THE ELUSIVE PERFECT VILLA
The sun is shining on the Riviera (finally, after an exceptional rainy season) and it brings the feeling that Spring is really not so far off now. Before that, however, there is the Carnival to look forward to in Nice and the lemon festival in Menton (a very unique affair).
This is always a busy time for me with the France Show in London (13-15 Januray) and a wave of early new year clients. All have quite different briefs, but quite rightly all my clients are looking for the best property in their budget as well as the best deal. They trust me and I do my best to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit and uncover the special apartments and villas. But some days I think I should change my job description to 'detective'.
My villa search for one client is going strong but the number of disappointing properties that I have to keep crossing off my list grows by the day. The sellers' and agents' expectations of price and quality often seem at such odds to what is being shown. The area I'm covering is quite wide, from Valbonne, Mougins, to Antibes and Nice. But the majority of houses have a familiarity about them. Badly designed (if an architect was involved, they should be ashamed), badly constructed (ditto the builder) and dated interiors (a speciality of the Southern French, I'm afraid). One of my favourite clients from last year describes them as 'gin palaces': Showy, poor interior design but strangely, lots of space for parking and a pool.
I was thinking about this on my last visit - yet another neo-Provencal villa, all pink stucco, Spanish arches and 70s bathrooms but asking over a cool million - and wondering how my aesthetics (and those of my clients) could be so out of step with the Southern French. The agents' job is to sell a property, so I don't blame them in the slightest for doing what they are paid to do. But it does amaze me how often I have to explain why I don't find the chipped brown and green tiles attractive and why a lay-out that involves going through two bedrooms to get to a bathroom just doesn't seem...well... practical. They almost take umbrage when I tell them it is not worth showing it to my clients. The next step of the game is the half-whispered, 'You know you can make an offer' (i.e. this property has been on the books for far too long and the price was too high). Just because something is 'cheaper' (i.e. 100,000, 200,000, 300,000 euros less than the original asking price), however, doesn't make it a good buy at any price.
But it is all part of the hunt and makes tracking down the good villas become not only a challenge but a pleasure when I finally find the few that make my list. And of course there are the agents who do 'get it', who organise good viewings and turn up on time - and they are a breath of fresh air (and always on my speed dial).
So the search continues and I know it will be a success in the end.
A Happy New Year to all!