How to Avoid Buying the Wrong House in Provence

(This article previously appeared in FrenchEntrée Magazine May/June 2015)

We all know that house hunting is an emotional experience and that the majority of house buying decisions is made on first impressions alone. The first thing most of my clients will say is that a house must “feel right”. There’s nothing wrong with listening to your instinct, as long as you keep in mind that the moment you start house hunting all your fears, longings and romantic notions about the world kick in and that these emotions can easily cloud your rational judgment.

Gut instinct almost ruined the French dream of Anna and Giles* from London, a lovely couple that had been looking to buy in Provence for several years without success. Two of their search criteria were the toughest: firstly, they wanted to be true walking distance from the shops and restaurants of bustling l’Isle sur la Sorgue, and secondly, they were looking for a garden big enough for a pool. Luckily, they were prepared to do renovations, which made the search feasible for me.

It gets hot in Provence and in summer very few people will go on long walks to get their daily croissants or go to dinner. I therefore do not qualify a house at more than a 15-minute walk from the shops as being at true “walking distance.” The couple agreed.

At the end of the third day of viewings of the shortlisted houses, at the final property on the list, Anna looked tired. She had not fallen in love with any of the homes and the idea of renovating a house from a distance now overwhelmed her. The vendor agent spotted Anna’s “buyer’s fatigue” and was quick to suggest that we visit another house, further away from town. I had not shortlisted that property for the clients during my search and pre-visits because it was far over their budget and 25-minutes from the centre.

It gets hot in Provence and in summer very few people will go on long walks to get their daily croissants or go to dinner.

When we entered the off-brief house both their eyes lit up. The property had been refurbished to sell, with a brand-new swimming pool. It even had an adorable Spaniel asleep in the kitchen! The layout was extremely awkward, however, and the price far too high to negotiate down to their budget. The vendor agent did her sales pitch and waved my concerns aside saying that it really was only a 10-minute walk. “For Usain Bolt maybe,” I thought to myself.

We met up again the next morning and a dejected Giles told me they had walked to the “Spaniel” house after dinner in town the night before and it was indeed at least a 25-minute walk. The couple both looked tired and sad. After several years of searching for the right property in Provence they were worried that their dream was simply not attainable.

We had visited a house on the first day that was 100% on-brief – as close to the centre as one could wish for – but they had both said that it had not “felt right” to them. It had left a “negative and sombre impression.” I suspected that the abundance of oversized brown furniture throughout the house had probably put the couple off, although the house itself was in fact south-facing and very light. The awnings had been down and an overgrown tree cut out any remaining light. I suggested we go back for a second viewing of this “dark” house, this time leaving their subconscious at the door.

With a fresh perspective Anna and Giles immediately saw what the house had to offer. Two months later it was theirs; under budget, a pleasant 8-minute walk from the centre of town and minus the dark furniture. Buyer Beware . . . of yourself!

This article previously appeared in FrenchEntrée Magazine of May/June 2015.

*Names of the clients have been changed to protect their privacy, but their email is available upon request


Sophia Mose is a licensed French Agent Immobilier. She runs PROVENCE SEARCH, a property search agency offering bespoke property search and acquisition
in southwest Provence and the Côte d’Azur, including Aix-en-Provence, the Luberon, Alpilles, Cannes and Nice. Get in touch for an initial consultation.