Thursday, 30 April 2015

Practical help for new homeowners in Charente

Once the completion of your property has gone through the real life excitement of settling-in begins!

The French climate, the space, the divine food, & great affordable wines are now suddenly all part of your day to day.

And just like the slow pace of French life, the settling-in process can rarely be rushed too. Perhaps you will be starting a new business or need to secure planning permission. Will you need to have your birth certificate translated or perhaps set up a new Butagaz contract or Internet connection?

All these issues (and many others) will, without doubt, involve a great deal of paperwork - for which France is well-renowned. Tournesol Language & Services, based in Cellefrouin, provide a full translation and problem-solving service helping English speakers with interpretation, paperwork and advice.
Image © gkuna

Tournesol Language & Services is managed by Mandy Davison, who holds a degree in French, & the Post Grad Diploma in Professional Translation from the Institute of Linguists in London. She has lived in the Charente for 9 years, and is a local town councillor.

Mandy says “The list is endless but here are some of the many things I've sorted out for my clients over the years - Obtaining refunds of over-payments from EDF or France Telecom, organising approvals with Communauté de Communes & SPANC for new Fosses Septiques, helping English-speakers get new businesses registered & legally set up, arranging medical appointments then attending them as interpreter, organising imported car re-registrations, liaising with SAUR to get water meters changed & leaks fixed.”

So if you are moving to Charente and think you might need some extra help - you can get in touch with Mandy via her website or by calling T: 05 45 89 39 71 Mb: 06 35 96 54 96

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Selling your French property: Sole or multiple agency?

As you go on the market, there is a simple but important decision for you to make, about how many agents you instruct. The temptation of many sellers, is to go with several, rather than sole agency, which is of course, the “norm” in the UK. There are advantages and disadvantages to both routes, depending upon your choice and reasons for making that choice.

We firmly believe that a sole agency, or exclusive mandat is the preferred route in the vast majority of cases. This option gives one agency of your choice, the task of selling your property without outside interference and allowing them to control all of the channels of marketing. It also gives the agency the incentive to invest in the sale in the form of extra marketing, as they are secure in the knowledge that they are not wasting their efforts to sell your house.

We strongly believe also, that having a single agent is the most effective way of defending the price of your property. Having a number of agents involved will inevitably mean that your property appears at different prices, since agents tend to work to different fee scales. This sends out mixed messages to your target audience – the buyers, who then suspect your price is negotiable. If you are with one sole agent, you will only appear at one price, wherever your property is advertised. This enables us to advise clients that they cannot make silly offers trying to “chip away” at your price. That way, we are confident that we will achieve a higher price than if you go down the multiple agency route. (We know some agents have a practice of encouraging offers at 10 – 20% below the marketing price in some circumstances).

Going down the multiple agency route not only risks price confusion, but also can give the impression of desperation. Depending upon which agents are selected, your property could end up on the same property portals (such as Right Move) several times. What does that say to you?

Our strategy is to give our “exclusive mandats” maximum exposure via all major International property websites. We back that up with 1st class photographs, accurate descriptions, and rapid responses to all of our enquiries. We may also advertise your property in one of the leading French magazines, or other quality magazines, such as “A Place in the Sun”. We are regularly selected by editorial managers for contributions to magazines and newspapers to feature special properties, and have an impressive catalogue of such features.

Local agents do have a certain advantage of a shop window, that is something we cannot deny. BUT, over 95% of research for a property purchase is done via the internet, not via the shop window. Agents operating in the traditional way, (I resisted calling it old-fashioned), also have less time to qualify their clients ahead of a visit. If someone walks through their door and wants to view your house that morning what will their response be? Do you want unqualified, short-notice visits?

Some clients choose a bigger “name” agency in France, or even the well known brands in the UK, but for a commited approach and a business with exceptional online and media coverage - contact to find out how our dedicated small team can help with your French property sale.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Allez-Francais in the media

Allez-Français is widely regarded as one of the most respected French property companies, whose opinions are regularly canvassed by property correspondents commenting on the French market.

We are featured from time to time here :

Our properties are featured on

Our properties have appeared recently on UK TV programmes such as :

Why?  You cannot beat a really enthusiastic and dedicated small team who are passionate about their business.  This level of coverage is exceptional for an agency of our size.

With local French agents with an office presence, your property will end up here : (if you are lucky) !

This tends to attract “tourist” viewings, as agents are not able to screen buyers properly. Often the window displays are out of date, and not very professional. 

When selling a French property, ask yourself where else would you want your property to be advertised – at Allez-Français we have it covered!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Guest blog: "A good week for the pound"

Adam Bobroff, Director of our currency exchange partner Foremost Currency Group, writes ...

It has been a very busy time on the currency markets recently with all of the talk surrounding the General Election in the UK and the on-going talks over in Greece regarding their bailout conditions.This market volatility does not seem like it is set to end anytime soon with uncertainty still rife on both the Sterling and Euro side.

Sterling had a good week last week, reaching a one month high of 1.3946 against the Euro and briefly breaking the 1.50 mark against the US Dollar. It seems at present the pound isn’t feeling the full effects of the political uncertainty surrounding the upcoming General Election. This is the closest election we have seen in a generation and generally you would expect this uncertainty to have a negative effect on a currency. This time round however there is so much going on elsewhere, in Greece and over in the US, markets aren’t reacting quite as expected.

The markets did react at the end of last week when it was announced that the UK unemployment rate fell to it’s lowest since 2008. The amount of jobless people in the UK dropped by 76,000 to 1.84 million, meaning that unemployment now sits at 5.6%, in line with forecasts. This is great news for the UK, if you cast your mind back just a few months, Mark Carneys form of ‘Forward Guidance’ was targeting an unemployment level below 7% before an interest rate hike would be possible.

Unemployment was a real issue affecting the economy and this new figure shows that the UK is continuing to move in the right direction.

Over in the Eurozone last week German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble took a small swipe at Greece stating that they are welcome to find investment from Moscow or Beijing but they would have great difficulties. This comes off the back of fears that Greece will default on their pending debt repayment. Schaeuble added “The Europeans have said, ok, we are ready to lend money until 2020. If you find someone else, whether it’s in Beijing, in Moscow, in Washington DC, or in New York who will lend you money, ok, fine, we would be happy. But it’s difficult to find someone who is lending you in this situation amounts of €200bn”. Last week also saw Greece have their credit rating downgraded and their borrowing costs jump up 3.5%.

Currency markets are very to judge at the best of times and in this phase of heightened volatility it may prove prudent to stay in touch with our currency brokers, the Foremost Currency Group. They have a number of different contract options that can help safeguard your funds against adverse market movements. One of these being a Forward Contract whereby you can lock in an exchange rate for a future settlement date up to two years in advance by simply placing a small margin against the trade.

Celebrate your new home from the air!

Buying a property in France can be quite a stressful experience, but our agents know how to help you navigate the French rules and regulations to make the process as straightforward as possible.

We also know (from experience!) when the completion date arrives how relieved you will probably feel!

From 1 April - 31 July 2015, to help you celebrate your purchase in style, I will arrange a complimentary champagne balloon ride so you can have a birds eye view of the magnificent French countryside you will be calling “chez nous”!

This offer is valid for up to 2 people and on completion of any property sold via over 250,000€ (compromis de vente signed before 31/07/2015 and completion before 31/10/2015).

More details about booking the ride will be provided at completion.

So this summer we hope to see many happy Allez-Francais buyers take to the skies!

Celebrate your new home from the air!
Image © Leonard Zhukovsky

Friday, 17 April 2015

How the Mortgage Credit Directive may affect (or may not) affect your property purchase in France

The Telegraph website today published an article "New EU rules threaten overseas holiday homes" outlining the fact that from next year it might be difficult for British workers with foreign incomes (or those wanting holiday homes abroad) to get a mortgage.  This is as a result of some new regulations, the 'Mortgage Credit Directive', being introduced by the EU.

At Allez-Francais we are quite fortunate that most of our clients are cash buyers, and less than 10% of them require mortgage finance. Amongst those, some will be raising a mortgage against their UK property, so that loan will be in Sterling in any case. Where this potential legislation could cause problems, is of course UK buyers looking to finance a loan in France using a Euro mortgage.

With falling house prices, and a stronger £ giving very favourable exchange rates, cheap French mortgages rates are luring many British buyers across the Channel at present.

I am not sure how legal this proposal will be. How can it be right to prevent someone working in Europe, taking out a mortgage via a European bank? This could be another example of an “illegal act”, such as the “tax” levied by François Hollande’s Government via Social Charges of Capital Gains Tax.

At the moment, there is a lot of detail not known about the regulations, and I suspect that there will be quite a few changes from those outlined here.

Cheap French mortgage rates are luring many British buyers across the Channel

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Looking for a property in the Dordogne valley ?

Convenient for the airport at Brive you can depart from the London City or Stansted and 2 hours later be on your own sun terrace!

Beynac in the Dordogne (image © N Barrington)

Here are just 3 great properties of the many you can choose from 

P7328 Argentat-sur-Dordogne 414,000 € 9 bed, riverside gardens

P7461 Creysse (46) 195,000 € 2 beds, roof terrace

P7990 Pinsac (46 ) 474,500 4 beds, top quality, beach on the river

Viewings can be arranged with 3 or 4 days notice

5 top tips for buying property in France

1. Choose your area. France is a very large country, and many people mis-judge distances on maps or even using their GPS systems. Tell your agent what you are looking for – climate, countryside, house style, etc – and build in requirements for accessibility back to the UK if needed. Having chosen an area, research it before you start booking viewings. If you need help or guidance, ask – we are here to help. 

2. Maximise your viewing time. With a ‘wish-list’ you can draw up property to view, but try to keep an open mind if an agent suggests a special property, as this can often turn up trumps. It is equally important to say what your absolute deal breakers are, as that can rule out a few properties, not immediately obvious from a website description. Plan your viewings carefully, and don’t try to fit in too many. Sometimes less is more – so go for quality rather than quantity.

3. Work with your agent. It is amazing how many clients try to keep their requirements secret! The more we know about you and your needs, the more we can help. Often we learn more over a coffee and a croissant than we have learned from several conversations and email exchanges ahead of a face-to-face meeting. You need to build a relationship with your agent to work on a close basis, rather than a scattergun approach, which can clock up considerable mileage. Often, working this way, you may be taken to a new property not yet on a website.

4. Use our additional services. Over more than a decade in France, we have built up a good network of contacts, including currency dealers,insurance and mortgage services, English speaking notaires, financial advisers and more. We only recommend those we have tried and tested.

5. Be realistic. For several years now, France has been a buyer’s market. However, financial changes over the past year have brought back UK buyers. Many French houses (not all) are now priced very generously, and are achieving the full asking price. This has not happened for several years, and unless the property is considerably over priced, then it is unlikely that an offer at 10-15% below the asking price will be successful. Again, working with your agent, they will often know how receptive, or not, a seller may be to an offer.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

French air traffic controllers are due to strike for 9 days between today and 2nd May

The SNCTA union, which is France's largest, has called the strike in a dispute over working conditions. The DGAC civil aviation authority has asked airlines to cut their schedules for flights to and from France by 40%. Short-haul flights are will be those worst affected.

Ryanair issued a fairly strongly worded statement : “We sincerely apologise to all customers affected by this unwarranted strike action and we call on the EU and French authorities to take measures to prevent any further disruption.   It's grossly unfair that thousands of European travellers will once again have their travel plans disrupted by the selfish actions of a tiny number of French ATC [air traffic control] workers."

It seems that a particular grievance for the SNCTA is the raising of the retirement age for air traffic controllers by 2 years to 59. Further industrial action is planned between 16-18 April & 29 April-2 May.

This is particularly frustrating for a business such as ours where clients plan weeks ahead for their viewing visits, carefully mapping out a schedule of property visits.

It comes with incredible timing as the passport agencies are also about to increase controls at all entry and exit points to the UK. Here, exit checks are expected to particularly affect travellers on cross-channel ferries and the channel tunnel, leading to considerable delays and disruption. For the first month, all passports will be scanned, but only 1 in 4 passport holders will have their details verified to ensure they are genuine, in a bid to minimise disruption. Then there will be a move to 50% checking and by mid June, 100% verification will be introduced.

The government insists that these requirements are needed to combat illegal immigration and would cause the "least possible disruption".

Monday, 6 April 2015

Pensions D Day

Pensions – today is THE day, 6th April, pension freedom.  But what will people do??

Most I suspect will opt for pension drawdown – but if you take this route, you will be taking two big gambles.

First, how long do you think you will live? Second, how much income can you afford to take from your pot? Get either of those wrong, and you could easily run out of money before you die.

In answer to the first question, life expectancy once you've reached the age of 65 is currently 83 for men in England and Wales, and 86 for women. But the danger - in pension terms - is that they may well live very much longer. That is why deciding on the second issue - the rate at which you can afford to deplete your pension pot - is so important.

The chart below shows how quickly you can use up your money.