Winter has certainly arrived across Europe and as usual it is always on time, sometimes ahead of schedule. However do not allow the winter months to stop you from visiting properties in France. On the contrary, there is a lot to learn from viewing a property over winter and it can also be a very pleasant experience. This article will show you not only the pros and cons of viewing a property over winter but also a useful checklist to make your French property viewing trip run smoothly and successfully with or without the sunshine.
The most obvious disadvantage is of course the weather. Weather conditions vary across the entire country over winter from colder altitude regions experiencing large variations between seasons such as in the Alps, Pyrenees and also part of the Massif Central contrasting with coastal areas with milder and more temperate conditions all year round. Although the weather itself is not the show-stopper the shorter days can leave a days worth of viewings cut short by a massive 3 hours as the sun sets at 5pm. If you have a large list of properties to view, do leave enough time as driving distance can sometimes be long between rural properties. A weekend trip to view 10 properties would be very ambitious over winter and you would return home feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Therefore if you can try and book a few good days off that would give you a more rewarding property viewing experience as a whole.
Getting to France over winter is not a problem however do be aware that some flight schedules and ferry crossings are reduced over the winter months with some airlines cancelling winter flights altogether. There is often an alternative airport however do take note of this.
France is blessed with a wonderful selection of character properties. However some larger domains and châteaux come with a lot of land. Although it is unlikely that the estate agent will walk each and every patch of land you may want to equip yourself with suitable footwear. Yes…time to go out and buy those brand new Hunters!
Advantages of winter viewings
Naturally there are far fewer tourists visiting rural France in winter which means that you will have more of a choice with accommodation and sometimes at cheaper rates. There can be considerable price differences to be made even between August and September so if you are flexible perhaps an Autumn of Winter break can be an option. If you are thinking of travelling by plane you may also benefit from considerably cheaper flight deals especially with the low-cost carriers.
Summer with its long school vacations is a practical time for families to organise property viewing trips which makes it is a busy time for agents. In winter there are less visitors therefore more quality time with agent. Also summer property visits with the kids in tow can sometimes be counter-productive. It is great in theory to tie in a family holiday and throw in a few property viewings here and there however it is not always the ideal scenario as not many children, especially the younger ones, take delight in driving around from property to property. Do also take in consideration the time between properties as this can very easily take an entire day or more.
Property hunting over winter can be a truly enchanting experience. If you are visiting over the Christmas period have a look to see if there any Christmas markets, always full of charm and warmth. There is nothing more comforting than drinking a comforting chocolat chaud or a warming vin chaud after a long day out in the cold.
And not forgetting the Galette des Rois which takes place in at epiphany. The Galette des Rois (or King’s cake) is a puff pastry cake or pie traditionally made with frangipane although there are now many variations in terms flavor with chocolate, pear. Hidden inside is a porcelain figurine. The one who comes across the figurine becomes the King or Queen and gets to choose their partner and wear the crown, for the day at least! From the beginning of the new year you will see les galettes displayed in boulangeries and patisseries throughout the country.
Winter Viewing Checklist
- Be prepared – Check the weather in advance but more importantly be prepared as the weather can change dramatically inone day. We have no control over the weather let’s work with it. Bring along raincoats, warm layers and suitable footwear.
- If visiting at an altitude don’t forget winter tyres and chains. Alternatively if you prefer you can travel in the agents car but do confirm this the sales advisor beforehand.
- If flying to France take into consideration flight schedules and possible winter timetables.
- Allow time – Try not to book too many appointments in a one day due to shorter sunlight.
- Reconfirm – if you want to visit a particular property or properties do make sure you confirm this with the sales advisor. Some second homes in certain areas may be more difficult to get to and require more time to travel to.
- No early appointments – if the property is in a valley perhaps avoid booking an appointment too early in the morning as there may be mist and you will not see the property in its true light.
- Remain reachable – do provide the sales advisor with your mobile number and also if you can ask for theirs. You may even want to consider buying a French mobile card.
One think to always remember is that if you like a house in winter, you’ll love it in summer.
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