How far will a French Riviera estate agent go to secure a sale? The desire for a commission is more than skin deep, if my experiences were anything to go by.
A decade ago, low interest rates created a mini-boom in Riviera real estate. The elderly British couple I showed around one morning were, like most buyers, eager to close a deal that day. Six potential apartments had been finalised. Keys had been sourced. Nothing could keep this eager duo from their dream home.
We had a hiccup with the front door of apartment number three. But I soon strode through, extoling the virtues of their immaculate future holiday home in confident estate agent sweeps: “Double Exposition.” “South Facing Balcony.” “Hardwood Floors.”
Alas, the main bedroom was not immaculate. As on the double bed lay a statuesque French woman, as naked as the day she was born.
With an admirable display of stiff upper lip the English couple simply contrived not to notice. The lady even whispered the immortal phrase: “mmm, high ceilings”. At this point, our nubile new BFF sighed the words “Lucien, Lucien”, before rolling onto her side. A generous flash of her derriere ushered us towards the exit.
“I think we’ve seen enough of this apartment,” said the British gentleman. I think he spoke for us all. Such scenes must have stymied their enthusiasm for the French joie de vivre, as the couple eventually decided not to buy.
One final transaction is etched onto my memory. It was 2005, when we upgraded to a snazzy new website that displayed unlimited photographs, property descriptions and maps.
A handsome Niçois chap emailed me ten images of his studio for sale. The first nine photos used a wide-angled lens to capture the glorious dimensions of his apartment. And the final photo? Well, let’s just say that this lad didn’t need to use a zoom.
The picture sent directly from his camera – now gaped at by my staff – showed a man in his prime. This gentleman’s physical prowess made me feel woefully inadequate, and made our secretary blush with shame.
It turned out that this image was destined for a matchmaking website, not our real estate portal. My awestruck staff nevertheless treated this studio vendor with the respect he deserved.
Tristan Rutherford was the director of a Riviera real estate agency until 2007.