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One aspect of the property search that doesn’t get enough attention – in my experience – is the scouting trip. Over this limited period of time you’ll need to digest a great deal of information and make one of the most important decisions of your life – and then there are logistics and cost of overseas travel.

I can’t stress just how important it is to spend a little time and effort planning your scouting itinerary. Here’s a short summary of the important points to keep in mind:

FOCUS: Is this a holiday or a property-hunting trip? If it’s the latter, have a clear list of requirements. In some areas, a two-bedroom house under €300k is the ‘needle in the haystack’ but in others you could have a dozen choices.

Define your focus – attempting to cover a quarter of France in one go isn’t really productive so choose the areas you love. Nobody can answer the question “where should I  buy?” better than you. Allocate enough time to rediscover the area, view enough properties and speak to agents.

VIEWINGS: Schedule your property visits before you leave home. Agents are busy so don’t expect to just turn up and ask for an immediate viewing. Beyond the obvious fact that they might be otherwise engaged, they may not always have the keys to the property in question at their offices, or could have received special instructions from the seller as to the dates and times when the viewings can take place.

Consequently, it’s a good idea to call agents prior to setting off. You’ll feel more comfortable on the day and, most importantly, will ascertain whether they either speak English or can understand your level of French.

Don’t go by pictures alone – some properties photograph better than others and the reality can be very different! Also confirm that the properties you want to view are still on the market – after all, you don’t want to make a scouting trip only to find that they’ve already been sold.

ITINERARY: Don’t try to fit in too much. Properties in France can be quite some distance from one another so look at travelling times between meeting points. Allow enough leeway between viewings so that you can arrive promptly.

It’s important to give enough time to each agent in order to get a decent impression of them and let your information sink in. Meet the French agent in his office so that you can see their set-up. Don’t just arrange to meet up in a car park.

Try to arrive in France the day before starting your viewings as travel is very tiring and you’ll need all the energy you can muster. If you have time, it’s good to take several days for your trip, so that you can travel on the first day, see the area on the second, view houses on subsequent days, and then leave yourself a final day to take a second look at something or get started on the paperwork.

DOCUMENTATION: Get your ‘ducks in a row’ in advance, so you’re ready to buy as soon as you see ‘the one’. You can pre-qualify for your mortgage, arrange financing, have important documents translated and secure a currency transfer contract in advance. You may be asked to sign a bon de visite before you visit the property. This doesn’t commit you to buying, it simply proves which agent has shown each property, to protect their commission, as they can be listed in several places.

BARE NECESSITIES: You’ll need to be alert and keep your batteries charged, so be sure to dress comfortably and wear good walking shoes – you may need to walk through an overgrown garden or climb up an attic. Also, take refreshments along as French restaurants are closed between mealtimes, especially in rural areas.

If this seems too much hard work, contact the FrenchEntrée Property Team – we can help you identify the most suitable properties and plan your itinerary, to make sure that your trip is as productive and enjoyable as possible.

Gaëlle Perreaux-Booth is in charge of FrenchEntrée Property Services, which has been helping international buyers find their dream property in France for a decade. With over 120 estate agent partners they are able to source any kind of French property, priced from €40,000 to €40 million.

From France Today magazine