Expat Living and Real EstateSophia van Woensel-Mose

How to Avoid Buying the Wrong House in Provence

We all know that house hunting is an emotional experience and that the majority of house buying decisions is made on first impressions alone. Most house hunters 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.

Buying a Dream House

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.

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.  A house at more than a 15-minute walk from the shops therefore ends up not being at true “walking distance.”

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 they visit another house, further away from town. I had not shortlisted that property for the clients because it was far over their budget and a 25-minutes walk from the centre.

When they 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 any concerns aside saying that it really was only a 10-minute walk into town.

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 they 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!

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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Sophia van Woensel-Mose

Sophia van Woensel-Mose

Certified functional health coach Sophia Mose left behind a career as a corporate lawyer in 2005 when she moved from London to France with her family. They live in beautiful Aix-en-Provence, where Sophia was a property journalist and consultant until 2019. In her coaching practice Sophia works with busy professionals anywhere in the world (via Zoom) supporting them to make peace with inner critics and other saboteurs so that they can reach their optimal health and wellbeing.

Learn more about Sophia’s services on her Facebook page here.

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