Sunday, May 13, 2012


A Côte d'Azur property is all about the right view 

When doing a search for a client it quickly becomes obvious that there is always one ingredient that is more important to them above all else. It can be location, it can be space, it can be architectural charm. However, more often than not it is the view. This seemingly simple request for a 'view' has led me to some of the most magnificent villas and apartments on the French Riviera. However, equally over the years I have been shown some shocking examples. Ones near Nice airport are usually the most irritating. Sea views and ... industrial landscape and planes!

The rationale here on the Côte d'Azur with sellers and agents is that a view of the sea is a view of the sea. This means your property must be worth far more than one without a view of the sea and is far more desirable. Well, no actually. You see, not all sea views are the same. There is a magnificent sea view in a desirable location - and this is without a doubt a property price hike to the super-league. Next is a great view but wrong location (Nice West and the far-end of Promenade des Anglais, for instance, are more affordable areas agents are fond of touting for 'views', but frankly not a place to invest). Then there is a so-so view (usually a glimpse of the sea between buildings or if you crane your head out of a window). This sort of view is second best and quite honestly it doesn't deserve the extra 'sea view' price tag. Finally, there is the sea view that should work but just doesn't.

I have seen a few of the latter category recently while on a 'view' hunt for a client (it started with thinking the style of building was important but it quickly became clear the sea view was the thing). We narrowed the area to Villefranche sur mer or close to it. The budget was good enough for a two or three bedroom apartment in this expensive location (prices round Villefranche can reach €12,000 to €15,000 per square metre). You would think it would be an easy search. It wasn't.

It usually goes like this with agents (not all but generally). First they want to show the properties that have been on their books for years (yes, often years!) or ones where they are friends with the owners. This is in part due to a delusional hope I will suspend all my aesthetic and business judgement and allow my client to visit (I don't), and in part to appease owners who want to see that a certain number of visits have been clocked up. Once that formality is over (and actually I don't mind this as it means I can see the market and give feedback to clients), I get down to business of seeing the interesting and new properties.

This search I saw some fabulous views, but not so fabulous apartments. Or fabulous apartments but the so-so view rule came into play (usually squeezed between buildings). But the most depressing category has to be the view that should work but simply does not. Usually this means if you keep your eye on the horizon all will be fine, but don't look down, left or right.

The runner-up in this category in my latest search was an apartment that gazed out over the beautiful Villefranche Bay. However, look down and there was a particularly grim car parking lot, look left there was some kind of ravaged cliff with houses about to fall off - held up there by chicken wire. However, the overall winner went to the apartment that had the sea view but when you looked down from the terrace you enjoyed the cemetery. And we are not talking a quaint cemetery with overgrown ivy here. This was modern grey tombstones in rows a-go-go. The agent slightly ironically (but only slightly I fear) piped up that 'there would be no noise from the neignbours'. Quite.

Anyway, the point is that not all sea views are the same and what you see on the internet is in reality far more complicated and nuanced (price should be a give-away, by the way, but sometimes it is not).

As for my client. Well she surprised me. After initially going for a fabulous on the waterfront apartment (view charming and pied dans l'eau but needing work), she changed overnight and decided on a higher up view that also took in a bit of Nice city. I share the same view and love it (it has a slightly Hollywood feel at night). In the end the apartment and view had to work in tandem - and this one does perfectly.

So next time you see a place advertised with 'magnificent sea views', remember it is not always that simple on the Côte d'Azur. For property assistance on the Côte d'Azur, contact us at


  1. Rebecca, you always hit the nail on the head with your posts. Your recent "view" search so perfectly shows the process we go through with agents when doing searches for clients. I recently did a "very close to the centre with shops and restaurants" search and agents kept wanting to show me houses near the centre of . . . . a hamlet outside the town in question! Because that is what the "Anglais" want, they said. Well, these Anglais didn't want that and, like you, I was able to save my clients a lot of time and frustration and found them the perfect property. An exclusive with an agent half an hour away. It's almost comical. One can never forget however that French estate agents work for sellers, and simply are doing their job - trying to sell the houses on their books for the best possible price. So every buyer in France in fact needs a buyer's agent. Seems so obvious, doesn't it? :-)

    Sophia x

    1. Thanks for the note! Yes the job description between estate agent and buyer's agent couldn't be more different, yet it often confuses people here as many estate agents will say that they are 'property finders' who can search the entire market. This is not possible, I'm afraid, as they can't look at private sales for one thing, and also many agencies won't share their properties. The whole raison d'être of an estate agent is fundamentally to sell a property and work for the seller - why would I hire one otherwise if I were selling?