most prospective buyers, but recently renovated, old stone properties, especially close to town and with a view are in short supply.

Practical Challenges

A search area covering half the region allows for more possibilities, but that also poses some practical challenges in terms of coordination and logistics for property visits within a specific timeframe.

If you do not require a mortgage to purchase a property that gives some price negotiating leverage – it does also however, impose a firm budget ceiling to work within.

Another hurdle can be geography. Whilst Leah was in Toronto Alan was in LA, so six and nine hours behind France for communications, respectively.

Technology Helps

Renestance offers a private workspace so that we can share information with clients irrespective of timezones. Whilst shortlisting properties this is particularly useful to minimize emails exchanged and keep track of possible properties to be viewed in different locations. At one point in this particular search we had 44 properties short-listed!

Life is a Compromise

As with many couples working on a dream project, one person’s dream criteria may not match 100% the other’s. And often you have a person who likes to make objective decisions, while the other goes with a gut feeling. If they are aware of their differences, they can be accommodated, but often they start off assuming that their priorities and approach are the same. Alan and Leah were mainly in agreement about what they wanted for their French home, but when ranking the top pick properties, their differences came out!

We did manage to find several homes that matched their criteria, to varying degrees. There are always compromises necessary, of course. One place would be renovated to perfection, but required a drive to the shops. Another would have a fantastic view but have a strange floorplan, which is common with old stone houses that weren’t originally built to lodge human beings. They visited 15 different places during their stay, including village houses in the center, bourgeois villas with swimming pools, and quirky old stone houses with breathtaking views from a remote hamlet.

As we visited each property, they rose and fell in each person’s internal ranking. Over lunch the second day, we tried to get agreement on what the most important criteria were for them both. I drafted a worksheet where they would score the top picks for each criterion. Over the evening, Leah and Alan were able to come up with a weighted score for their favorites. While the exercise was satisfying for the more cartesian spouse (I’m not going to give it away!), and there was a column to score the Oh La La factor, the highest score would not be the winner if she didn’t have a good gut feeling about it (oops).

Process timeline

Renestance began populating the search tracker with Leah and Alan mid-November 2018 and visited the properties three weeks later. They made an offer on the last place they saw (also the first one in the tracker!) on 10 December, which was negotiated and accepted on the 14th.

The pre-contract (compromis de vente) took six weeks of constant follow-ups to establish. As both the sellers and buyers were English-speakers living outside of France, the notaries added some accommodations. The final deed was signed on 18 March, and Renestance helped coordinate with the future property managers and set up utilities and insurance. From the beginning of the search to getting the keys, the whole process took about four months.

A Buyer’s Perspective

We invited Alan to share his experiences of the process from initial contact to ownership of their new home.

What were your first impressions of Renestance?

Great communication, professional, thorough, organized, deep understanding of French bureaucracy/property buying practices. We could immediately see that Renestance was all about value add services that we found compelling. From the website to their email communication and online tools for target properties, we were impressed.

How did you feel the service was delivered?

We loved working with Dennelle. She is organized, clear in her communications, and balanced understanding our dreams with gentle interventions required when we needed a reality check (yes, it’s gorgeous. don’t buy a house on the top of a mountain with no parking and no services!!). She is highly responsive.

What impressed you most about the service you received?

Beyond knowledge, experience, and professionalism, one of the things we most appreciated was how Dennelle was able to put her herself in our shoes and help us navigate the boundaries between needs and wants, between the pretty and the practical, and stay focused on what we need the property to do for us. It can be such a struggle between head and heart – between the property you love and the property that is actually going to meet your needs. (In our case, something that can attract renters and generate revenue).

How do you feel your requirements were met?

Expectations were surpassed, from the broad strokes (like understanding location, budget, real estate fees, French property laws etc.) to the small, endless details (setting up bank accounts, house insurance, utilities, taxes, internet, etc.) It’s a leap of faith, trusting someone you don’t know, in another country, to help you make what is, for most people, a significant investment. There is an element of risk, and Dennelle came through for us on all fronts. Not only did our French house dream come true, Dennelle is also someone we are happy to call a friend.

To someone considering a move to France from Canada/US, what would you advise?

Educate yourself on the process, connect with people you can trust, invest in relationships. Be prepared for a high level of bureaucracy, and much longer timelines for completing a real estate transaction than we are used to in Canada and the US. Be patient in the process. Be sure to do some pre-work to clarify your desired property via the internet. Dennelle takes this kind of direction really well and will use this input to ensure that you have lots of appropriate properties to visit when you are ready to commit to a house hunting trip.

Annette Morris

Annette is Renestance’s 'go to' girl for all things marketing and social media. Bilingual and originally from Surrey in the UK, Annette has lived in France since 2008. In addition to her web design and marketing consultancy, Annette is the founder of Languedoc Jelly (a network of free events across the region for anyone working from home) and also Urban Sketchers Languedoc (part of a global community of people that like to draw or paint on location). A fan of all things French and Franglaise, she also has a Citroen 2CV called Beryl.

All articles by: Annette Morris

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