When looking for a house in a foreign country, research is the key. House-hunting trips are expensive and time consuming so you need to weed out the unsuitable properties before you leave home, and only make the trip if there is something promising to see. Check out the estate agent's local knowledge and experience, and if you feel you have a good rapport with them, then trust their judgement - they should know all their properties intimately and can help you avoid the frustration of a wasted visit. Be realistic - if no advertised properties meet your criteria and budget, you have probably chosen the wrong area and may need to re-consider your criteria.

Find out as much as you can about your chosen area . You may not have time to drive around looking at different towns and villages, so again, use a local French based agent who can identify an area that fits your needs. Then when a house comes up you will already know what’s around it.

Look at as many properties as you can on the internet to get a feel for prices, and talk to estate agents to discuss individual properties before you leave home to decide whether they are likely to be suitable. Because most French properties are on the market with more than one agent, be sure to check the property isn’t already sold before you book your trip. Be prepared to see other properties that the agent may propose - they may in the end be more suitable than the ones you have selected. And be ready to move fast if a suitable property comes up because you won’t know how many other parties are interested.

 Top 10 tips for happy hunting 

  1. Make appointments to see agents or specific houses before you leave home, to make the best use of your time in France.
  2. Set a realistic schedule. France is a big place. You may spend more time in the car racing from one appointment to another than seeing properties. Build in time for looking round the area, plus time for second visits in case you see something you like.
  3. Leave plenty of time to get to your appointments, especially if you don’t know the roads, and have the agent’s contact details with you in case you are running late. Do notify the agent of a change of plan, or delay. They will be waiting for you and will have alerted vendors of your visit
  4. Pace yourself as house-hunting is an exhausting business. Try and avoid seeing too many properties in one day - it will cause confusion and is inevitably counter-productive.
  5. Talk to your estate agent. A half hour chat in the office can save hours on the road. Discuss the house you wish to view with your agent as they will personally know the property - they may know of some pitfalls or suggest alternatives.
  6. Don’t take friends and/or extended family with you unless they are directly involved in the purchase. Other people’s opinions and needs can lead to confusion and distraction.
  7. Know what you are looking for. What is great for one person is not ideal for another. Make sure that you all "sing from the same hymn sheet".
  8. Take notes. A camera plus a note pad to record as much as you can about each house. A good agent will provide printed details for each property visited, with room to add your own comments.
  9. Be comfortable. Wear sensible clothing and suitable footwear for trampling around outside, and take drinks and snacks in the car in case you can’t find anywhere to eat at the appropriate time.
  10. Be honest with your agent about what you like and dislike and your budget. The more they understand, the more help they can be.