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Monday, August 07, 2006

Crossed wires!

I saw this on the Telegraph website and it rang a few bells with me... I will be reading the book as it sounds like a good read!

A communications breakdown means crossed lines with the new breed of Brits abroad
Michael Wright

Storms are a darn sight stiffer here in rural France than in Blighty. You really do get the full King Lear: the sky lit up with shafts of magnesium; the thunder exploding with the roar of a bunker-buster aimed straight at the front door. To date, I have lost three modems and four cordless phones. Claude, the electrician with the strong forehand, has expensively installed a parafoudre on La Folie's main fuse box, but since the phone line is still unprotected, this is a bit like building a moat around your château and then forgetting to raise the drawbridge.

Today, there are perhaps 30 people crammed into the France Télécom shop in St Juste, all clutching fried Liveboxes like mine. In the corner, I recognise Guillaume from the aeroclub: a delightful mint humbug of a man, with owl glasses and a permanent smile. I'm surprised to hear someone shouting at him. First surprised, then mortified. For the person is shouting in English.

"Nah, nah, don't give me that." A wiry little man, as wired as a Jack Russell, is yapping at Guillaume's ankles. "Get out of my face. No, no, no!" He actually stamps his foot, which is something I thought people only did in fairy stories. Unfortunately, foot-stamping loses some authority when conducted in open sandals.

"I just say," Guillaume murmurs in broken English, still smiling, "that you must telephone for number before you come here."

"Well, I'm not dealing with you, am I? I'm dealing with 'im." The Jack Russell jabs his finger at the man behind the desk, who sighs and announces in French: "If anyone here speaks English, would they mind explaining to this gentleman that he must ring the technicians on 3900 to get a docket number before we can replace his Livebox?" I feel myself shrinking. I am already six inches shorter than I was when I entered the shop, and getting smaller all the time.

"Non, non," snaps Jack Russell, stamping his sandal once more. "Nous parlez française. Et nous voudrais service."

My heart sinks, for I recognise this man. I have seen his type often enough in London: the person who will complain in a restaurant "on principle", even though it may spoil the evening of everyone he's with. And then, to my relief, a huge grizzly bear of a man calls out, in an accent that is two parts German to one part American: "You've got to phone, man. Otherwise they're not doing nothing. And it takes minimum fife hours."

"It's all right," yaps JR, who has been handed a cordless phone by the man behind the desk. "I'm using their phone to make the call. It's at their expense." He looks exultant.

I have often heard local people observing that the type of Brits who are moving to France has begun to change; that a new breed of immigrant is emerging. "Have you noticed it?" they ask. I have. But I don't like to say so, because there's no way for me to say it without becoming the kind of snooty nimby who somehow thinks I'm less awful than the rest.

What I will say is this: when I see English people going into shops in France, and asserting their place in the queue with elbows and insults, and shouting at shop assistants, and talking amongst themselves about the French as if they cannot understand them, then I feel no sense of kinship with these abrasive ambassadors for England's much-vaunted values of tolerance and politeness.

No, I feel far more at one with those gentle local people who are not accustomed to shouting to make themselves heard, or to making a scene in order that others may have a due sense of their importance. And I wish that the likes of Jack Russell could see that everyone here - Guillaume, the man behind the desk, French people generally - is already on his side, at least until he begins to fight.

'C'est La Folie' by Michael Wright is available for just £9.89 + shipping click here to buy! You will find this book under the Novel section.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

French Property remains the top overseas property search on Google

Analysis of the Google search terms used during May and June 2006, reveals online research on overseas property puts France at the top of the list.

France continues to be a popular destination for property purchase due to its proximity to the UK and Ireland. Market stability offering steadily rising prices and an attractive range of off-plan leaseback schemes keep property investors interested in the French property market. With so much on offer France's undiscovered sleepy villages, patchwork scenery of sunflower fields to vineyards, medieval towns to seaside cottages and chic city living mean you are spolit for choice? A popular region, the Languedoc Roussillon has grown in popularity attracting visitors searching for the ‘real france’. A versatile region, a warmer climate, rural villages and proximity to Camargue’s Atlantic coastline of Mediterranean beaches offers second home seekers an affordable alternative to the costly Cote d’Azur and pricer Provence. Skiing and hiking are also an option with the nearby hills of Cevennes.

To see what your budget could buy you in this ever popular region, try out the new property calculator recently developed by the Creme de Languedoc team. It will help give you an idea of what your money can buy, or indeed howmuch your existing Languedoc property is worth. Of course, it is worth pointing out that this will only give an approximate value and owners should always seek professional advice for an accurate valuation.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Presentation matters

Would you serve caviar on a dirty plate?

No of course not - then why do so many property listing websites look so awful? Poor descriptions, scant information about the property and it's location and badly taken photos. Surely everybody looses...

The owner of the property loses, as they want their property to look at its very best to gain the attention of the visitors to the website and result in enquiries.

The users of the website, as they want to be able to make an informed choice about whether to take the enquiry further.

It does need to be this way! If you have property in Languedoc we have the answer for you. Not only can you take advantage of the new Creme-de-Languedoc.com website which has striven to present all properties in the best possible light, but also you can now take advantage of a new service.

Professional photographer Bryan Lancaster set up Brylliant Images with his wife Aly, after seeing the abysmal quality of property photos in estate agency windows. They offer an excellent service at very reasonable prices. They will come to your home (bringing extra props if required) and take great looking shots of both the interior and exterior of the property. Don't worry if the rooms are dark - Bryan will know how to best light the room to show it's true potential. Click here to read more.

I know as a property hunter myself, the amount of time I have wasted going to see properties that had I had access to decent particulars, I would not have bothered. Why can't the local agents present their properties in the best possible light. It is not like the commissions don't cover their time! When I compare the level of service UK agents offer, with great particulars often including floor plans, there is no comparison.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Still bargains to be found...

You know I love the Languedoc and as the sun is shining today on a beautiful Spring afternoon (21 degrees) I feel that I should share with you the good news about property prices in Languedoc.

It is true that property prices have indeed risen sharply over recent years (50% in the last 5 years) but they are by no means out of the reach of northern Europeans given the domestic property markets in these countries. There really are still bargains to be found, it just may take a bit longer to find them. But this is where property website Creme-de-Languedoc comes in.

With so much quality content all about the region and some excellent advice about all aspects of buying in France, this should be the first stop for any serious property hunters. The listings are well presented and will ensure that you can make an informed choice before committing to make the journey south to visit any potential properties. How many times have you come across a property website that offers two grotty pictures and a brief description? Well this site is in a league of its own.

But back to the bargains...
I speak from experience. I recently bought a very tired old maison de village in the delightful village of Cazedarnes. Basically the house was a ruin. A leaking roof, full of the previous owners belongings and in need of some serious TLC. But it had bags of potential and was large with just over 150 meters squared. I paid €27,000 euros for the property 18 months ago now. The plan was to renovate it entirely - but my new business took off and I just could not take on another renovation project of this scale and manage the work-load of the business as well. So sadly I put it on the market in its current state having got the roof repaired - I was expecting a long wait to sell and did not want the house to deteriorate any further.

Some 3 months later we have signed the compromise de vente and I have made a tidy profit selling for €69,000 euros (inc. agent's fees), more than double what I paid for. This will be subject to CGT (capital gain tax) but still a nice return.

Now OK - finding another house like this at that great price will be very difficult (given I sold to a local family at the market rate) but there is still room for profit, especially if you are willing to take on a renovation project. If you can see through the cobwebs to the potential finished product - then you are already ahead of the game. If you choose your village carefully and understand what can be done and how best to breath life back into these fabulous old houses, you will be well on your way.

As Louise Hurren writes 'property prices in Languedoc Roussillon, south France are still pretty accessible, and getting here is a doddle. Buying a home in the Languedoc is still considered to be a sound investment. There is a good variety of property types, locations and price points.' If you want to read lots more advice from Louise then click here.

So what are you waiting for... even if you don't find your dream house you will enjoy the fun of the hunt.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Languedoc Rules...


Languedoc is the Wild West to Provence's Exploited East. It's more unspoilt, with some of the world's most stunning countryside. Ignored by Paris until recently, it avoided the scars of 70's and 80's industrial and residential build-up. As a result, it lacks Provence's high prices and over-development. With the help of the new breed of Languedoc-only property websites, such as creme-de-languedoc.com, Languedoc still holds the possibility of finding rough-diamond properties at rock-bottom prices.

And once you've found that charming farmhouse, you can enjoy the region's many other advantages - larger, better beaches, the gorgeous Canal du Midi, more interesting history (thanks to the Cathars), superb wines (from the world's largest wine-producing region) and southern France's most beautiful and fastest-growing city, Montpellier. With the new Millau Bridge, A75 motorway, new TGV lines, and ever-more low-cost flights to six local airports, Languedoc is also now better-connected than Provence.

Provence has happened, whereas Languedoc is happening, and you can feel the buzz everywhere – from the chic cafes of Collioure to the new steel and glass galleries of Nîmes.

For a wealth of information on this beautiful region of France Click here