Buying A House In France (Part 4)

The pickings on continued to be limited in the new year 2021. We were still performing mainly desktop property market research even after the lockdown had been lifted mid-December (but followed by curfew), reason being we had not found any potential ‘candidates’ for house visits.  

Silviu's List of Castles

Combing through was our all-time favourite activity. It’s not an exaggeration to say that both Silviu and I checked the website regularly, very regularly…every few hours, despite having subscribed to email alerts to new postings.

We played with the search criteria settings, compared houses, monitored the changes in prices, justifying the reasons for the price differences for seemingly similar houses. We even had an excel list titled “Silviu’s list of castles” where we put down the houses with potential and their pros and the cons. We, especially Silviu, could be called house price experts in the Orsay area. 

Silviu’s Newly Discovered Talent

On, each post displays an average of five photos and lists the key features of the house. Only the name of the town (of course, not the precise location) is given. It would be  quite hard for an ordinary bloke or lass to pinpoint the exact location.

Silviu is not an ordinary bloke. His general interest in maps, keen sense of direction and analytical mind, combined with our desperation, turned the house hunting quest into a challenge to him. Based on the clues gleaned from the photos (e.g., colour of the roof or facade, the presence of a nearby parking lot or an inflatable garden pool, the size of the land) and with the help of Google map photos, Silviu was able pinpoint the location of the house (up to 90% success). 

A house like this might be good after we retire.

Indeed, his obsession had saved us some time. Once, we saw some photos of a house, which met most of our criteria, and seemed to be surrounded by a lot of greenery—right up our alley. After some digging on the internet, Silviu found the house. The house was indeed surrounded by greenery. It was actually located in the middle of a nearby woods; that was a road that a car could use, but it stopped a few hundred metres away from the house. The rest of the way had to be done on foot. Silviu and I love nature, and like running in the forest. But, having to walk at least twice a day, a few hundred metres on trails, and likely lugging our laptops or groceries, is not very practical. 

Nevertheless, if Silviu ever wants to switch career, he can consider working for a real estate agent. His job would be to locate competitors’ house listings.

It's all in the DNA...

In The DNA

Silviu’s talent runs in the family. A while back, Silviu showed my mother-in-law some photos of a house we were interested in. He only mentioned to her the name of the town, that the house was situated on the river bank and it was next to a parking lot. Of course, soon after, she shocked us (yes, even Silviu) by revealing to us the exact location of the house. 

Compromis Signé

Our biggest complaint about is that it allows real estate agents to continue list their properties on the website even if the properties have already been spoken for.  What it means for us is that these “taken” houses would still pop up in our search results.

There were many a time when our growing bubble of excitement—possibility of at last having found our ideal house as we swiped fervently through the stack of photos—was brusquely burst after reading the sign “Compromis Signé” (Pre-Sales Agreement has been signed) slapped across one of the listed photos. A “Compromis Signé” house means that a pre-sale contract with suspension clauses (e.g unable to obtain financing) has been entered into. If everything goes smoothly, which is most of the time, the list house is basically “off-the-market.”

If the sign appeared as the first photo, we could skip this particular listing and look at the next available house in the search results, thus saving time. Oftentimes, it’s only after browsing the third, the fourth, or the fifth photo before we realised that the house had been taken.

What a successful real estate agent I am!

Bugbear in St Rémy-les-Chevreuse

There are two main reasons why an agent wants to maintain his “Compromis Signé” house on  

  • One reason is that the offer might not convert into a final sale due to reasons such as the inability to secure a bank loan. In that case, the agent needs to look for another buyer.
  • The second reason (and likely most of the cases) is that the listing with “Compromis Signé” slapped across the photo allows the real estate agent to show off how well he is doing in his business.


There was this particular real estate agent in St Rémy-les-Chevreuse, a town 10km away from Orsay (further from Paris) whom we found especially irritating. The houses in that town were generally cheaper than those in Orsay and we did indeed consider moving there, after discovering the paucity of supply in Orsay. Ever since we began our search, we noticed that 9 out of 10 of his listings were “Compromis Signé.” He had burst a few of our excitement bubbles.

The House Search Continues...

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