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.

How to achieve work-life balance in France and love it
Ready for a new life and career under French skies? Perhaps becoming a real estate agent could be right for you. Photo: Getty Images

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. 

Love France? Love your region? Find out how you can become a real estate agent

Robert Nowak has lived on the Côte d’Azur for over twenty years and now works as a real estate agent. Photo: Supplied

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. 

One of the thousands of properties sold by Leggett Immobilier across France. Photo: Leggett Immobilier

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.”

Know what you want from a new career? Find out whether selling property in France with Leggett Immobilier is a good fit

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.”

Jessica Viel can build a career around her love of horseriding. Photo: Supplied

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.

Focused, flexible and passionate about life in France? Take the first step onto an exciting new career path

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UPDATE: Is it possible to drive between Spain and the UK via France?

Travelling between Spain and the UK during the pandemic has been very difficult due to border closures, cancelled flights and quarantines, but what is the situation like now? Is it possible to drive between Spain and the UK via France?

Driving between Spain and UK
Photo: Bertsz / 67 images/ Pixabay

Several readers have asked about the restrictions and necessary documents and tests needed to drive to the UK and if it’s possible. Here’s what you need to know.

Travelling by car between the UK and Spain at the moment is possible, but not very easy. Although it’s a lot easier now than it was before the state of alarm ended, it will still involve PCR and/or antigen testing, quarantine, and lots of form-filling. This will mean extra expenses too. 

Spain and France have both updated their rules on travel as restrictions begin to ease. Here’s a look at what you need to know driving between the UK and Spain, via France right now.

Leaving Spain

Movement in Spain has become a lot easier since the end of the state of alarm on May 9th. This means that you can easily drive across regional borders without the need to prove specific reasons.

There may still be certain municipalities or health zones that you might need to avoid because their borders are still closed due to a high number of cases, but for the most part, your drive through Spain, up until the French border, will be easy.

Keep in mind that some regions still have certain restrictions in place such as when bars and restaurants are allowed to open and a few still maintain curfews, so you’ll need to check the rules of those regions you’re planning on driving through.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: What are the post state of alarm restrictions in each region in Spain?

Crossing the French border from Spain

Travel into France is allowed for any reason, including for tourism and family visits. This easing of restrictions was introduced on May 3rd, which saw France opening up both its regional and international borders.

According to the French embassy in Spain: “Entry into the metropolitan territory from a country in the European area is subject to the presentation, by travellers over eleven years of age, of a negative result of a PCR test, carried out within 72 hours prior to departure. This obligation applies to all modes of travel (arrival by road, rail, air or sea)”.

They also state that all travellers will have to present an affidavit/certificate of international travel, certifying that they do not have symptoms of Covid-19 infection and that they are not aware of having been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the fourteen days prior to the trip.

“If you are over eleven years old, you agree that a biological test for SARS-CoV-2 will be carried out upon arrival on French territory” it continues.

The certificate can be downloaded from the website of the French Ministry. The supporting documents must be presented to the control authorities at the border.

The test must be carried out within 72 hours of departing for France and the antigen test is not accepted. You must take a PCR test, otherwise, you’ll be refused entry to France.

A Spanish police officer checks PCR coronavirus tests at the border between Spain and France. Photo: RAYMOND ROIG / AFP

You can drive straight through France, as there’s no quarantine requirement for those coming from inside the EU.

Note that France still has several restrictions in place, but they are gradually easing. As of May 19th, the curfew was extended to 9pm and bars and restaurants were allowed to operate outdoor services only. This means that you’ll need to stop driving and find somewhere to spend the night after the 9pm cut-off time.

If you have to travel past curfew for an essential reason, you will need an attestation permission form, which you can find HERE.

From June 9th, the curfew will be extended again until 11pm and the interiors of bars and restaurants will be allowed to re-open. 

Masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces across the country, and also outdoors in most of the larger towns and cities. If you don’t wear one, you could face a fine of €135.

Entering the UK

On May 17th, the UK government lifted its ban on all non-essential travel abroad and replaced it with the traffic light system, assigning countries to red, amber or green lists, according to their health data.

France and Spain are currently on the amber list, as well as most other European countries, bar Portugal, which is on the green list.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The European countries on England’s ‘amber’ travel list and what that means

This means that you must follow the amber list rules.

The UK government website states that if coming from an amber-list country, even if you’ve been vaccinated, you need to follow these rules before you enter England:

 On arrival in England you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

Children aged 4 and under do not need to take the day 2 or day 8 test.

You may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

The traffic light list only applies to England, but Scotland also has its own traffic-light system, which at the moment has the same green-list countries as England. It is thought that Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to adopt the traffic light system too.

If you’re entering the UK from an amber country, you can go for any reason. It doesn’t have to be an essential trip and entry is not limited to UK nationals or residents.

Find further information on UK travel rules HERE.

If in the future, France makes it onto the green list, then no quarantine will be necessary. Regardless, of this, a negative Covid-19 test is still needed to enter England, plus another test on or before day 2.

What about driving back to Spain?

The UK is still advising against travel to amber countries for leisure or tourism reasons, which France and Spain are both currently on.

This isn’t a travel ban, but the official stand can mean that your travel insurance won’t be valid, so check your policy before you travel.

JUNE UPDATE: From Monday, May 31st, France is tightening up entry requirements for arrivals from the UK, following in the footsteps of Germany and Austria as European countries become increasingly concerned about circulation of the ‘Indian variant’ of Covid in the UK.

So what’s the situation if you are just passing through?

If you are returning to your permanent residence in another EU or Schengen zone country then you can travel, as one of the listed ‘vital reasons’ is returning home. You will, however, need to show some proof of your residency, ideally a residency card.

If you are travelling for another reason you can travel through France, provided you spend less than 24 hours in the country.

The testing requirement applies to all arrivals, even if you are only passing through France, but if you spend less than 24 hours in the country you are not required to quarantine.

You will also need to check the rules in your destination country on arrivals from France. If you are entering France from an EU or Schengen zone country you will need to show a negative Covid test taken within the previous 72 hours and this must be a PCR test. You can enter France for any reason from an EU/Schengen country.

And yes, these rules all apply even to the fully vaccinated.

To find out more about the rules and exceptions for travel between France and the UK click the link below.

READ MORE: Spain-UK road travel – Can I transit through France despite the new Indian variant restrictions?

Currently, the Spanish government website states that only citizens and legal residents of the European Union, Schengen states, Andorra, Monaco, The Vatican and San Marino, as well as those who can demonstrate through documentary evidence an essential need to enter Spain, will be able to enter the country.

However, Spain recently announced that it would welcome British tourists into the country without a negative PCR test from May 24th. 


The website also states that “all overland travellers (excluding children under the age of 6 years old) who wish to enter Spain by road from France, are required to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to entry”.

This applies to everyone, even if you have been vaccinated already.

Please note The Local is not able to give advice on individual cases. For more information on international travel to and from Spain, see the government’s website and check the restrictions in your destination country with the appropriate embassy.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I fly from the UK to Spain to visit family or my second home?