I love a bit of property porn and this is an homage I wrote back in August 2013. One of the many advantages of cycling around the area, though more so in winter than in summer, is that I get to peer over gates and hedges at some of the marvellous Riviera real-estate and will often stop to chat to builders engaged in a sizeable renovation project.
I live in a spot with some truly magnificent property porn. Each time I pass through the airport I pick up a couple of thick, free magazines featuring property for sale on the Cote d’Azur to feed my habit. Many have the “prix nous consulter” tag which means they’re way out of mine and most people’s price range. Remember, if you have to ask the price then you probably can’t afford it. But you can still window shop!
Of course, I can also tell you which properties have been up for sale for what seems like forever. A property is only worth what someone’s willing to pay for it, not what we think it’s worth and therein, according to an estate agent friend of mine who deals in high-end property, lies the crux of the problem. People with houses in great locations thinking their pad is worth a squillion of Euros when he’s advised them it’ll only sell for much less. He puts it on the market for the price they want but spends his efforts on the properties he knows he can sell. Agents earn a fixed percentage commission, generally around 6% – not too shabby – but the market is much less liquid than say in the UK. Again, it’s all about location, location, location. There are certain areas where demand always exceeds supply and have seen no dip in either prices or demand.
Despite perusing these magazines, I rarely find anything that makes my heart beat faster. There’s always something I don’t like about the property: too many bedrooms, blue tiling in the bathroom (my least favourite colour), small kitchens or no sea view. When I do find a property I like enough, I generally don’t like its location.
I have flirted with the thought of building my own but years of watching property programmes, including Grand Designs, has left me wondering whether it would indeed be worth the worry and sacrifice. It has to be one of my favourite property shows, though it’s rare I like the end result. It’s the self-builders who are meant to love the property and whose wishes and desires need to be reflected in the building, not mine.
I would enjoy the planning and preparation process immensely. Obviously, the less you change once building commences the easier it is to stick to one’s budget. Knocking down and starting again is often cheaper than renovating, but not everyone has that option. Spend your money on the basics, try to be as environmentally friendly as possible and borrow from commercial building techniques would be my programme take-aways. That said my favourites tend to be those projects fashioned on minimum budgets where the owners do most of the work themselves, often the first time they’ve attempted such a thing. Throwing money at a project doesn’t necessarily, in my mind, result in a better end result. It’s lavish love, care and attention that tends to result in a fantastic finish.
The world would however be a dull place if we all liked the same things. I often admire buildings but wouldn’t want to live in them. Look at all those fabulous French châteaux on which the Tour de France camera lingers lovingly. They’re beautiful but the upkeep must be enormous, not forgetting all those windows to keep clean! There are lots of beautful buildings down here particularly the overwrought wedding cake style ones which, if properly maintained, are beautiful to gaze at but I’m not sure I’d want to live in one.
Builders have spent the last two years working almost night and day to renovate one such house – or should that be mansion – on a truly magnificent spot on Cap d’ Antibes. The end result, including the garden, is a triumph. The property is most likely listed meaning any alternations inside and out have had to be in keeping with the style of the property. I’ve ridden past it at least once a week during that two-year period and watched with interest its re-development. Whoever owns it has seriously deep pockets and it’s evidently a second, third, fourth……….home as I’ve yet to see it occupied other than by the builders or gardeners.
It’s a Friday, the day on which I typically do my housework and shopping. After my early morning ride, I’ve cleaned the bathrooms, changed the bed linen and towels, closed the guest bedroom door on a mountain of ironing, polished the furniture, tidied the office, prepared dinner for my sister and beloved, and am contemplating cleaning the acres of shiny floors, and acres of not so shiny windows. I’m thinking small could be beautiful couldn’t it?