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The Do’s & Dont’s of French Real Estate

The things you should be aware about yourself

  • Primacy effect: All studies are conclusive about the power of the primacy effect, the psychological phenomenon that increases the power and influence of the things you see or sense first. In practical terms, this means that how you “step into” a house is crucially important. So you need to be aware of this strong, seemingly natural, urge to judge a property on what may in fact be the wrong criteria.
  • Impressions: Research shows that staging a home to sell works. So you need to be aware that properties that are well presented will make a better impression on you – but that this doesn’t mean they will be meeting your criteria. That scenario may not happen often in France. But on the contrary, houses full of junk, “dans leur jus” (as some listing agents still say – meaning in their original state) or presented without enough light, or empty, may make a poor impression – but you shouldn’t discount them too quickly.
  • Perceived value: To a prospective buyer, a newly painted wall can be perceived as added value – even if that new paint job may have only cost $100 and a few hours of the seller’s time. Superficial things like a room painted in an ugly colour can make people less likely to buy a house—even though fixing such a problem is as cheap as a couple cans of paint. As a buyer, you need to keep that in mind.

Traps you need to avoid

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  • Don’t overlook big expenses. Most buyers tend to compartmentalize their expenses and not add up the total cost of everything needed to fix up and furnish the house. That can lead them to make poor choices about how much to pay for a home. When you’re getting a house, think about furnishing it at the same time. In other words: you should always keep your TPM (“true purchase maximum”) in mind!
  • Don’t fall in love. At no point in the house buying process should you only have one option. It puts you in a vulnerable bargaining position and is rarely an objectively true situation. You should avoid falling in love with a house, as it will limit your ability to negotiate. Try to go into negotiations with at least one other viable option.
  • Beware of long-term price expectations. Most home buyers have extremely high long-term price expectations. That can lead some people to overpay a bit. So whatever your selling price expectations for the property you haven’t yet bought – discount it.

What you should do

  • Be very prepared, but don’t overthink your purchase. Research shows that when it comes to complex decision-making, such as buying a property, the more time we spend thinking about it the progressively worse choices we make.
  • Be prepared to change your mind. In our experience, a third of buyers alter they core criteria during their first viewing trip. Typically, the size of the garden is the most often “rearranged” criteria (usually the large garden shrinks to a more modest plot). It’s important to have done your homework and worked on your list of goals – but it’s also important to be flexible when faced with reality.
  • Use goals – flexibly. When it comes to property buying, it’s important to have a conscious goal in mind and develop a set of criteria, like a spending limit. This logical, rule-based way of thinking is where conscious thought thrives. Then you should give yourself time, allowing the unconscious to form a decision. Ideally sleep on it and check back with yourself to see if an emotional evaluation has formed.
  • Embrace the lifestyle. French property buyers need to understand that they are buying more than just a house. You are purchasing a lifestyle, and this concept should remain top of mind throughout the entire process. The first question for any buyer should be about whether this property will accommodate the local lifestyle they want to live.
  • Sleep on any home buying decision. Because complicated choices (such as buying a home) are best left to the unconscious. The reason: conscious thought is better at solving simple tasks (like choosing which towels to buy) and unconscious thought (described as thought without attention) is better at solving complex tasks that involve more variables. People are incapable of consciously considering many factors at once, which leads them to put a disproportionate amount of weight on certain elements (like the really fancy laundry room that caught a buyer’s eye) and not enough weight on other factors. In other words, people place more emphasis on the attributes that are most plausible and easiest to verbalize.

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