Real places, real houses, real people beat the internet hands down any day

I have been having an interesting discussion recently with a potential client who believes that, thanks to the internet, he can search for his dream house just as easily from his home in England as I can here on the ground in sunny France and therefore cannot really see why he needs me.

My argument is that the internet is actually a very limited tool when it comes to house hunting and should definitely be used as just one of many ‘weapons’ in the armoury. I bet there are not many people out there who have seen a house in the Ariège or Haute Garonne advertised on line, managed to visit and found it exactly as they had expected or hoped.

In my experience, all those hours trawling property sites on the internet so often turn out to be a waste of time as, more often than not, the houses shown are no longer available (sometimes they never were) or are pictured carefully cropped so as to hide the enormous pylon in the foreground. Estate agents descriptions only contain the most basic facts, so it is impossible to tell what a house is really like – let alone whether it’s located near a noisy road, railway line or sewage farm.

Pretty house – but why is it so tightly cropped…?

Moreover, many of the estate agencies in this region do not even have a website – part of the old fashioned charm of France can also be frustrating and you really do have to visit each agency to find out what they have on their books. Notaires also sometimes have some real gems that are only ever advertised locally, which is often also the case with private sales in the region. Many more houses are sold privately in France than in the UK and the only way to discover these is to be on the spot as lots of French people privately selling houses in this region, do not have access to the internet so will rely on petits annonces (private ads) and local boards to sell their houses.

The problem is that it usually takes a potential client a few wasted, expensive trips and frustrating viewings of completely unsuitable properties before they begin to understand my argument and actually begin to see the benefit of using a property finder. Anyway, having had the ‘finding a house on the internet – or not’ discussion a few times this week, I decided to test my theory and get out and about.

For me too, it is far too easy to sit in front of my computer and think I am doing a thorough job but I likewise need reminding that there is life outside of cyberspace – and my job after all is about knowing my region; both the good bits and the bad. So I turned off the computer and phone and went out to ‘faire un tour’  of the villages and countryside which make up my beautiful corner of France, looking out for those all important ‘a vendre’ signs and talking to local people. What’s more, it is such a pleasure to drive around this stunning area – there is nothing like fresh, mountain air to invigorate and clear the head and nothing like chatting to the eminently grounded local people here to realize that the world won’t stop if I am away from my computer or telephone for an afternoon.

The views are spectacular here in the foothills at any time of year but, right now, with all the trees beginning to turn thousands of shades of orange and red, they are simply breathtaking. I headed out south of Saint Girons towards the Pyrenees, through Moulis and Castillon en Couserans and then into the stunning Vallée du Biros and the pretty and very special village of Sentein; a truly uplifting tour that I can recommend to anyone who is feeling in any way stressed or overloaded.


I arrived back at my office with new energy and enthusiasm for this very beautiful part of South West France as well as with a small list of interesting houses which I had noticed for sale that were certainly not nor ever would be advertised on the internet. I also came back with renewed certainty that the only way to find the real gems of houses in the very best locations, is to get out and do my research the good, old-fashioned way. The internet is undoubtedly a fantastic invention but, at the end of the day, nothing can match local knowledge and simply being here on the ground.


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