Thursday, April 28, 2016


Friday 29 April 2016

Sunny 18 degrees

Monday came around and I put in a letter to my agency giving my reasons for why I could no longer work with our so called 'partner'.  The main one was of course discovering that they would be opening a shop in our local town and in a prime position.  If our agency name appeared in the window, then my clients would happily trot in there and I would never see them again. It was a partnership in name and not in actuality.  I pressed send and felt ill.  I hate confrontation as I have said.  OH was very happy and went off fishing.  I went out and looked at the weeds and put some more weed killer on them. They are starting to look sick but nowhere near sick enough.  Imagnined myself being free from real estate and able to go out and make my garden a thing of beauty instead of a weed strewn hell.  Idea very very appealing.  Mentally handed in my notice and felt much better.

Tuesday and the agency boss rang and said that she would really like to continue the partnership in the meantime and why didn't I start recruiting in the local area and build a team and then we could overtake the other agency.  She said they were essentially good people.   OH came back from fishing and was not thrilled with the idea of continuing me with them and also said it takes years to recruit good people.  He said we needed to preempt things.  To get things going in the direction I wanted them.  So I rang the other agency and cancelled our joint viewing on their properties.  I said I wanted the relationship to change and it would not be correct for them to show me their properties under these circumstances.  I then emailed my agency and told them what I had done.

Wednesday and the electricity was off all morning.  OH went back down to the rental units to fix all the things I had found were still not working and I cleaned up the house and fretted.  When it came back on at 12 I found a message from the agency and rang them back.  To my surprise and gratification, they agreed with me and said they would start making the split but it wouldn't be immediately.

Later on that day, astoundingly I get a message from Mr Wearing.  Is the second house still for sale?  It is and he makes an offer which is accepted by the owner who is in Paris and chafing to get home and stuck by the transport strikes.  Feel that this has been a day where the barriers are starting to be broken down. And the stream of success will flow through.  Send off the offer document for him to sign and sleep soundly.

Thursday and I go and see the accountant and she has managed to find me loads of expenses so whilst there are still terrifying amounts of social charges to pay, it could have been worse.  To the market and I bump into another agent who gave my name to a seller asking for a contact in the international market. We had a coffee together and I said if she had any clients for any of my houses, then bring them along and we could go 50/50.  She is rather timid but has a lot of French clients whom I don't see.  Her timidity comes over in her housing stock too - a strange mix of land and low priced housing plus some very expensive exclusive contracts.  Interestingly, she rings later on in the day and asks to do a viewing with me and her buyer.

Friday - today.  Why on earth has xxxxxing Mr Wearing not sent me back the signed offer document?  Ring him and encourage him to get a move on and then find that he has just typed his name into the offer document, not signed it and not written the offer amount.  This has to be done physically.  Is he dim or what?  Which bit of my written instructions did he not understand.  In fifteen years, no one has had difficulty filling in this very simple bilingual form. Normally I get the written offer back within the hour.  It has now been two days. I don't think I can stand the strain.....  Send it back, with the typed in stuff taken out, and ask him to redo it.

If he says he cant sign it because he has his arm in a sling, I am going to scream.  A big shrieky scream.....

The scary chateau people still havent provided me with all the information needed for the compromis, I go out with arsy French guy who thinks he knows all about real estate and the young couple decided to rent.

Game on.....

Sunday, April 24, 2016


24 April 2016

Sunshine and torrential showers 16 degrees

When is a partnership not a partnership?  At the start of 2015 it was suggested by my agency that we work in collaboration with a local woman who has just started her own set up.  Someone with whom I had been in competition for the last twelve years.  Someone who worked closely with a guy who I have had numerous run-ins with over the years and whilst I didn't regard him as competition, I knew he had spoken badly about me to buyers and sellers.  So I thought about it long and hard but 2014 had been the worst of my many years in real estate, so what the hell, I would give it a go and indicated I would not block such a partnership.

It started off well - after four years of being completely on my own, it was lovely to have access to properties which I hadn't had to go out and find, to have visits on my properties and just to have someone to have a talk to.  They did a few visits on my houses and I did a few on theirs and they sold one of mine where I gave them the very interested buyer because I was on holiday.

Then things started to unravel this year.  The other agency has made comparatively very few sales - three people have sold the same number of properties as I have managed on my own.  It used to be that if we went to a house and found it was with the other agency, we walked away.  I had carried on in this fashion, blissfully unaware that the rules of the game had changed, until, on the ferry back from the UK, I was enraged to see that they had taken on a number of my mandated properties.  One of which I had actually introduced them to.  I emailed the woman and she denied any knowledge of the house.  I complained vociferously by all supports available to the agency and was asked to go and see the other woman so emailed and fixed up an appointment to talk about it.

I may not like confrontation but one thing I did take away from eight years with a French national chain is that if you do not stand your ground, you will be tramped on.  You need to shout if necessary.  French do shouting.  I learned how to arm wave and be outraged.  I learned how to go on and on and on and keep repeating myself (the French do that too).  Fortunately, I worked for someone who was very fair and didn't let outrageous behaviour be rewarded.

OH loves confrontation and, when he had recovered from his sea sickness and had had a good night's sleep, bounced out of bed at 8 am and started role playing me.  So, fully role played and with a headache and feeling queasy because it was Wednesday and normally a day I have off and instead I was heading for an unpleasant appointment, I went down town.

She arrived late and I asked her why she had started taking my houses and she said the people had contacted her.  I said that I hadn't been taking her houses, whether or not they had contacted me and she said that was very nice of me but I didn't need to do that and she wanted as many houses as possible in our town.  She said she didn't do prospecting but later said she had a woman that did so essentially it will be a free for all.  I said she needed to have all of our properties on her site and she said my agency didn't want to pay for it.  If she has all of my properties and I introduce her to all of my sellers, then she cant take them.  So that is how we left it.  She also said she is opening a shop.  The bottom line is that she is not showing my properties and when I asked why she had not been doing this, she said none of her clients were interested in seeing any of my 80 plus houses.  This is total bollocks.  They have my agency name on their letter heads and are purporting to be in partnership but actually are just paying lipservice to the agreement.

I rang back the agency and told them the results of our conversation.  I dont trust them any more and I would rather be on my own and facing them rather than having them supposedly at my side and working with me.  OH feels it is unlikely that the agreement will be ended but we will see next week when agency gets back to me.

Back to my original question - a partnership is not a partnership when it is unequal and when one partner is being abusive.

Friday, April 22, 2016


23 April 2016

Sun and clouds 18 degrees

You may have been wondering, dear reader, in the interval between when I last wrote on the 4 April and today - what has happened to Mr and Mrs Wearing and Not so Wearing?  Alternatively you may have been getting on with your lives. For the insatiably curious therefore, do read on...

The phone had been very quiet during our trippette to the homelands and the wonderful Mrs Noddi so after I had ploughed through all of the emails which had accumulated over the week, I signed into Skype and rang his number.  No reply so I left a message.  This happened four times over the next few days and finally I got an email saying 'Bit handicapped after operation'.  I rang immediately and of course he was next to his computer and it transpired that he had just had a shoulder operation.  This was a major handicap to his making of a decision whether or not to buy in France.  Because he could no longer use his right hand.

I gritted my teeth and asked him where he was with his thoughts on the two houses that he liked.  There was a long silence and he said that there wasn't a garage at his favourite house but there was a pool.  So would you want to offer on that one and try and find a garage to rent?  Would she accept a cheeky offer. No she wouldn't.  She thinks she has a mini Versailles and doesn't do email so I am obliged to ring her up every time and she goes on and on for at least twenty minutes, which fractures my nerves.  

How about the other one - didn't his wife prefer it and isn't it better for her (you will remember all the houses which he chose where completely unsuitable for his wife and the other one, which I suggested, she loved and as it is single level, fully appropriate).  She did like that one.  He admitted.  But it is not her money.

Have you discussed putting in an offer on that one?  They had and he suggested an amount which, to my joy, was within spitting distance of the amount the owner would accept.  Did he want me to put it forward?  He did.  I rang the owner who was not as flexible as I had anticipated but, trimming agency fees, we were about only five thousand euros apart.  I rang Mr Wearing and told him the amount he would need to go to and there was a silence.  Could they discuss it over dinner.  I said I would ring the next day.

OH said not to hold my breath.

The next day I rang and he answered eventually and said he needed a bit more time to think about it so I said I would ring the next day.  Guess what?  So now I am giving him a week to think about it and told him I need a Yes or No answer as it is very unfair on the sellers.  This is a man who has a wife and children and a number of properties.  How long has it taken him to make all of these decisions???  Did he start very early, say when he was 12 years old.  Why cant he just say no??

The two houses are very different.  One is barely 100m2 with pool and over three levels and very pretty but very expensive.  You can walk into town in about five minutes.  The other is 2.3 times larger, has a garden and garage and room for a pool and is in excellent condition and also has a granny flat on the ground floor.  It is also 13 percent cheaper.

He said fine.  I was very wound up.  But more was to come.....  see next blog post A Pulverising Time

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


4 April 2016

Surprisingly warm 18 degrees

Back in February, a client whom I referred to as Mr Wearing came over

And now he was back with his wife.  Surely she would be more verbose?  Or how would they ever make a life together??  She was, I am relieved to tell you, an utterly charming lady with an easy manner and an engaging personality.  

It was late by the time they arrived in my town and we only got to see one property.  She had some difficulty getting up the stairs but I attributed it to the slideliness of the paint and the fact that she had been awake already for 13 hours.  We had a drink on the terrasse of the Grand Hotel and they went in for dinner and me for a short evening and then it was Day Two and the rest of the houses which Mr W had selected, plus one I had slotted in.

It rained torrentially in the night, but the day dawned and the sun came out from the heavy clouds and they were waiting for me in the car park, looking refreshed and ready to roll.  I let Mrs W do the talking and Mr W just stood around with his hands in his coat pockets.

We drove to the first house, which was one I had fitted it.  Belonging to a gay man, it was in perfect order and clean to the point which I have yet to achieve in thirty years of marriage.  This house has a downstairs granny flat and Mrs W was very taken with it.  She again, had difficulty with the stairs and when we got back into the car, I asked her about this and she said she had arthritis and balance problems.

I was horrified.  How will you manage with the corkscrew staircase in the next house we are going now to see?  I asked.  She looked at Mr W - there is a corkscrew staircase??  He chewed his lip and said 'its very pretty'.  We went and she thought the house was far too isolated and she had terrible, terrible trouble getting up the stairs.

They followed me back to the big town, where I was about to put them back onto the autoroute to go home.  What I had not realised about Mr W is that he is a totally impractical person.  He had chosen houses he liked with no reference to the needs of his wife.  Each house had had chosen was completely unsuitable.  I was absolutely livid.  We got to the town and went for a quick sandwich in Leclerc and I did a useful exercise which is to get people to list three essential qualities for a house and then two useful ones.  I then got them to mark them out of ten and added them up.  

The house I had chosen was way out in front.  The lady loved it.  Mr W said he could love it.  Possibly.  They went one way and I went back home and was in a totally foul mood and went for a swim to get rid of my fury.  Then I just felt tired and depressed.

Monday, April 4, 2016


Sunday 3 April 2016

Cool but warming to 18 degrees

There is nothing more disagreeable than an alarm clock inserting itself into a Sunday morning but, alas, at 8 o'clock it was time to don the motley and head over to the scary chateau with the big cracks and dry rot and returning for the third time buyers.

When an agent first takes on a property, the owners always keep something in the tank with which to surprise her at a later date.  This later date is when the agent manages to find someone who is interested in buying, at which point the sellers feel it is now time to divulge such information as the house is about to be seized by the bank, one of the sellers has messed up a number of previous sales by refusing to sign any offers, the neighbour is deranged, there are disputes over the boundaries or servitudes or, in the case of the chateau, there is dry rot.

For this third revisit, I had insisted that the non French resident brother also come over.  He sounded 50 years old and substantial on the phone so I was surprised to find a slight bespectacled man in his late 30's.  He had actually spend the night at the chateau on his own, and looked glad of some company. 1000m2 of 14th century chateau is a lot of space to rattle around with on one's own.  It was as cold as the grave so we sat on the terrace and waited for the French resident brother to turn up.  He had actually messed up a number of sales in the past.  And he thought it would be a good idea not to mention the dry rot.  I insisted that this was mentioned and we did some wrangling and then went to look at the offending mushroom growth.  It was spilling out of either end of an immense bookcase.  This would have to come down and the whole rot treated.  The younger brother hacked off the browning mess and put it in a carrier bag.

A car came up the driveway and the couple emerged, followed by a pale waif of a girl and a highly excitable two year old boy who promptly started falling over things.  Last out was the lady's mother whose job, presumably, was to stop the two year old injuring himself and to be horrified at the state of the property. Relatives are inevitably aghast at the work which is about to be taken on.  They spent two hours going over the property in detail.  

I was amazed to find that they intend building cabins in the woods and converting all of the immense barn space into high quality gites.  The two year old was exhausted and covered in mud and had to be fed by the time we all sat down in the cavernous dining room, doors wide open to warm its damp and chilled air.  We filled in the buyer and seller details.  The buyers said they would take on the thirty years worth of collection sitting in the barn (the mother had been an avid brocanteuse), and the sellers looked much relieved.  Fortunately no one asked the grandma what she thought and she perched at the end of a table, coffee in hand and asked for some sugar.  It all seemed to be going swimmingly until the buyer mentioned that he was seeing the bank for the loan on Tuesday and he would be asking for 700 000 euros.  The sellers and I became very depressed at that point.  The buyer will need to be an absolute miracle worker to get that amount out of a French bank.  Especially for a commercial loan on a business which is not yet set up by a non French resident purchaser.  His own country of residence will not loan him on a property in a foreign country.  We could all have been completely wasting our time.

They drove off and the brothers and I stood on the terrace and the birds sang and the brothers lit cigarettes and one said 'that is a shit loan of money' and it is.  I said it is not over until the fat lady sings and left them to think about it whilst I drove home with a headache and OH made me egg and bacon and lots of tea and then we had a siesta.  Cantona, eat your heart out.

Then it was time for the revisit of Mr Wearing.  Of which more in the next post....


2 April 2016

Cloudy with sunny periods
16 degrees

The phone had rung before we went away on our Madrid jaunt and the lady on the other end of the line told me about her chateau and how she needed someone who would appreciate its qualities - a very special place and I needed to come and have a look so I booked her in for today.  She agreed to wait because she needed a very special estate agent.  OH said this was flannel and I should be extremely wary.  He decided to drive me in order for me not to be taken in and end up with a mandate I was too embarrassed to refuse. I was torn.  I enjoy being driven and if a place is huge, it is much quicker à deux. However, OH does not hold back on the comments and just assumes the owners wont understand English.

It was a pleasant day and we managed to find the right windy road, even though the GPS didn't acknowledge its existence.  We got to the end and ended up in a farmyard, without having seen anything remotely resembling a chateau. We drove back and I peered at a crumbling wall which bore the words chat.... in peeling plaster.  OH squeezed the car through the battered gates and we drove up and into the property.  The gravel road led between a number of ruined buildings and eventually up to the only habitable building in the ensemble.

It was long and single level and had strangely painted large sliding wooden shutters on runners.  Its a cow shed!  exclaimed OH.  Its a real bag of shite. Just tell them we are not interested.  

However, it was too late and a dynamo of a woman had exploded through the doors in the centre and dragged us in.  The interior was not an improvement. Look at the walls, they are single skin! said OH loudly.  There were two bedrooms, one at each end, and a kitchen in the middle.  Tell her we have seen enough said OH.  The woman had me firmly by the elbow and guided me over to the 'pearl', the 'chateau'.  It was a rambling old farmhouse with bald bare eyes of windows, a shattered roof and creaking shutters.  It had no charm whatsoever.  We paused in the kitchen and I said the problem she had was that people who wanted a chateau wanted a more classic chateau and people who wanted a habitable house with a lot of land, didn't want the responsibility of a large number of ruined buildings in close proximity to the main house.  No one would want to live in that crap conversion anyway and this place has no value - they should just chuck it in, said OH loudly.

I asked the woman what price she had in mind, vaguely thinking of around 250 000 euros myself.   You may be surprised at the amount I want, said the lady, but it is in reference to the habitable space, 950 000 euros.....

I wish I wasn't so polite.  I wish I could have told her that she would not see that price in her great grand children's lifetime, or that she had totally wasted my time, or that what effectively she was selling was a two bed roomed cow shed conversion with a shed load of knackered buildings to boot, but I didn't.  I said it was not the sort of property I would be able to bring people along to, not normally being in contact with insane and extremely rich people with an urge to make a terrible investment, and we left.  OK I didnt tell her the last bit.  We left as soon as I had prised her off me and ran away back to normality.

I was hacked off, it was Saturday and I would much rather be gardening.  We stopped for a coffee in the nearby village and, surprisingly, the bar owner gave me the mandate for a large apartment in a thermal town on the other side of our big town.

Back home and took out fury at the cowshed woman on the bay tree and chopped it back into its topiary shape and dug up all the weeds in the herb garden.