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BORDEAUX

Bordeaux: Reasons to move to France’s ‘wine capital’

The elegant southern French city of Bordeaux is a popular holiday spot, but adopted Bordelaise Bella Dally-Steele argues that it's also the perfect place to move it.

Bordeaux: Reasons to move to France's 'wine capital'
Bordeaux's Cité du vin wine museum. Photo: AFP

If Emily in Paris captured your imagination in quarantine, chances are you’re in the throes of plotting a not-so-socially-distanced move to the city. But before you book an overpriced Airbnb in the city with the worst air pollution in France, allow me to recommend an alternate destination: Bordeaux.

Whatever you’re seeking by living out your francophone dreams – a richer diet, a return to nature, a happening social life – chances are, you’ll find it in Bordeaux.

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With plenty of green space and a more relaxed pace of life, Bordeaux scores highly on quality of life indewes. Photo: AFP

Quality of Life

Ranked as the fourth most desirable French city to live in, Bordeaux beats Paris in both financial and meteorological climate.

While it is rich port city, your euro will go much further here than in the capital. And if you share the French preference for countryside living, the city is even more attractive; it’s just a day-trip away from the Atlantic coast and boasts a wealth of public parks within the city limits.

Surf Hub

If weather and quarantine restrictions allow, testing the waters around Bordeaux is a must.

While Bordeaux proper doesn’t border the ocean, a smattering of small surf villages are accessible from the city by train or bus. Sign up for lessons or simply rent a board if you’re a seasoned surfer in the charming beach towns of Biscarrosse Plage, Hossegor or Biarritz.

Speakeasies

Although the city never experienced prohibition, Bordeaux’s thriving bar scene has happily adopted the American speakeasy tradition.

For a clandestine drinking experience, swing by one of the city’s best-hidden speakeasies, Symbiose or CanCan Bordeaux, for a signature cocktail. Locating the bars might be difficult – Symbiose’s entrance is camouflaged by a grandfather clock and CanCan purports to be a pitiably small bookshop – but their intimate atmosphere is worth the search (once they reopen after lockdown, naturally).

Hipster Haven

Likely due to its flourishing skate culture, Bordeaux boats an impressive population of hipsters, and has the trendy neighborhoods to prove it.

The groovy pearl of the city is DARWIN, a former military barracks and general store that locals have since converted into a one-stop shop for entertainment. Among other attractions, the complex now boasts a bookstore, café and brunch spot, skate park and thrift shop. On weekends, there’s also a joint flea and farmer’s market.

The city's most famous product definitely lives up to the hype. Photo: AFP

Wine

Need I say more? Bordelaise wine is renowned for a reason.

Living within this wine culture gives you access to not only an abundance of tasting opportunities at local restaurants and nearby vineyards, but also two wine museums that specialise in the history of Bordeaux wine culture (and which also happen to offer tastings).

Your everyday diet will literally be infused with wine – many traditional sauces and meat dishes incorporate local wines. Pro tip for wine lovers: when in doubt, any dish described as à la bordelaise will likely be steeped in a local wine sauce.

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PROPERTY

Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

If you're researching the French property market, you might have come across mentions of 'courtiers' - here's what they do and whether they are necessary.

Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

The French ‘courtier‘ is usually translated as a broker, and the Notaires Association describes their role like this: “the broker is a true intermediary in banking operations. His/her role is to negotiate the best rates for you, but not only that: they will also find the most advantageous financing conditions for the realisation of your project.”

Essentially they act as an intermediary between you and the banks, so they’re only required if you need a mortgage or a loan in order to buy your French property. 

Their job is to research the best deals for you and then to help you put together your application and ensure that all your paperwork is correct – unlike the notaire, instructing a courtier is not a required part of the process, so the decision on whether to instruct one is up to you. 

So is it worth it?

Among French buyers, around 30 percent of mortgages are obtained using the services of a courtier, and this rises to 60 percent among young, first-time buyers, who generally find it harder to access credit.

Some of things to consider are your level of French and confidence in negotiating French bureaucracy, your financial situation (since French mortgage lenders tend to be stricter than those in the UK or US) and whether you currently live in France or not (since there are extra hoops to jump through for overseas buyers).

READ ALSO Is now a good time to buy a home in France?

“Things have changed,” Trevor Leggett, group president of Leggett International estate agents, told The Local. “It’s now more important than ever to work closely with a reputable broker.

“In France it is all paper-based, very old-school and extremely bureaucratic, a different world entirely to the UK. Preparing the client “dossier” so that it will be accepted is an art form.”

READ ALSO MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

He advised non-resident international clients, particularly, who may not be au fait with the French system to seek the help of a broker who knows the ropes.

“The question is no longer really about savings,” he said. “It is about finding a bank that can actually lend to the client profile, interests rate are secondary. 

“It occasionally happens that one bank can be played off against another, or to shop around, but it’s a rare event nowadays.”

READ ALSO Revealed: The ‘hidden’ extra costs when buying property in France

And he had no hesitation in recommending that prospective buyers find a broker to sort out the financing.

“The lending market has tightened for international buyers and a good one is worth their weight in gold,” he said.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Time-frame for buying and selling property in France

In France, you make an offer on a property and then you begin the mortgage process (while in the UK it’s the other way round) so problems in getting your mortgage approved could lead to you losing your dream property.

“[Using a courtier] can be the difference between buying and not,” added Trevor.

“It’s not just any possible language barrier – but understanding the process and the different players in the market.”

How much?

The cost of hiring a courtier is borne by the buyer – but how much do they charge?

The courtier usually charges a percentage of the total mortgage amount – fees must be fixed in advance and are only payable once your mortgage application has been approved. 

Fees vary between different areas and different businesses, but the average fee is €2,000, which amounts to around one percent of the purchase price.

Many brokers set a minimum amount – around €1,500 – for smaller loans, and take a percentage of larger loans, so how much you pay depends on your property budget. 

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