The latest news from the Languedoc - May 2010

Bienvenue !

Welcome to the Spring issue of our Newsletter. Daffodils, irises and blossoms are bursting out all over Languedoc-Rousillon and the sap is definitely rising.

We have articles this month on safety for your swimming pool and ideas for letting out your property during the season. And as usual we present our featured properties.

www.ab-real-estate.com


Spring has sprung !

The average high temperature during February, March and April in Montpellier was

15°C

with a recorded high of 30C° and nearly 70% days of sunshine


Interview by Accents Southwest

I was recently interviewed by the editor of Accents Southwest and by kind permission they have allowed me to print it here in our Newsletter.

There are professions that are much maligned, and being an estate agent is right down there with lawyers, tax inspectors and cowboy builders. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to find an estate agent who put your needs before theirs; who considered their main objective was to make sure you are treated with honesty and respect and that you would be so impressed, you would recommend them – whether you bought or sold your property through them or not ? Accents Southwest went to meet one such estate agent – Annelise Bosshard of AB Real Estate.

asw Do you consider yourself to be different from other agencies ?

Annelise Bosshard

Annelise Bosshard

AB We pride ourselves on our honest and professional approach. I have been in this business for over 12 years and having my own agency allows me to work ethically. I believe in being open and honest with clients and I would rather point out the downsides to a property than gloss over them. We have inspected all properties extensively before presenting to our clients. We refuse many properties not meeting our standards or due to poor location. Buying a house is a huge investment and, for me, it isn’t a one-off transaction - it’s the start of an ongoing relationship.

We spend a lot of time with clients to find out exactly what they are looking for so that we don’t waste their time showing them inappropriate properties. I have had clients in the past asking me to visit properties for them before they fly over as they trust my judgement. Others have insisted on only working with me even though the properties we were visiting were with other estate agents. I think that speaks for itself.

asw What area do you cover ?

AB We cover four departments (counties) of the Languedoc-Roussillon region; the Gard, Hérault, Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales; or in other words, from the Rhone valley to the Spanish border. To give you a clearer idea in terms of towns, we work from Nîmes in the Gard, to Montpellier, Pézenas and Béziers in Hérault, Carcassonne and Narbonne in Aude as well as Perpignan and Ceret in the Pyrénées-Orientales.

asw Once the sale is made, is that where your role finishes ?

AB Absolutely not. We create a smoother transition by helping our clients with the myriad of logistical issues that arise whenever purchasing a property abroad. For example we support our clients by helping them to set up bank accounts, insurance and to get services connected or transferred into their name. To do this in a foreign country can be very daunting. Our experienced team covers most European languages fluently.

asw Why should people by in the region ?

AB It’s simply such a wonderful place – there is something for everyone here, whatever your age. It is one of France’s most popular tourist destinations and the sunniest region in France with over 300 days of sunshine per year. The pace of life is slower and some of the ‘old values’ continue giving a more authentic 'south of France' feel. There is so much to see and do from art, to history, to the great outdoors. For the fifth year running, France was voted as the best place to live in the world – Australia came second this year. You can’t put a price on quality of life.

Property prices in our segment of the real estate market have fallen on average by only 10 to 15% in Languedoc Roussillon, France. Compared to other countries where prices have fallen by as much as 40% it shows the strengths of our area.

In the current financial climate, heavy turbulences can take place in a matter of minutes; further today it is almost impossible to find a safe investment proposition. We sincerely feel enjoying a safe investment in Languedoc Roussillon offers stability combined with pleasure. However, throughout history, bricks and mortar have always been a solid and safe investment.

Therefore owning a property in Languedoc Roussillon offers a more interesting investment as this area will always attract new buyers because of its many benefits. It has a great climate, beautiful surroundings, value for money, quality of life, security, the largest wine growing area in the world, fresh sea food, beaches close by, no traffic jams, excellent medical services, relative low cost of living compared to other countries, and so much more.

asw And finally, how do you see the property market going in the foreseeable future ?

AB The indications are that France is out of the recession, not that it was really affected to the extent of other countries due to its very stringent rules about lending money. The inflation rate in France is 0.8% which is low compared to other countries. We have been unusually busy of late, which is great, and these are clients wanting to clinch a deal now while it is still a buyer’s market. The region is very desirable – beautiful untouched countryside, miles of long, sandy beaches, the Mediterranean Sea, less crowded than its neighbours - it continues to provide the right mix of investment potential and lifestyle choice and is a safer investment than other foreign property markets or the stock market. The Côtes d’Azure and Provence are expensive but the Languedoc-Roussillon remains competitively priced – for now.


Law - safety and security for your swimming pool

As the lovely, long summer months approach and the thought of plunging into a twinkling azure pool enters your mind, it is important that you are aware of the law surrounding safety and security.

France is not proud of the fact that they have the highest rate in the world for children drowning in a swimming pool. The country therefore implemented a law setting out strict regulations that all swimming pools had to comply with by January 2006. Should a child drown in a pool that does not meet the regulations, the owners could face criminal charges of death by negligence plus a 45,000€ fine. Even if someone breaks into your garden and uses your pool without your permission, perhaps while you are away, and you don’t meet the regulations, you are responsible !

AFNOR, the French standards body, have defined what is needed and the law is enforced by inspectors appointed by the Maries, Gendarmerie and the DDE (Direction départementale de l’equipement). The law applies to in-ground outdoor pools, not to indoor or above-ground or onground pools.

You have the choice of one out of the following four options :

Security Barriers
Permanent barriers or fencing at least 1.1 metres high that a child under five cannot climb over or under to gain access to a pool. For pools on rental properties, a self-closing, locking gate must be fitted.

Pool Alarms
Immersion detector or perimeter alarm that sound in the home to alert you to a child falling into the pool – but these are only effective if there is someone there to react to it.

Pool Covers
AFNOR approved summer and winter retractable covers must support an adult's weight.

Pool Abris
Abris are fixed or telescopic structures which effectively cover a swimming pool like a greenhouse.

If you have a pool, you should ensure that any safety or security product you purchase conforms to current regulations and has an AFNOR stamp of approval.

The regulations have been specifically put in place to protect children under five years old but cannot replace the vigilance of a responsible adult at all times.




To sweep, or not to sweep ?

It’s a bit of a grey area whether it is obligatory or not to have your chimney swept every year in order to validate your house insurance – if in doubt, check the conditions on your policy or talk to your insurer.

However, if you light the fire regularly during the winter, it’s probably a sensible thing to do anyway to avoid a chimney fire. Leaving it to the autumn, according to most chimney sweeps, causes a sudden demand and they would urge you to consider doing it now – it helps spread their workload and the certificate they give you (Certificate de Ramonage) is valid for twelve months. You may be asked to produce this by your insurers.

Make sure your chimney sweep is siret-registered and expect to be charged around 50 euros.


Holiday Rental

As the economic crisis continues and it is clear it is not as easy as one would hope to sell your property (and not just in France), some owners have decided to rent out their homes for the holiday season.

Letting your property for short term lets when it is not in use provides extra income – this would perhaps pay for its running costs and maybe even finance your holidays there. Short term lets also have different regulations and tax implications than renting out your property on a long term basis.

What you can ask per week depends on size, location and amenities. The most popular properties will be close to good transport links, airports (within an hour’s drive), near shops, tourist destinations, beaches, golf courses, rivers, countryside and places of historic interest. Tenants tend to want that magical mix of peaceful surroundings yet close to restaurants and night life.

A good way to make sure you are complying with the rules and regulations, getting your property marketed and professional photos taken, is to use an intermediary. They will make sure you get the maximum rental possible and will usually find guests as well, draw up proper rental agreements and make sure suitable deposits and accident cover is organised.

They can also help you find cleaners, pool and garden maintenance together with people to handle the ‘meet and greet’ and organise the change-overs for you.


As with selling your house, to prepare a property for rental you should consider removing clutter and personal items, decorate in neutral colours keeping it clean and bright, make sure you comply with all regulations and keep the property in tip top condition by employing cleaners and gardeners to maintain the property for you, particularly if you are not there. An information folder is often a nice touch, telling guests where they can find restaurants, places of interest, bike hire, sports, childcare etc.

If using a letting agent, talk to them in advance to find out what advice they can give you to prepare the property for tenants and letting and get their advice on possible rental income – it will vary from month to month over the season. Good photos are essential, and again, your agent should deal with this professionally for you.

Finally, another advantage of using an agent will be that they can recommend your property to tenants who were enquiring after a similar property that is already booked on the dates they require and maximise your letting potential.

Just remember to make sure your agent is properly registered and that they have a good network of tradesmen and staff to provide all the services you (and your tenants) require.


À Bientôt

Let me know if you have any suggestions for future Newsletters.

Please do not forget that we are looking for people to join our professional team in our agency or for property management.

Call us on

+33 (0) 4 67 36 36 80 in France

or

0871 990 2000 from UK

or by email

Skype ab.real.estate

With best wishes

Annelise Bosshard
Managing Director
AB Real Estate