A book could be written on this subject, but in this article I will focus on just the key mistakes house buyers do and how to avoid them. And to support buyers beyond this article, Smartfinder Home are providing a tailored coaching offering remote via phone and chat.
1- Choice constrained by time
A house hunter is like a fisherman, trawling through property websites. The more time you spend, the better chance you will have of finding the right property. But just like fishing, you have amateurs and professionals, the latter will know where to look and how to do it effectively. Our key advice is:
- Don't limit yourself to looking at just 2-3 property portals. To maximize choice, identify at least a dozen property websites you will monitor and make use of our directory of the top 30 websites with the most adverts.
- Avoid creating alerts that generate unmanageable emails and phone calls, run instead repeat in depth searches every 1-3 weeks on the property portals you are monitoring, and sort the results by date. Ensure your criteria gets you a selection below 100 properties.
- Avoid doing the search on your own and delegate instead. You will save time if you have reliable family or friends to check specific property portals. Alternatively get a property finder like Smartfinder Home to do this work for you.
2 - Geography knowing where to look
Often property searches are too narrow if the buyer limits his search only to areas they have been on holiday. Others are too broad, looking across multiple regions - it is best to focus on your favourite region first. When looking for a permanent home space is important, so consider areas further from the sea front or town centres where you may have been on holiday before. For example, within 1 hour of Nice airport you will access better value properties located inland or west towards the Var.
3 - Priorities to get realistic search criteria
There are many examples of impossible searches, like cheap properties with sea views, large land holding walking distance to a village, etc.. So when you start your search, note down and check your criteria on a property portal without any price limits. You will quickly find out if you are at the very bottom of the quality range. As part of our coaching offer we give you a checklist of all criteria you should consider. This will enable you to prioritize faster and save you pointless visits.
4 - Projection or imagining a different decoration
When confronted with old or poor decoration, instinctively buyers just want to walk away.
If you are ready to redecorate, imagine the property with empty rooms and white walls, like a new build with same layout and openings as the current house. From that mental picture then add elements of your own furniture to get an idea of how the room would be like. If you have an interior designer using software, you can get pictures of what the new interior would look like.
5 - Due diligence and getting documents
Sellers and agents often exaggerate possibilities on extensions or minimize issues. We advise that you check these claims through documents, including information regarding planning rules for extensions, diagnostics, building permit conformity etc...
The French legal process ensures you receive many of these documents when signing the compromis de vente, but that can be too late after you have negotiated the price. So if you have a helpful agent or a property finder, make best use of them to help you through all this information, as French notaires are often too busy to be of any help.
6 - Negotiation and making a sensible offer
If you start off too low or use wrong justifications, you will lose credibility and upset the seller pointlessly. If you make an offer below the asking price because of a budget limit or to ensure you are buying at market value, find out the context of the sale and psychology of the seller.
The level of your initial offer needs to be realistic so check the history of the property regarding past offers/price changes/time on the market. Unless there is an urgent compelling event like a professional move/health issue do not expect +20% price drops. Also sellers will not make an effort on price for a buyer they do not like, so empathy is key as well.
When sending the offer to justify a price drop, do not only highlight weaknesses of the property, but mention also what you like about the property, as appreciation helps sellers be more flexible. You can also get the help of a professional negotiator, and Smartfinder Home provides this via a specific "negotiation mandate" that is results based.
Get Smartfinder Home's new "Coaching for Buyers in France" session now for professional advice adapted to your needs ! With this remote advice you will save yourself weeks of work and ensure you buy at the best price. We also share an extract from our database of property and agency websites, so you can extend your search.