because the French don't use surveyors doesn't mean that you can't"
There are many old buildings that are hundreds of years old and some
will still be here in a few hundred years time. "However,"
says Martin, who has set up Surveyors in France to provide British
buyers with the kind of professional surveys they expect in the UK
housing market, "an old building (in fact any building) needs to be
looked after correctly to ensure that it stays in a sound
The problem can be that many buildings are constructed in such a way (or
with certain materials) as to make this 'looking after' quite a
liability for the owner. Indeed, some things that need to be done may be
far from apparent and because of this, considerable damage can occur
before it is actually seen and obvious, by which time serious, expensive
and disruptive remedial works are necessary.
In all eras of buildings there are inherent weaknesses, says Martin -
defects waiting to manifest as problems. Then, of course, there is what
the owners end up doing to them and the attacks that the natural world
can throw at them - fungus, insects, floods, radon gas, earth tremors
Lisa Feay, co-ordination centre manager of Surveyors in France, says:
"The attitude of the French is perhaps a little different from the
British, but as the property market here in France evolves and property
is seen more as an investment than just somewhere to live, we think that
this French point of view will change."
She adds that a French estate agent recently said to her that 10 years
ago a crack in the building was somewhere to put the junk mail, while a
really big crack became a window. But now the French are taking a
different view and the drought of 2003 certainly made many stop and
think as cracks began to appear in previously apparently sound walls.
Martin has noted that since undertaking his first survey in France back
in the early 1990's, the trend in house prices in all regions of France
has been on the up. Over the past five years, some regions have seen
dramatic double-figure price inflation and the upward trend looks set to
continue for several years.
Lisa says that with the increase in prices comes closer scrutiny by the
buyers of what they are actually spending their hard-earned money on.
Some buyers are still being caught out, though, and are paying top
prices for problem properties with defects such as subsidence, damp,
high maintenance costs, dangerous features and so on. Unfortunately many
have jumped in feet first and have ended up with a renovation project
that they can't manage or afford.
So where does this leave those who are looking for their dream home in
"Vulnerable," says Martin. "Many nightmare properties are
still being bought by unsuspecting buyers, who are lulled into a false
sense of security by frequent comments such as 'here in France we don't
have surveys done' and 'building surveyors don't exist in France'.
"This is simply not true," he continues, "and it's
exactly what Surveyors in France is designed to address. Our chartered
building surveyors are French residents and are registered exclusively
in France, and in addition they are bi-lingual, familiar with French
construction techniques and ancient buildings, French culture and