How to sell your home to foreigners

Which international buyers would be most interested in your house?

2 September 2010

WHETHER it is a country house or a town flat, a property that has huge appeal to a Briton might not appeal at all to a French or other continental buyer.

When it comes to foreign buyers, Britons are still the largest market in France, though their share has decreased in recent years, but there is plenty of interest from neighbouring countries like Italy (the second biggest foreign buyers), Germans and Spaniards, as well as those further afield like Russians and Scandinavians.

An adviser from Eden Way estate agents in Paris, Nicolas Verastegui, said: “British people are usually looking for a rather traditional, typically French property, in stone or old brick. If it’s in the south they like Provençal style with old-fashioned roofs. If they want a Paris apartment 99% of the time they look for an older Haussmanian [19th Century] building. The same goes for other English-speakers, but it’s very different from other nationalities. Germans, Spanish or French people want something modern.

“Even if it’s in the south they are looking for a Californian-style modern villa.”

He said English-speaking customers go for high ceilings, parquet floors, hardwood floors and a fireplace.

They usually want a balcony and they like an open-concept kitchen, part of the same space as the dining or living room. The French or Italians want their kitchen as far away from the dining room as possible and they want a big kitchen they can put a table in. They look for an ‘eating kitchen,’ he said.

Mr Verastegui added: “A ‘star distribution’ is very sought-after by Britons - where everything turns around a central space which is the living or dining room - as opposed to a long hallway leading to rooms on the left and right.”

Another adviser from the firm, which sells properties around Europe, Francesca Ciurli, said Italians like properties with character, for example, with ceiling beams, but renovated and with modern facilities. If they are looking for an apartment they want a lift, and the apartment should ideally be well-lit, with many windows.

“They sometimes like to be under the roof, because Parisian roofs are so romantic,” she added.

She said the British taste for carpeted bathrooms was considered strange by the French and Italians, who want tiles.

Italians like a big shower and a bidet, whereas the French are less concerned about this.

“In Italy also there is always a window in the bathroom, which is not always the case here. Italian bathrooms and kitchens are big and they appreciate a big American-style fridge. However if they have a main home in Italy they may compromise.”

Michael Fusaro of Nice Properties said there was a clear difference in taste between Nordic countries like Sweden and Norway and the southern European ones.

The Scandinavians like simple, modern, recently-built properties, with light-coloured wood. They like balconies with a nice view, parking and a swimming pool - so rarely buy a town centre flat.
“It’s very rare they buy in an old building,” he said. “Their criteria are functionality.

“On the other hand an Italian, a Russian, a Swiss, a German likes something high class, preferably with a marble entrance hall.”

Finnish people never buy in the town centre – only in residential areas – and they like peace and quiet and greenery, he said.

Mr Fusaro said Russians are “enormously interested in luxury and want security – even if they are not well-off they really like luxurious touches and a caretaker and they will not hesitate to pay more.”
Italians and Russians often ask for a bathroom per room and Italians insist the toilet be in the bathroom, with a bidet – whereas the French like to have the toilet separate.

Mr Fusaro said Russians like marble bathrooms, marble showers and high-quality taps and some rich Russians, Italians and Middle Eastern people like a baroque style, with gold taps and gold-leaf on the ceiling.

Along with the Germans and Swiss, top-end bathroom and kitchen equipment are important to Russians, but not for the French, British and Scandinavians.

When it comes to floors, he said the French like carpets but most other nationalities want marble, tiles or wood.

Britons and Irish people like to be in a picturesque old town centre and do not mind not having a lift, whereas an Italian insists on one, Mr Fusaro said.

“What’s more, because old French town centres are similar to what they have in Italy, if they buy in France they are not so bothered about that.”

Mr Fusaro said one risk with British homes for sale was that the furnishing style might put some nationalities off.

“The typical ‘old England’ look with a lot of furniture, lamps, patterned curtains, a lot of pictures etc won’t do at all for Scandinavians.”

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