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We have attached a few suggestions which you may find useful and which may help make visits to a property as safe as possible as the estate agency industry moves towards life after lockdown. This is not an exhaustive list, but is a summary of tips we have found. As always, ensure as a priority, that you follow the legal guidelines set out by the French government and that you exercise caution and common sense throughout.
Both buyers and sellers should, in the first instance, satisfy themselves that they are able to take part in the visit. Consider your age, underlying health problems and how well you are on the day of the visit. If in doubt you could always ask a third party to undertake the visit on your behalf. If the risk is simply too great – postpone the visit.
Suggestions for sellers:
Ensure that you give a buyer as much advance information about your property as you can - the last thing you want is for someone to turn up and wander through your house when it is very obviously not what they are looking for. Use photographs, Google maps, telephone conversations and virtual visits via smartphone, tablet or an app such as Zoom or Facetime to ensure that neither you nor your viewer are at risk unnecessarily.
Plan the route of the visit. In what order will you show people each room? How will you navigate corridors and staircases? Will you go into each room yourself or will you stand outside smaller rooms and watch your buyer as they look around inside it on their own?
The less people involved in a visit the better. I would recommend that you insist that no more than two visitors take part in the viewing – and preferably only one of them plus either you or your representative. The virus is spread more easily indoors so the less people there are in the house during the visit the better.
Contact your buyer before their visit to explain how you require the visit to be conducted. If you like, you could send them our suggestions for buyers, outlined below.
Ask people to ring you when they arrive at your property so that you can be sure you are ready to receive them.
Before the visit starts open as many doors and windows as possible. By maximising a stream of fresh air throughout your property you will dilute the concentration of any virus in the air and so minimise the risk of inhaling it. Leave the windows and doors open for as long as possible after the visit has ended.
Please ask everyone to wear a mask for the duration of the visit and to sanitise their hands as soon as they have got out of their cars. They should sanitise them again before getting back into the car at the end of the visit. If they follow this practice they are less likely to spread the virus from one property to another.
You should also wear a mask during the visit. Avoid touching your face and practice social distancing. This means remain two metres away from your buyer and not standing face to face with one another. The virus is expelled from the mouth or nose of one person and is either inhaled by another, or, when it lands it can be spread by touch. Similarly, if you have the virus, every time you touch your mouth, eyes or nose you will collect the virus on your fingers – or, if you don’t have the virus you can introduce it to your own respiratory tract from somewhere else.
Ensure that your visitors touch nothing during the visit - the most notable things being door handles. Open the front door when they have phoned to tell you they have arrived. They should not have to knock on it. Ask them not to open any doors themselves. You should not make your buyer a cup of coffee or allow them to use your WC.
Do not exchange bits of paper. Information can be e-mailed or given to you verbally for you to write down. They can also download the brochure about your property from your page on our website.
Keep the visit as short as possible.
Suggestions for buyers:
Only visit properties you are seriously interested in. Use photographs, Google maps, telephone conversations and virtual visits via smartphone, tablet or an app such as Zoom to ensure that neither you nor the homeowner is at risk unnecessarily. If viewing with an agent, do not be persuaded to visit the infamous “wildcard property” – now is not the time for that sort of gesture. Every unnecessary visit puts you or the property owner at unnecessary risk.
Wear a mask, carry hand sanitiser and make sure you do not have to answer the call of nature while viewing a property.
Do not share a car with anyone other than someone you live with or who is already inside your social bubble.
If at all possible only one person should view a property. Every extra person present multiplies the risk of transmission of the virus.
Ring the property owner when you arrive at the property. Get out of the car, put on your mask and sanitise your hands then wait to be admitted. Do not knock at the door.
As you go round the property touch nothing (note door handles in particular) and do not exchange any paperwork with the property owner (or any third party if you are accompanied by an agent).
Maintain social distancing throughout – stay two metres apart and do not stand face to face with anyone. The virus is expelled from the mouth or nose of one person and is either inhaled by another, or, when it lands it can be spread by touch. Similarly, if you have the virus, every time you touch your mouth, eyes or nose you will collect the virus on your fingers – or, if you don’t have the virus you can introduce it to your own respiratory tract from somewhere else.
Keep the visit as short as possible. If the property is not for you, then say so and end the visit there and then.
When you leave the property, sanitise your hands again as you get back into the car. This minimises the risk of you carrying the virus from one place to another.
Everything we do in life comes with a risk and all we can ever do is mitigate that risk to the best of our abilities by understanding the risk we are facing and acting as intelligently as we can to counteract it.
We do not mean to put you off ever visiting another property again – or ever letting another stranger across your threshold. We will all have to learn to live with this virus if we are to continue with our day to day lives and adapt our behaviour patterns accordingly.
We hope these suggestions will help you to buy or sell your property with confidence this year. If you have any other tips to add to our suggestions, please let us know.
French Properties Direct
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Here is a quick method for calculating 100km distance from your home address.
Go to the website geoportail.gouv.fr
Click “cartes” at the top left of the screen and then choose “Plan IGN”
Enter your address in the address box and click OK to bring up the next screen
On that screen click the blue spanner at the top right side of the screen. Then click the “mesures” option
Click “calculer une isochrone”
Put your address in the box market “depart”
Click the “isodistance” option and enter 100km in the distance field
Click “calculer” at the bottom
The map will highlight a 100km radius of your address – you can enlarge it to get to the detail using the +/- box at the top right corner of the map.
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The French government has published a provisional plan of which departments will be graded red or green after May 11th. They have also introduced an amber category - for departments where the ultimate colour is still in balance.
The ultimate decision will be based on three criteria
The number of cases of Covid 19 in the department within a 7 day period
The pressure on the capacity of ventilators within the regional hospitals
The preparedness of the local system of testing and contact tracing
We will endeavour to update you here as and when we receive more information about the current situation.
By Sue Adams
Director, French Properties Direct.
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Last night the French prime minister, Edouard Philippe, addressed the national assembly of deputés - that is the French equivalent of the House of Commons. He set out his plans for our first steps out of lock-down and asked for the deputés' approval - which he got. As I see it, these are the pertinent facts as far as the property market is concerned:
* Relaxation of the rules is not a given - we have to continue to lower the curve and keep "R" well below 1
* Relaxation of the rules will not be uniform across France, but will be applied on a departmental or regional basis.
* Departments will be coded "red" (less freedom of movement) or "green" (greater freedom of movement) according to how badly any department is affected by the infection at any time. This colour coding will be reviewed and made public on a daily basis. "Green" departments will be allowed greater freedom of movement because they have less infection.
* We will not be allowed to cross departmental boundaries unless for urgent family or business purposes.
* We will not be allowed to travel more than 100km from home.
* We cannot gather in groups of more than 10 - and there is a suggestion that we will be asked to keep our contacts to tightly defined "social bubbles" of less than10 although I don't think anyone is entirely sure what all of this means in practice yet.
*Masks will be obligatory on all public transport.
*Social distancing must continue to be observed.
*There will be comprehensive testing (they are talking about 700000 tests a day) and contact tracing/enforced isolation where necessary.
This has all clearly got to be thrashed out by the various authorities over the next fortnight and, as I noted earlier, does depend on the progress we continue to make in containing the spread of Covid 19.
Where does this leave someone who is wanting to buy or sell a house in France this year? Well, buyers can clearly continue to get as much information as they can about individual properties and the market as a whole remotely - by looking at websites, talking to the owner of the property on the phone and perhaps by viewing their property on line via a camera in the vendor's phone or tablet. As far as live viewings are concerned it looks as though we will be able to visit property for sale within our own department fairly soon - providing the department is "green", you or your vendors are in good health and not too elderly and providing you and they observe all of the required sanitary and social distancing requirements. This is my understanding of the situation and I may be too optimistic, of course, but I am already hearing of notaires provisionally arranging appointments to signing for the purchase of properties for after 11th May, for example.
Beyond individual departmental, or regional, boundaries, things get a bit more opaque with international borders likely to be closed for a little while yet, although officials are beginning to talk about how trains and aircraft can be made as safe as possible which implies that travel across greater distance is now being factored into their longer term plans.
Please note this is just my interpretation of what is likely to happen after May 11th and Mr Philippe's plans can easily be hijacked by better ideas or, on the minus side, a resurgence of the infection. Whatever the case, we will do our best to keep you informed and also to highlight the safety measures buyers and sellers should take in the coming months.
As always, you can continue to browse our properties on our website and we can put you in direct contact with the owner. You can therefore find out a great deal about a property that interests you without leaving home yourself - and if the vendor has a smart phone or an i-pad they can even give you a guided tour of the property and its exterior. In this way you can find out much more from the property owner than you can from an intermediary, such as an estate agent. This will put you ahead of the rest of the field when the lock-down is lifted and people can once again buy property in France.
This Sawday listed farmhouse plus gite is on the market at 560 000€. Ref 10826, near St Beauzile, Tarn
If any of the houses we are marketing are of interest to you and you have a question, then just ask. You can easily contact the owner, using the form on the property's details page on our website, or you can e-mail us and we will pass your question and your contact details directly to the owner. They will then reply to you personally, cutting out a middle-man and avoiding estate agency commission.
We only market property which is for sale by vendors directly. Because of this there is no estate agency commission to pay us by either buyer or seller following an introduction by us.
I hope we can help you buy or sell your French property in the near future, but more importantly I hope that you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy during this horrible pandemic.
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We are coming to the end of week six of "Le Confinement" in France and the government is focused on how to release the strictures we are currently subject to. It seems highly likely that some sort of schooling will re-start on or around May 11th, with the possibility of reduced class sizes and selective groups returning to the class room. We are also likely to have to wear masks on public transport and remain restricted as to where we can go. Hotels and cafes are likely to remain off limits until mid July. This all takes place against a backdrop of potential insurrection in the poorer suburbs of big cities, while rural France and country towns are slowly moving towards a much less eventful, but very welcome, progression to "the new normal".
Goodbye to "le bise" and all that
One victim of the fall out is likely to be the habit of kissing one another as a form of greeting. Where I live, people gave very short shrift to the elbow nudge and foot bump as replacement greeting and two (or three or four - depending on local habits) kisses on the cheek or a hand shake did remain common currency until lockdown started. However, as we come out of it it appears very unlikely that le bise will be widely re-adoped. a demise which will be encouraged by the need to go around wearing a face mask in many pubic places. It would make the habit a little too inelegant. I had not realised that until the 1960s the habit of a peck on each cheek as a general greeting to anyone you knew reasonably well was unusual. Before that it tended to be confined to family members and that, I suspect, is what we will return to.
This will probably be a welcome revolution in the world of work. When I used to manage the branch of an estate agency in south west France starting work in the morning was a serious business. The arrival of every new member of the team meant that everyone in the office had to stop what they were doing, get up from their desk and give the new arrival the obligatory peck on both cheeks. I could visualise our British employer sitting upstairs and drumming his fingers on his desk in irritation!
On the plus side - we may lose le bise, but the idea of shopping locally and putting a break on the proliferation of out of town supermarkets (les grandes surfaces) is starting to take hold - especially amongst the Gilet Jaune community. This would help save the many little epiceries, boulangeries and boutiques which add so much individuality to this wonderful country.