Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Currency matters

While huge amounts of information are available on overseas property prices, rental yields, and foreign legal systems, considerably less thought appears to be given to currency issues. Yet choosing the right currency broker can make a substantial difference to what the buyer is actually paying in sterling terms.

High Street banks are many buyers first port of call, but they tend to offer a poor service to buyers. Currency transactions aren’t their bread and butter, when you speak to your bank you’re probably not speaking to a currency specialist who can take you through all the options, when you speak to a broker, you know you’re talking to an expert.

Apart from helping clients get a better rate, what currency brokers are about is market expertise. For instance, forward contacts, stops and limit orders can be used to minimise clients’ risk, or to wait until a particular rate can be achieved. That can make a big difference compared to simply buying at spot rates.

Banks are also frequently criticized for the time they take to handle currency transactions. In a property purchase where the date of completion is fixed, and where clients are quite likely not to be in the UK at the end of the process, lack of timeliness can even derail the entire deal. Even when the UK bank has got its act together, the receiving bank abroad can take further time to handle the payment, (and importantly, charge for receipt of the funds) .

If this sounds like bank-bashing, it’s not intended that way. Banks and currency brokers have completely different business models. Currency brokers go for a high volume of currency transactions and low margins. Banks don’t have the volume, so they have to have high margins. They will have multiple charges such as a handling fee, receiving fee, and so on. A good currency broker will hand-hold throughout the process. That means, for instance, that the broker will report the funds transfer as soon as it happens, and will also ensure the funds have arrived in the recipient bank.

Of course the rate clients are getting will be better than the rate they’d get from a High Street bank. We know that many of our clients can save between 2.5 and 4.5 % against booking currency from the bank. If clients are “unsavvy” and pay tourist rates, the variation could be even higher, 8 or 9 %. Add in the benefit of timing, for instance where rates are fixed ahead, and clients could end up saving between 10 and 12 % on some deals, which on a €400,000 house is a very considerable amount. The difference can be the price of a swimming pool.

You could save £10,000 compared to high street banks when buying €200,000 with Foremost Currency

More details are on the Allez-Francais website http://www.allez-francais.com/finance/currency-exchange - or contact me directly on +33 (0)5 55 28 46 40


Monday, 29 June 2015

The Translation Connexion for home owners in south west France

One of the most exasperating issues for expats in France is getting registered with the French healthcare system.

Kate Sevoz is a French native but has spent many years living in the UK. When she moved back to France a few years ago she experienced what it’s like to be an ‘expat’ in France. She then realised how stressful it can be to understand French bureaucracy and procedures.

Realising that she could help English speakers enjoy ‘la belle vie’ she founded The Translation Connexion.

Kate literally takes care of everything you need to get settled smoothly. Whether that is following up (and chasing up!) your French healthcare paperwork or getting a phone line connected, Kate makes all the calls and can even answer all those quirky questions that suddenly arise when you start adjusting to life in the French lane!

It’s not just a language service, because although some issues may be quite simple, they can take a very long time to resolve, especially where healthcare is concerned.

Kate explains “On behalf of my clients I follow up everything which can sometime be a lengthy process. Whether you are early retirees on a private pension, retirees on a state pension, still earning income from a UK employer and wanting to access cover in France for your entire family who now lives here, or no longer on UK income, working in France or not yet but planning to, … (and this list is non exhaustive), there is a way to access French healthcare cover in France. Surprisingly though, what may take the longest is getting hold of the paperwork from the UK! I have even had clients who have been incorrectly advised to give away their rights to the UK NHS as they were making a move to France!”.

Dealing with an unexpected property crisis - such as a huge water leak - can be particularly alarming. Kate knows who to turn to, how to deal with it and how to minimise potential costs or losses. This combination of experience and understanding of life in France makes The Translation Connexion a great resource for house buyers moving to the south west.

Kate is based in La Rochelle and carries out almost all of her work via phone, email and Skype keeping travel costs to a minimum.


You can contact Kate via her website www.thetranslationconnexion.com or follow her status updates on Facebook page www.facebook.com/thetranslationconnexion

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Hot! hot! hot!

One of the great joys of living in SW France from March / April onwards is the glorious warm weather and blue skies, but there are times when you may prefer to be cooler, especially when temperatures climb over 30°C.

The current forecasts from Meteo France are predicting 10 plus days of temperatures in excess of 30°C, even rising to 40°C on 1st July.

I recall the summer of 2003, the year of the “canicule”, when during an unprecedented spell of hot weather, it was estimated 15,000 people died from heat related causes in France.

Naturally, you may wish to think about this when considering property in the area. Older properties built in stone, naturally maintain a cooler temperature inside during summer and are warmer than outside in winter.

There a number of ways of keeping cool or cooling yourself down, here are some ideas that may help you :

Outside : obviously a swimming pool, a spa, or the use of large parasols / awnings. You can’t beat a good tree for shade.

Very important is your shutter and windows management. The French close their shutters & windows during the day – it keeps the house wonderfully cool. They open everything 1st thing in the morning and after sunset to allow fresh air to circulate again.

Inside the house of course you can opt for ceiling fans and or air conditioning.  Portable air condition units can be very effective

Above all else, drink plenty of water ...!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Plenty going on in Corrèze!

For anyone thinking about exploring the Corrèze, July is a great time to visit.

image copyright suslik83

Not only will the country be celebrating Bastille Day on the 14th, but there are a host of festivals taking place throughout the region.

  • Vézère Festival from 09/07/2015 to 21/08/2015 
  • Concèze Raspberry festival the 12/07/2015 
  • Théâtrales from 14/07/2015 to 18/08/2015 
  • Gimel les Cascades Sound and Light show from 16/07/2015 to 25/07/2015 
  • Brive plage festival from 23/07/2015 to 01/08/2015 
  • Chaumeil bilberry festival and arts and crafts fair the 26/07/2015 
  • Festival de la Luzège from 30/07/2015 to 09/08/2015 
Full details are available from http://www.tourismecorreze.com/us/events.html

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Comme une Française

If you are planning a visit to France, or even more seriously, a move across the Channel, then you will want to improve your French if possible.

On our blog, we will be featuring Géraldine Lepère, who has a fabulous way of getting the message across in her videos.

One thing that is certain, is that you will be needing food, and the French are passionate about food.

Enjoy this video to help you enjoy food like a French native :


Thanks to Géraldine for allowing us to share her material. If you want more then visit her website :


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The IMF walk out on Greece

Last week was a fairly busy week on the currency markets with a host of data and talk moving the markets.

GBP/EUR rates moved 2.5%, hitting a high of 1.3889 with a week low of 1.3540. GBP/USD rates were also on the move with a high of 1.5541, climbing from the low of 1.5230, a 2% movement.

Greece has been dominating the headlines recently and for good reason. The debt stricken country are pushing for a deal with their creditors to release more funds but time is running out for this deal to be struck.

Greece must pay back the International Monetary Fund (IMF) €1.6 billion by the end of this month and without this deal there is no possibility of that happening.

They are trying to strike a deal for their creditors to release the final €7.2 billion of their bailout, without this Greece could default on its existing €320 billion debt and face bankruptcy and even the much talked about Grexit.

The IMF dramatically walked out of talks with Greece last Thursday, accusing them of failing to compromise over labour market and pension reforms.

It seems that Greece will not budge on their demands and are playing a very dangerous game. IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said “The ball is very much in Greece’s court. There are major differences between us in most key areas. There has been no progress in narrowing these differences recently.”

If Greece don’t strike a deal with their creditors then expect the euro to plummet. We have seen many times recently that any hint of Greece defaulting or talk that they are struggling to find enough funds has had a very negative effect on the euro.

On the flipside I can’t imagine that anyone will want Greece to exit the euro and this deal will end up being in everyone’s best interests. So if they can come to an agreement we should see the euro gain some much needed strength.

With the deadline fast approaching and no progress being made at present expect a bumpy ride for the euro for the remainder of this month.

Guest writer :
Adam Bobroff, Director http://www.foremostcurrencygroup.co.uk

Tel +44 (0) 1442 892060

Monday, 15 June 2015

For sale: Breathtaking farmhouse renovation for sale in the Dordogne

This is a breath-taking farmhouse renovation with 7 bedrooms, apartment and fabulous outside living space. A genuine ‘wow-factor’ shines through with the use of top-drawer fixtures and fittings.

This property is in first-class condition and has designer gardens and a pool – making a significant rental income.

More details are on the website here, http://www.allez-francais.com/property/D8201 - or email dan@allez-francais.com

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Fosse septiques

Fosse septiques

In many areas of France, especially in the countryside where mains drainage is not available, sewage has to be treated on site using a Fosse Septique (Septic Tank), or similar treatment plant. In recent years more and more responsibility for overseeing and regulating old and new waste water installations has been handed over to the to the local communes, i.e. the Marie.

The law stipulates that all household waste liquids have to be processed in the correct manner, by means of a Fosse Toutes Eaux (a septic tank that accepts all waste waters) and filtration system. 

Many communes across France have created their own professional body to enforce the law. This is commonly known as Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif, but popularly known as SPANC. 

Before a compromis de vente (CDV) or sales agreement can be signed, a fosse report has to be provided to the buyer. Therefore, Allez-Français as a company, strongly advises all sellers to arrange for all diagnostic reports to be done as soon as the property is marketed

In the event of non-conformity, you will have 4 years to rectify any problems with your fosse septique, or the incoming buyers will have 12 months. So this is an important part of the sale agreement.
There are 4 stages in the typical process :
1st stage (Collection): Collection of all household waste water and matter from the kitchen, bathroom and WC. If the fosse septique is sited more than 10 metres from the kitchen, the bathroom, and particularly the kitchen waste, should / must first pass though a Grease Trap.
2nd Stage (Pre-treatment): All waste must then flow directly into the septic tank where separation of the solid matter takes place and the treatment begins. About 30% of the waste (sludge lying on the bottom of the tank, scum floating on the top and the liquid effluent) is actively consumed by bacteria. When the effluent leaves the tank it first passes through a 'pre-filter' which captures much of the remaining suspended matter.
3rd Stage (Treatment): The effluent now passes through a sand filter bed, or land drain, where further treatment takes place, removing many more waste and toxic particles.
4th Stage (Evacuation): The treated liquid is then either allowed to soak away into the soil or siphoned off.

If you are installing a new system, the appropriate permission has to be obtained. Roughly every 4 years, your Marie is obliged to make sure your fosse is checked and functioning in the correct manner. They will provide you with a report confirming conformity or non conformity. If non-conforming, they will make suitable recommendations to upgrade your system.
Within the intervening period, when you have your fosse emptied by a licensed waste collector do make sure you retain your receipt as proof. But do not confuse this with a certificate of conformity, because that it certainly is not.
Just as an aside, SPANC are just a government advisory service and have no powers to force you to do anything, if you do not follow their advice after 12 months they will ask you to pay a penalty of the equivalent amount to be connected to mains drainage, but they cannot force you to change your fosse. Having said that, achieving regulatory compliance is absolutely key when selling the property and the mandatory diagnostic reports are a legal requirement before any preliminary sale / purchase contract can be signed, (despite the fact that some agents do this). Because the buyer has just one year in which to meet compliant standards, they will usually seek to 'adjust' their purchase price / offer in order to reflect the potential cost of implementation.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Currency news - Greece defer on first IMF payment

A busy end to a busy week in the ever volatile currency market. We started the day with the news that Greece had deferred on their €300 million payment that was due to the IMF on Friday. This didn’t have a huge effect on the market as it actually came to light overnight on Thursday that they would miss this payment and priced into the market then with GBP/EUR dropping over a cent into the low €1.36’s.

This story doesn’t look like it is going away anytime soon and will be the continued factor behind movements in the market. They have a total of €17.1 billion to pay to all of their debtors.

There was talk of a reform earlier in the week but Alex Tspiras has decided against this as it goes against the promises he made when campaigning for power.

As shown on the graphs below, GBP/EUR has traded at highs and lows this week that would have cost you the difference of nearly £4700 when purchasing €200,000. So if you have an upcoming Euro requirement it would be a good idea to get in contact with our currency brokers at the Foremost Group to discuss what options you have.

by Adam Bobroff, Director, Foremost Currency Group

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Cheek Kissing – Tips for Expat Brits

It is a measure of the drastic changes in English attitudes towards kissing in general, and cheek kissing in particular that what is now more and more accepted as a standard form of greeting would have raised eyebrows – even shocked (especially between males) – three or four decades ago when it was mainly confined to theatrical types whose off-stage lives were marked by a general tendency to overdo. On the French side of the Channel, however, ‘faire la bise’ has long since been a common way of showing others you are friendlily inclined. Who, then in France kisses on the cheek, when and how do they do it?

A cheek kiss is usually bestowed by women on women, and men on women. Nevertheless, even though in the past exclusively male cheek kissing took place only between close relatives, i.e. brothers, fathers and sons (and perhaps occasionally very close male friends), today there is an increasing trend among young Frenchmen to replace the handshake by ‘la bise’ when greeting both male and female friends of a similar age.

In convivial circumstances, however, men can kiss the cheeks of women who are more acquaintances than friends. This is especially the case when you are members of the same sporting club or association. In France, however, there can be a considerable gap between private and public behaviour, so the Brit abroad mustn’t be surprised if the woman who readily offers him her cheek at the golf club simply wishes him ‘Bonjour’ in the High Street.

Adults normally kiss small children on the cheek. Shaking hands would be inappropriately formal.

As far as the kissing itself is concerned, the first question we might ask is which cheek do you begin with? Well, basically, that’s for participants to decide. Personally, without really knowing why (perhaps it’s because I’m right-handed), I usually go for her left one first, and when she realizes this, the lady usually co-operates by holding it out. But, as with shaking hands, you can leave it to her to take the initiative. And what about the number of times? Well, this is, in fact, a regional thing. Where I live, thank goodness, I’ve never been witness to more than one on each. But, depending on where you are, it can be once on one, once on the other, and then back for another on the first. And in some regions, apparently, it can be as many as two on each.

It’s important to note that, in reality, the word ‘kiss’ is frequently a misnomer. For rather than planting your lips on the cheeks of the other, the technique usually consists in briefly rubbing your chops together, and at the same time making a kissing movement with your lips. The result is that most lip contact is with the surrounding air – though I do have a copain who actually believes in firmly planting a sensual kiss on the cheeks of a woman he really likes. Spectacle-wearers should be careful as potentially nasty collisions can occur and, similarly, if your wearing a cap with a long nib it’s far more prudent to take it off.

That romantic gesture of ‘old school’ French gallantry which consists in the male bringing his lips into light, respectful contact with the back of a lady’s outstretched hand is now less common in higher social and diplomatic circles – though a former Président de la République (a reputed woman chaser) frequently used it when welcoming foreign lady Heads of State. Even though the hand kiss is, apparently, still quite common in Central and Eastern Europe, the French – in their everyday life, at least – usually resort to it as a source of affectionate amusement.

Article by permission of Barry Whittingham see http://www.frenglishthoughts.com & http://www.calloffrance.com


2 books :
François Théodore Thistlethwaite's FRENGLISH THOUGHTS Francophiles, Frenglish-Franglais, Serious Humour about the French and English

The first book in the trilogy CALL OF FRANCE, Barfield School is a dramatized portrayal of some of the experiences which led the author to become a longstanding expat in a country he’s always felt a deep attraction for.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Bon de visites and protocol

Often as an agency we are asked for the exact location of a property – which as many people know and understand is not normal practice in France.

We don’t want to be obstructive, but we need to protect our business interests, and prevent people trying to cut us out of a deal.

Therefore, when buyers ask about a house that we don’t have in “exclusivity” we will either ask for a Bon de Visite to be signed, or alternatively request a statement by e-mail, to say that the client recognises that they will be responsible for our fees etc.   Once this is done, we will happily provide precise GPS coordinates.

It is surprising how many buyers can take offence at this request – and then do not proceed with a viewing.  If your intentions to purchase are genuine, there is nothing to lose by signing a Bon de Visite.