Attention to detail – Luxury French Property


For some, looking for a French property is merely a question of choosing a location, a size and a budget. You contact a local agent and hopefully they have something that fits the bill.

More often than not, however, there are more issues than square meters and price on the list. For many people, the features of the house take priority whilst the area can be flexible. So how does one find that house with that special something? – a tower, vaulted ceilings, indoor swimming pool, sauna or wine cellar? If you have the time, you can call up all the local agents in the area and ask them what they have on hand, and then hope they will call you back once that special object turns up. Anyone trying this option knows it can be very time consuming and tedious, repeating and explaining your requirements over and over again.

Another option is to contact a property search company such as Home Hunts, the South of France property search specialist. The attractive thing about this option is, that is actually doesn’t cost you anything and can save a lot of time. Home Hunts’ director Tim Swannie told us, that they have had requests for anything from helicopter pads to home cinemas to ornamental goldfish ponds. Once there was a couple wanting to set up a B&B who were looking for a stone built house with a tower, an olive grove and a heated pool. It had to have a suitable layout (including specific room sizes), lots of character and could be situated anywhere within 1h from Nice airport.

Home Hunts work with all of the best estate agents on the Riviera, Provence, Languedoc Roussillon, Paris, all of the South West of France and most recently, The Alps. They take care of the time consuming search process for their clients. Many local agents are primarily set up to deal with visiting customers, whilst Home Hunts is fully equipped to keep in constant contact with the client by both phone and e-mail.

Home Hunts works with clients from all over the world and are aware that everyone is different. The team is really multi-lingual and find that they can communicate well and work closely with all of their clients.

When asked what makes them different to an estate agent, Tim said “We work for and are committed to the buyer rather than the seller. The important thing for us is that they find what they’re looking for, not which agent they buy from. We know how important it is to really listen to the client to fully understand what their needs are; we pay attention to detail. Our consultants are all well travelled and are very perceptive, they know that ‘rustic’ for example can mean different things depending on where you come from. We keep in regular contact, we do not wait for the client to call us, we actually call them! Most clients find this refreshing!”

- So how did it go with the B&B? It is now up and running successfully in the hills behind Nice. Within limits, Home Hunts can find anything, they work with a network of tradesmen, designers and architects so according to Tim “Everything is possible. Sometimes it takes a bit of time, but as long as the customer is still interested, Home Hunts will keep on searching”


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French vineyards appealing to Chinese buyers

An interesting article from the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST with quotes from Tim Swannie of Home Hunts:

French vineyard

Mainlanders get taste for French vineyards

Richard Warren -London 

Wealthy mainland investors, including state-owned enterprises, are queuing to buy vineyards in France. 

The latest mainland foray into French wine-growing properties included the sale to an undisclosed buyer of Chateau Lagarosse, a 40-hectare vineyard that produces a Premier Cote de Bordeaux, an entry-level wine. The price that was paid is not known.

The deal followed the purchase by Cofco, China’s largest national agricultural trading and processing company, of the 20-hectare Chateau de Viaud in Bordeaux’s Lalande-de- Pomerol district for an undisclosed sum. Both purchases were made in the first week of February. 

Joel Palous, managing director of AIM Vineyards, a company that advises clients on buying and managing vineyards, said he knew of seven other Chinese buyers, including companies, syndicates and wealthy individuals, looking for Bordeaux vineyards. Most had budgets ranging from €10 million (HK$105 million) to €50 million, and one buyer was prepared to pay €100 million for a trophy estate. 

 ”We also have a few Hong Kong-based investors who are looking for properties, though smaller than those wanted by the Chinese investors – more like a retreat home for their family and friends,” Palous said. 

Tim Swannie, director of French buyers’ agency Home Hunts, said his company was helping two buyers from China and Hong Kong find Bordeaux vineyards. “One of the clients is a company from mainland China looking for a trophy property with a large vineyard in Saint-Emilion or Medoc,” Swannie said. 

“The proposed buyer is a well-known wine company in China already and this property will serve as its European base. The client’s budget is up to about €25 million. The second client is from Hong Kong and is looking for a chateau or a manor house with a small vineyard to use as a holiday home. They would like to produce a small amount of wine for personal use and have a budget up to around €1.5 million.” 

Demand for Bordeaux vineyards is higher now than a year ago, partly because they are now more affordable, said Swannie, and overseas demand was particularly strong. 

 ”Prices have dropped a little over the past two to three years – perhaps by 10 to 15 per cent – which has helped,” Swannie said. “Plus, some people are looking for a change of direction following the recession. The thought of living in France and making a living from your land is quite inviting to many. Aside from that, French wine seems to have had a real revival in the past 18 to 24 months. It has become quite fashionable for the international jet set to have a vineyard in their portfolio as an investment or a status symbol”

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The most beautiful chateau in Provence?

In our opinion, this is one of the most beautiful estates in Provence if not the whole of France. This stunning provence chateau is situated in the Rhone valley within easy reach of St. Remy de Provence, Avignon, and Aix. The estate`s fully enclosed landscape embraces 17 acres of mature wooded parkland, elegant formal gardens, orchards and streams. It is also possible to purchase further land, including a world class vineyard.

At the heart of the estate lies the stunning chateau itself which is set at the end of a long avenue of plane trees. The main chateau offers 850m2 of living space, plus there is a large farm (950m2) and a private chapel.

The chateau has been painstakingly refurbished over 15 years by the current owners who have sourced material from all over France to restore it to its original glory. At the same time, they have made sure the property has all of the latest technology and facilities. The property has the most beautiful swimming pool we have ever seen, tennis court, basketball court, gym, squash court, conference facilities and much more .

This is a dream property with an interesting history which must be seen to appreciate fully. Viewings are strictly by appointment through Elite Estates. If you are looking for a chateau in provence, do contact us for more details

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The French Riviera property market heats up

Following a difficult year or two, the French riviera property market strengthened throughout 2010. According to a report published recently by FNAIM who are the National Association of French Real Estate Agents, the price of Cannes property increased by more than 3% in 2010.  Antibes property prices rose by 3.3% and reports say that Nice properties increased by 4% . This is excellent news for both property owners and buyers.

The report also pointed out the increase in the number of property sales last year which is a further indication that the Cote d`Azur property market is on the up.  Riviera property sales were up 24% in 2010 comparing to the year before and the average time between a property coming on the market and the actual sale was down to 87 days which is a great improvement on the 2009 figure of 4 months.

Home Hunts, the luxury French property specialist who works throughout the South of France, Monaco, the Alps and Paris noticed the market stabilising in 2010 and predict a very busy year ahead.  Tim Swannie, one of the directors said “France, in general, has a relatively stable housing market historically and because of its strict lending criteria, it did not really suffer the same sub-prime mortgage problems as many other countries”

Home Hunts has seen a sudden surge in property viewings at the beginning of this year, leading them to believe that the 2011 French property market will outshine this year. Swannie went on to say “The French Riviera and St. Tropez had a tough year in 2009 but we saw a real upturn in 2010 with clients mainly coming from the UK, the Benelux, Scandinavia, Switzerland and Russia with also some buyers from the Middle East and China. We have had a record start to this year in terms of enquiries, viewings and sales. There seems to be a lot more optimism in the market and we are expecting a great year this year”

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Waterfront villa between Cannes and St. Tropez

Elegant Bourgeois villa from the 1930′s in a stunning waterfront position providing a luxurious oasis protected from curious eyes. Once known for its famous guests such as Piaf, Bardot and Chevalier the house has been restored, keeping all original features where possible, and is sold with all furniture, including the grand piano!

It has recently been run as a private luxury hotel numbering royalty and film stars among its visitors.  All rooms in the main house have beautiful sea views and are well proportioned. Accomodation includes The cherry 2 large reception rooms on the main floor, one with a bar. Enormous professionally equipped kitchen, 3 large bedroom suites with sitting rooms, opening onto a solarium, second large preparation kitchen, storage areas. it would be possible to create a home cinema and fitness area here.

In the grounds there is a 100m2 pavilion featuring a Cuban Mahogany bar, it is possible to convert this into a permanent building. Guest House with three bedrooms and two offices. Boat house which has been converted for use as a hammam with sauna and steam rooms. Large salt water pool with ample terraces, plus a jetty and 3 deep water moorings which are leased on a 3 yearly basis. Parking for several cars. It is also possible to acquire a 750m2 bastide immediately behind to provide 10 extra bedroom suites.

 Elite Estates offer a bespoke property finding service for our clients. We specialise in finding luxury french property and prestigious homes in London. For details on our service or information on any of the French Riviera property, provence properties or apartments in Monaco. Contact us today.

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Buying a Luxury French Property – the process


Much information is readily available from magazines and internet websites advertising luxury properties for sale in France; it is very easy to get an idea of what type of luxury property is available and at what cost before you actually start your search. Think carefully about the location and type of property. Take into consideration whether you plan for it to be your main residence, second home, holiday home to be let out on occasion, or a property to be let as an investment for the future. Make a list of the important elements. The purchase price, the overall size and number of rooms, is a cave (cellar) or garage essential? Would you prefer a garden, terrace or balcony? These considerations will keep you on the right track to find your ideal property.

Once you have found the luxury property you wish to buy, negotiations will start to secure the property at a price agreed by you and the seller.    When your offer has been accepted by the seller, you will be required to sign a sales contract, the Compromis de vente (sometimes called the Promesse de vente).  The notaire or agent can draft the Compromis de Vente (preliminary sales contract) which will be written in French but you may have an English translation.

 The Notaire:

The notaire is a public official and given the title of Maitre. The notaire is highly qualified in the French legal system and is able to advise about French property, family and succession, and corporate laws. Empowered by the government to legalise property purchase transactions (which cannot be enforced by any other means) he/she is a Public Official and who provides security to the contracts he supervises and is liable for his professional acts. A notaire is responsible for the conveyance, preparing the various documents and confirming the seller’s title to the property, checking that there are no other mortgages on the property etc. The notaire also has indemnity assurance, which provides a financial guarantee to the buyer. The purchaser is free to choose their own notaire, but can use the same notaire as the vendor as notaire fees are fixed and include the French equivalent of stamp duty. These usually range somewhere between 6% and 8% of the purchase price of the property. As these are fixed by law (much like stamp duty in the UK) it does not matter which notary you appoint as the price will be the same. Using two different notaires will not increase the total fees; the fees are split between the two notaires.


The Compromis de Vente is a legal contract; you will go through it together with your notaire who will make sure that you are happy with all the details and that the conditions are correct. Whoever is named as the purchaser(s) and if you are intending to use mortgage funds, the same name(s) must appear on your mortgage application.

In this preliminary sales contract details such as:

• Details and identities of the seller and yourself (the purchaser)
• A full description of the property
• The surface area of the property and land
• The purchase price, the breakdown of fees and who will pay each fee
• Details of the notaire and sales agent
• Details of any fixtures and fittings included in the sale~
• Results of reports on asbestos, lead and termites
• Details of your mortgage, the date of when you should have your mortgage offer and the date of completion
• Any let-out clauses (clauses suspensives) and the penalties that will be incurred by you or the vendor if completion does not take place

For you, the purchaser, the clauses suspensives protect the deposit you gave to the notaire or agent as part of your agreement to purchase the property. The most usual is a clause stating that your agreement to purchase is subject to you obtaining mortgage finance.

Other clauses can be inserted, such as the vendor having to carry out necessary repairs or subject to the dimensions of the property corresponding to what is detailed in the Compromis de Vente, and this is where expert legal advice is useful in the negotiation of these clauses.

Once you sign the Compromis de Vente you will be required to pay your deposit (normally 10%) to the notaire which remains in an Escrow account until completition. Once you have signed the Compromis de Vente, the clock starts ticking. There is now a set date by when you should complete on the purchase. You are given a 7 day cooling off to retract from the purchase.

A Survey

Unlike in England the French do not tend to have surveys done to their houses and a French chartered surveyor does not exist.  However there are a number of British chartered surveyors based in France and they can do a variety of services from a small survey to a full structural.  If anything major comes to light then you can sometimes use this to re-negotiate the price agreed on the property

After the Compromis is signed.

The Notaire will now carry out his required searches and conveyancing checking records and documentation concerning the property. The buyer needs certain certificates from the notaire showing that surveys have been carried out to verify any existence of Lead, Asbestos or termites. It is important to remember he/she is totally impartial and works for the French legal system, and will be meticulous to ensure that the sale conforms to French law. This part of the process could take up to three months and in the compromise there will be a date set as the guideline for the final signing and completion.  It is therefore important to keep in touch with your notaire to find out how the process is going so you have an exact idea of the completition date.

To complete……

Once the mortgage offer is received and the notaire has carried out the legal aspects of the sale a mutual time and date for completion will be arranged. It is your responsibility to instruct the notaire to request the mortgage funds from the lender.

Once you know the date you will be completing on your property purchase you will need to make sure your French bank account is open. Funds must be transferred into it in enough time for the completion date and the buildings insurance must be valid from the date of completion. You will need to provide details of the insurance policy at the notaires office.

The final deed of sale which is signed on completion is known as the Acte de Vente (projet d’acte). It will contain much of the same information as in the original Compromis de Vente, but check it through carefully; usually a translator will be requested for you if your French is not fluent. It will state the date that you may move into the property. You will be asked to produce your birth certificate(s) and passport(s) together with marriage certificate/divorce decree if applicable. If you think you may be unable to attend the meeting to sign the Acte de Vente (final deed of sale) you can give a trusted person or friend a power of attorney (procuration) which authorizes them to sign on your behalf.

The Acte de Vente is signed by you, the seller and one notaire. If both you and the seller have different notaires, only one needs to witness the Acte de Vente. Once the Acte de Vente has been signed and witnessed, the notaire has to pay all the taxes, settle all the accounts of the purchase/sale and register the deeds and mortgage. A few months later you will receive a certificate/document informing you that the title has been registered. The original title deed is kept by the notaire, but he is able to make authorized copies.   Also he will give you a one sheet document called an ‘attestation’ which proves you are now the legal owner which is very useful in France and maybe asked for on occasions.

The French Buying Process is extremely well structured and the buyer is very much protected – careful guidance and commitment by dedicated property search experts such as ELITE ESTATES will ensure that every step of the process is fully explained to you.    For anymore questions on this or to talk to someone about the type of luxury property you are looking for in France: contact

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