Yes the internet is a fantastic tool for house hunters – but it is still a very limited tool in France


How the world has changed; thanks to the internet it is now possible to view hundreds of houses for sale in France from the comfort of your desk in Sydney, Johannesburg, London or Singapore as is the case with many of my clients so far this year. It is a fantastically useful tool but only up to a point, especially when looking to buy in France. Property details in France are limited to say the least – in my region at least, there is not a single agent who will post floor plans, detailed photos of every room and a marker on the map indicating the exact location of the property (this you will not find from any agent in France in fact – you won’t even get the name of the village, just a commune nearby)

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 agent’s descriptions here 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.

Moreover, many of the estate agencies in this region do not even have a proper website; certainly not an easily navigable one – 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 few wasted, expensive trips and frustrating viewings of completely unsuitable properties before house hunters from abroad realize that trying to find the perfect property for sale in France from abroad is almost impossible. For me too, agency websites are only useful up to a point and it is only once I start making appointments and getting out to view properties that I get a good feel for what is actually on the market, what is worth a client viewing and what is not. In addition, part of my job is also about knowing my region; both the good bits and the bad so I can advise my clients on all aspects of living here and for this I need to be out and about. This is also of course the perfect way to discover those all important ‘a vendre’ signs and to discover from the locals who is about to put their house on the market. What’s more, it is such a pleasure to drive around this stunning area – there is nothing like fresh air and sunshine to invigorate and clear the head and nothing like chatting to the eminently grounded local people here to realize that, while the internet has given us all a huge amount of freedom and decreased the size of the world in many ways, there is still only one way to find the perfect house in France and that is by spending day after day driving around viewing lots of unsuitable properties until finally you find the one. Or, if you don’t have the time to do this, get someone else to do it for you and save yourself a lot of wasted trips, money and stress.

Certainly in this hidden and beautiful corner of France where face-to- face is still the way that things work, the only way that I 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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