For those who do not know already, you rarely get an exact address when looking for properties in France. Agents guard their portfolios and prospective commission very carefully. They’ll arrange to meet you somewhere close by and then either drive you there or ask you to follow them. It’s all very cloak and dagger.
One stunning looking property we decided to look at was actually just outside the Loire region in the Mayenne. It looked lovely from the photos so we thought it worth the two hour drive to get to it.
At this point, if you have some James Bond theme music or other spy film music, I suggest you play it as you read on……..
We were told of a car park where to meet the agent. The date and time were agreed. The day came, we checked our map and set off for our ‘clandestine’ meeting. We didn’t even know what the chap looked like. We only knew his name. Surprisingly for us we found the car park with no trouble at all. We sat and waited, carefully eyeing everyone who arrived. The appointment time came and went and we were beginning to get strange looks ourselves. Just as we were contemplating ringing the agency there was a knock on the car window. A gentleman in, I kid you not, white trousers, a striped blazer and wearing a cravat, leaned in and asked for ‘Stefan Farrool’. It took a nano second to realise that ‘Stefan Farrool’ was of course the way Inmate one’s name sounded when pronounced by a Frenchman.
Introductions were made and after a little general chit chat the agent promised to ‘find a house to make Madams heart sing’. Obviously ‘Monsieur’ doesn’t count when it comes to buying a house and after our previous days property experience I was a tad dubious about being called ‘Madam’.
The agent asked us to follow him. We arrived at some rather impressive gates. Even more impressive was the way the gates opened with no one in sight. We looked at each other and thought we’d hit the jackpot as we followed the agent up the gravel tree lined drive.
The house looked even better than the pictures until ………. we went inside. The rooms were very small and the salon had a mural filling one wall, painted by the nephew of the owner. He was extremely proud of the mural but not being related to the lad ourselves we weren’t wearing rose tinted glasses like his Uncle. Between you and me – it was ghastly. We did not say anything and even managed to make appropriate noises when the owner graciously said he would leave us the mural. We could not see how he couldn’t unless he took the wall down and replaced it with another.
We carried on exploring and were less than impressed at the inches of bat droppings that were on the floor of the grenier, along with the broken window in a turret room through which a number of birds had flown and were making themselves at home. They had been making themselves at home for a number of years judging by the number of nests and piles of guano to be seen in the dilapidated room. Even looking past all the decor problems. this wasn’t the place for us.
It was as we were leaving we discovered that unlike English agents and sellers, the French ask you there and then if you wish to buy. We tried in our faltering French to say it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. That it was one of the first properties we had looked at but, the very large Parisian owner looked as if he were about to explode. How dare we turn down his magnificent chateau emanated from every inch of his body.
When all else fails play the delicate lady ……. I looked at the agent, rubbed my eye to show sadness as I touched my heart. Give inmate two an Oscar! The agent changed completely, became very sympathetic and explained ‘Madams problem’ to the bristling owner. We took this opportunity to say quick ‘Mercis’ and slipped into our car. Inmate one managed to drive at a sedate pace towards the gates without spraying everyone else in gravel. Would they or would they not open or where we going to have to bust through them. Phew ….. they did slowly open!!
A tip …… When buying a house in France have a few polite stock phrases for ‘no’ for when you are asked if you want to buy the house and you are standing in front of the owner.
Originally from London, I moved with Inmate 1, to France in 2007. Home is now on the outskirts of the Medieval village of Plazac in the Perigord Noir region of the Dordogne.