How to achieve work-life balance in France and love it
It seems like something out of a reality TV series - a life spent on the Cote d’Azur or in the Loire Valley, selling glamorous properties to international buyers, enjoying all the region has to offer.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a long shot, something far out of your reach and expertise. After all, who has the time for years of study, or to learn a whole new profession?
You may be surprised, however, to know that such a lifestyle may not be so unattainable. The Local spoke to two real estate agents working in different areas of France to learn what skills and attributes you need to succeed in the field.
You know the area
Central to success in selling properties across France is a love of the region. How can you expect to set buyers at ease and buy into your judgement if you don’t live and breathe the area?
Robert Nowak, a Canadian who works as an agent for Leggett Immobilier, had years of experience on the Côte d'Azur before he decided to leap into the field.
“I came to the region in 1996 for a good job in the telecommunications industry and never left.
“It’s the quality of life, the natural wild beauty. At the same time, we're still in the heart of Europe. We've got the sea, we've got the mountains, lots of skiing and a fantastic climate. My wife and I purchased five properties in the region, and we’re now landlords.”
Robert’s passion is infectious, and speaking to him, it’s clear that he lives and breathes his territory as an agent.
You speak the language
According to Robert, while you don’t need fluent French straight away to succeed as a real estate agent, you will need to skill up in due course.
“You need to be able to understand French law, certainly real estate law, and that's all in French, of course.
“I do know quite a few agents that come from Britain and they're able to scrape by, without the command of the French language for the initial phase. Of course, they then have to work hard to become fluent in French, and they typically make that effort.”
A command of the French language will deepen and broaden your reach to both buyers and sellers as an agent.
You're willing to learn
Once you have successfully registered at your local Greffe office, your agency will request your professional card from the chambre de commerce allowing you to legally work as an independent sales agent in France.
Luckily, this may not take as long as you might think. Jessica Viel, another Leggett Immobilier agent who works in the Loire Valley completed her training and was practicing in less than three months.
“It took me about 3 months to fully grasp the role, I spent about two hours a week studying with my colleagues. It was really interesting and we covered every subject of our future work, the legal stuff, commercial communication, mandating and prospecting“.
Robert received his professional card quite quickly, and he appreciated that it wasn’t a case of having to return to ‘square one’.
“First, you register yourself as an independent agent. Then there were four days of initial induction training. It's pretty in-depth and it's pretty intense. Once you complete that initial training, which teaches you the nuts and bolts of the real estate industry, there’s lots of online training and ongoing support available.
“This process made a lot of sense because I didn't want to go and join a bunch of twenty-year-olds to train.”
If you can devote dedicated time each week to study, as well as continued training through seminars and online events, the process of becoming a skilled, registered agent can be far shorter than most other professional onboarding programs.
You can leverage your previous career
Both Robert and Jessica had previous careers before becoming agents for Leggett Immobilier, and credit it as something that helped them in both training and working as agents.
According to Robert, “The company prefers to hire experienced people who have experience in other industries - not real estate - and international industries, ideally.
“That’s the kind of people the company wants, as it creates a certain culture. Leggett Immobilier is very much focused on the international market and attracting internationals to invest in France.
Jessica’s previous experience in another industry gave her a clear image of what she didn’t want career-wise. This gave her a useful yardstick to judge what her new career provided professionally.
“Before becoming a real estate agent I was working in another industry. I wasn't sure what I wanted from it anymore, and eventually, I knew I couldn’t devote myself to it and produce my best work."
“With my new career, I know that it’s where my heart lies.”
You've got the time to devote to the job
Something that unites Jessica and Robert is having a relatively clear schedule that allows them to seek leads, work with clients and organise viewings.
Jessica makes sure to schedule each week, devoting chunks of time to different aspects of the job.
“I work between 30 and 50 hours a week. That depends if I have a lot of viewings, or if I’m out prospecting. It changes, depending on demand. Sometimes I just choose to go away for four days with my computer and keep focused on client requests. It’s all about how I schedule my time.”
Robert, on the other hand, chose to become a real estate agent as he transitioned out of full-time employment.
“There was a whole series of events that led me to think that becoming an agent would be a good part of my retirement - whether it was a part-time hobby or more.
“We’re four years in now, and we find that the leads just come our way without us even trying. If we’re in the position of not having to search them out, our day-to-day life is easier and flexible - and that makes it even more enjoyable.”
You've got other passions
Another thing that has contributed to Robert and Jessica’s success as real estate agents is that they have a passion outside of work that they draw strength from - and one that often ends up influencing the day job.
For Robert, it’s classic cars.
“My love of them has always been with me, since my earliest memories. I started buying classic cars 30 years ago and the collection has increased over the years that I’ve lived here on the Côte d'Azur.
“When we moved here I became an organising member of the Automobile Club of Monaco. My wife and I are the official route planner and event organisers for events in the region.
“Every time there’s a Grand Prix, we’re allowed to put one of our vehicles on the track during the historic circuit. It’s been very rewarding.
“My love for the local classic car scene and our participation in local classic car events is probably our greatest source of leads, for both buyers and sellers, there's no doubt about that.”
For Jessica, it’s all about horses. An equestrian, she’s been riding in the region since she was a child.
“I have a horse, and I’ve been riding most of my life around here. We have many significant horseriding events both here and closer to Paris, like at Tours. I like to spend a lot of time caring for my horse and that’s very important to me.
“As a result, I am trying to focus on properties with equestrian facilities and become a specialist in that sector. I find that satisfying.”
Real estate agents are ‘people people' - part of their job is to inspire and excite prospective clients. If there are aspects of your life - hobbies and activities that put a smile on your face, succeeding in selling and buying is going to be markedly easier. You may even find that it provides fertile grounds for sales.
Making your next move
Making a career change might be about finding a new purpose. It might be about finding, or even rediscovering yourself and your true passion. It can be about achieving a better work-life balance or wanting for your career to take a different route altogether.
There is a thriving and exciting job market for real estate agents servicing the soaring demand for properties across all regions of France. Working with an agency like Leggett Immobilier the transition into your new line of work is swift, and you could begin working in less time compared to traditional real estate qualifications - with a strong support network ready to help you succeed.
Find out more about the life of real estate agents in France, and whether this could be a good fit for you.
This content was paid for by an advertiser and produced by The Local's Creative Studio.