Are you dreaming of a stone vigneron's cottage in Burgundy, a Provençal mas, or a half-timbered townhouse in Alsace, window boxes dripping with geraniums? Time to get moving on your plan. But like everything else in France, the process will be an experience.
Americans often ask me: can anybody buy a house in France? The answer is yes, anyone can, and you can stay as long as you like, if you have the proper visa. To get that you’ll need to show them that you have adequate income without needing to work (getting a work visa in France is a whole other story).
Entire books have been written on the subject of French house buying (see below), so I can only make a dent in the topic here. If you’re puzzling over which region is best, see my previous post, Where Would YOU move to in France?. Otherwise, read on. Photo: Where will your search take you? Above, a village in the Jura.
Today we shall learn about only one aspect of this process: the curious way that real estate agents operate. We find it inefficient and illogical, but try to tell the French that and you will only get the famous Gallic Shrug.
There is no MLS in France; realtors don’t share and are very protective of their listings. Their mission seems to be to keep you from finding houses for sale. Those pictures of houses in the real estate windows? Often they picture the back of the house. They will typically not have an address, a village name, nor will most agents give out that info. They must take you there themselves. And “Maison à Vendre” signs are rarely posted in France. At right, a provençal mas, or farmhouse.
This becomes particularly inconvenient in the countryside. For a country home search, you will most likely be looking over a wide area; we had a radius that might take an hour to drive (since there are so few houses for sale, it’s useless to try and narrow your search to a particular village). So here’s what happens: you go to one realtor, maybe you look at four houses, it takes you the better part of a day to drive all around and see them. The next day you go to a different agence immoblière, and you drive around the SAME area and see 4 more houses--and some might be in the very same village as those of the previous day! Repeat, with all other agencies in the region. So what might have taken a day has now taken you a week or more. The good news: you will get to see ALL the area and to know it very well!
You can look online, but of course the listings will just tell you just a general area the house is in, to assure that you can’t locate it on your own. To complicate things, a house may be listed with two or more realtors---with different prices for the same house!
The only solution is to go with the French flow, and enjoy those drives around the beautiful countryside while practicing your French on the agents. And once you’ve found a house you like, the process of buying is pretty straightforward. Photo left, half-timbered houses in the Alsace.
Last bit of advice: follow that dream and just do it! Now, fellow expats: any house hunting experiences to share?
In the COMMENTS: Virginia, you cracked me up, talking about the pimento cheese! I will cheat with the onion as well. Hampton is nostalgic over the little Kraft jars it came in, remember those? Colleen, love the Broncos color theme idea. Mary-James is grilling pimento cheese sandwiches, which I've never thought of doing.
Meanwhile, comments are still coming in from the post of a couple of weeks ago, Reflections from the Middle of the Pond. Kris notes that her bilingual kids speak English louder than French---fascinating! Are the French quieter because their language lends itself to that?
Favorite Reads: Speaking of Charleston mystery series (as we talked about last week), loyal reader Hampton recommends another one, the Charleston Tea Shop mysteries series, by Laura Childs. Try the first one, Death by Darjeeling (A Tea Shop Mystery). As for buying property in France, here are two to try: Buying and Renovating a Property in France: A Comprehensive Overview for Those With Little or No Knowledge of Buying and Renovating in France and Buying a House in France.