Blood out of a stone

First find your property!

I sometimes wonder how anyone manages to buy a house in this region without using a property finder. I live and work here, I know all the agents and still the whole process of finding and getting to see the right property is sometimes a bit like trying to get blood out of a stone.

Firstly, despite the fact that I visit every agent most weeks to remind them exactly what my current clients are looking for, still there is hardly a single agent who gets in touch when they take on a new property meeting my client’s brief exactly (barring the odd exceptions who work very hard on my behalf.)

Secondly, not all agents are as keen as I am to head out and view potential properties. Yesterday I went in to see an agent because I had noticed that he was advertising a new property which looked very interesting for one of my current clients (there is no point just telephoning – everything works better face-to-face here.) The property – a mountain barn – appeared to fit my brief but the most important thing that I wanted to find out was where it was situated – location as we all know being the vital element, especially for mountain properties. The agent told me in which valley it was located (one of my favourite) and then suggested I could go and take a look and pointed a finger at a map as a vague illustration as to where I might find it.

I have fallen for this ploy before – and then spent a few frustrating hours trying to work out exactly which isolated barn I am supposed to be looking at and whether I am actually supposed to trespass and break in to get a proper look. So I suggested that maybe he could even take me to see the property and perhaps take along a key so I could look inside. I could see that this was now all getting a bit much for him for one day and he was finding me a bit demanding so I suggested that I could make an appointment for a viewing the next day. With much sighing and sucking of teeth, he took his feet off the desk and opened his diary to check just how busy he was the next day. The page was completely blank! So I said I could be there at 9am at which point he really put his foot down and said that he might manage 2pm (nothing happens before lunch here!) But at least we had a date.

Or that’s what I thought. So the next day, there I was at 2pm outside the locked offices with not a soul in sight. By 2.15 I was starting to get fed up and about to leave when the agent arrived looking slightly non-plussed as to what I was doing there. I reminded him and we spent the next 30 minutes looking for a key and directions to said property while he tried to persuade me that it really wasn’t worth the trip. By 3pm we were finally in the car but 20 kilometres later the agent then started fumbling around in his pockets and admitted that he seemed to have misplaced the key. So back we went to the office where we discovered he had dropped it on the road. It was now 3.30pm and the agent looked at his watch and said that it was now too late for him to go with me to see the property as he had an appointment at 4.30 and wouldn’t be back in time if he did.

Which was how I found myself yesterday up on a lovely mountain plateau, exploring various paths that may or may not lead to a perfect mountain barn. Luckily I had seen a photo and had a good idea of the location but, when I did find what I thought must be the right place, I was slightly apprehensive that I might be trying to unlock the door to the wrong house entirely, perhaps with the bemused owner watching me from the kitchen window. Luckily however, that wasn’t the case and this particular property turned out to be very much worth the trip – two well-looked after barns, one of which had been renovated completely, in a great plot of land with lovely views and very peaceful. There was even vehicle access which is certainly not a given for many of these mountain properties.

Two perfect mountain barns – definitely worth a viewing

Of course many properties I visit do turn out to be not worth the effort – I usually see at least 10 properties that transpire to be no good for every one that makes it to a property report and possibly the short-list. Usually I will view up to 50 – 80 properties during one search, only 6-10 of which are likely to reach the short-list. But this property might just prove to be ‘the one’ which is why – in my opinion anyway – every property that sounds on paper that it fits the brief, is worth a visit.

This agent is the perfect illustration as to why the English property invasion is yet to arrive in the Ariège – and why I knew there was a need here for a property finder on the spot, working for the buyer not the seller and trying to change the attitude of the ‘old-school’ estate agents here. Whether the agent will then have deserved his commission if this does turn out to be ‘the one’ – well that’s another debate.

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