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General Articles

Shrunken Houses

Spring is the time to turn to nest building. This can take many forms, from extension, renovation or simply moving on to another challenge. Falling into the latter category, my recent experiences have prompted me to share my discoveries and to pass on tips and warnings gleaned from my search for a new and different "nest".


The best initial approach is to sit in front of the computer using the town you want to relocate to as your key word. This will lead you to an amazing number of sites proposed by both estate agents and individuals. Sometimes the same property is advertised on several sites which can be helpful as the descriptions and photos often vary. To my surprise, a house I was interested in varied in price by up to fifty thousand euros and even at the lowest amount was described as negotiable. Obviously it makes sense to contact the people selling at the cheapest price.

So far this is all very nice and safe. Many hours can be lost marvelling at beautiful luxurious homes or tittering over horrendous colour schemes. For those into voyeurism enough of other peoples' lifestyles can be seen to keep you going for weeks. However, the moment comes when another cup of coffee is not the way forward. The time has come to make contact with someone in the hope of getting an appointment to have a look around to see what is really out there.

For those shy of the telephone, the initial step can now be done by sending an email stipulating which property you are interested in and when you would like to visit. If you are lucky, the response will come back by email, but as you are obliged to give a contact telephone number, the agent or seller might prefer to contact you. Be prepared for this. Each house has a mandate number and a reference number, sometimes including many digits and letters. I practised this many times but in fact it wasn’t needed once, the properties are classed quite primitively by price range.

Sat Nav is a wonderful invention but don’t be tempted to try to find your would be dream home armed with just this and the scanty ad description, even if you play safe and set off with a shot from google earth as back up. You are never given enough directions in the ad and the detailed location of the property is guarded like a state secret. You have no choice but to meet at the estate agents where you can eye each other up and where he or she definitely has the upper hand by being on home ground. Here you will be interrogated on what you are really looking for, so it is a good idea to have some answers ready. On the other hand, it would seem that no matter what the client wants, you will still be taken on an obligatory, time wasting tour of all the things on their books which haven’t sold in the last two years so don’t worry too much about practising your answers as they will not be taken into consideration. However, bearing this in mind, it is an extremely good idea to take up their offer of being driven to the properties in their car thus saving your fuel and the stress and wear and tear that goes with driving up and down perilous private drives.

Unlikely as it may at first seem, sometimes you might fall for a property you originally singled out on the internet. Try to take your time to just imagine yourself in this new nest and consider the outside factors as well as the inside. Could the neighbours be too intrusive? It helps to be imaginative because the French are not so familiar with all the “how to sell” televised lessons but the advantage of this is that the dwelling can be seen as it really is. Even with planned appointments we saw unsightly lines of washing, remains of yesterday’s meals and other less attractive signs of everyday living.


Having fallen for a property, which was unoccupied, thus standing a better chance than most, I was having a hard time convincing my husband. To him everything seemed too cramped and in his opinion the house couldn’t possibly be the surface described in the details. Determined to make my point, armed with the description of the room surfaces and a calculator it soon became evident that he was right. Nearly a third of the house was missing!

To be continued as the amazing shrinking house……!


Tuesday, 23 February 2010    Section: General Articles
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