Tim Swannie takes the Sunday Times around the Riviera to explore the real estate world of the super rich

The Sunday Times recently ran a double-page spread about Riviera real estate and the uber-wealthy buyers who invest in property there.

As Tim Swannie, Director of Home Hunts, discussed with the newspaper during the press trip, the South of France property market is very varied, and Home Hunts works with clients from a huge variety of countries and backgrounds.

Francois-Xavier de Vial and Tim Swannie – Home Hunts

“That is what makes our job so enjoyable,” Tim said. “The majority of our clients are families and retired couples who are looking for that perfect place to get away and relax, we love getting to know our clients really well and helping to find them that perfect dream home.”

The article dives in and out of opinions from property and finance specialists who deal with this high-end market, and dips into tales about what is described by one agent as the “sunshine playground of the super-rich”.

An award-winning, luxury property specialist, Home Hunts’ reputation has grown considerably since Tim and his business partner, Francois-Xavier de Vial launched the business nearly 15 years ago on the French Riviera. The company has since expanded to cover many other regions of France and is now widely regarded as the market-leading buyer’s agent for luxury French property.

“The Sunday Times were particularly focusing on the top end of the market, which is an area where we have a lot of experience,” says Tim. “We work regularly with well-known clients from the TV, movie, music and sports industries, as well as heads of business and finance, and even the odd royal. Discretion is key however, so we could never disclose any of our clients’ names.”

As one of the most desirable places to live in the world, the glamour of the French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur) has attracted the rich and famous for years. It was once the favourite vacation spot of Queen Victoria, now celebrities and the jet set elite come from all over the world to live, rent or holiday here.

Lewis Hamilton, Elton John, Sean Connery, George Michael, Keith Richards, Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, Jean Cocteau, Jenson Button, Bono, Coco Chanel, Tina Turner, Ringo Star, Dolce and Gabbana, Pierre Cardin, Joan Collins, Rod Stewart, Giorgio Armani and Johnny Depp are just a few of the names from the past and present who live or have lived on the Rivera.

While social codes of life on the Riviera, as well as some of the quirky challenges of dealing with billionaire buyers, were touched upon in the article, it also explains just how much agents sometimes have to invest in the viewing process. “A helicopter is the only way to get round the eight or nine properties a day most need to see,” it reads.

In fact, Home Hunts and the Sunday Times did just that, they chartered a helicopter so they could explore the French Riviera from above – a luxury that Home Hunts arranges for some of their wealthy clients, particularly for those who are very busy and wish to fit many visits in to a short space of time.

As well as the sky-high tour, Home Hunts and the Sunday Times also spent a lot of time exploring the Riviera by road, visiting properties, pointing out some of the spectacular mansions that the Côte d’Azur is famous for and discussing the market generally, as well as some of the requests Home Hunts has had from super-rich buyers.

Part of the article reads: (Click here to read it in full)

“Over medium-rare swordfish steaks and Chablis at the Horizon restaurant, overlooking Monaco harbour, Swannie, who hails from Harrogate, recalls: ‘I had an American client who would refuse to get into the car unless the air conditioning was already on and the temperature was precisely what he liked.

‘A Russian client arrived two hours late at the front gates of a €15m villa, said he didn’t like the design of the gates and refused to go in. A South African brought a miniature poodle — with its own dog nanny. One Hollywood actor loved a villa near St Tropez, but did not like driving through a gated estate of ‘cheap’ €2m villas to get there. He said, ‘It’s great, but do we always have to drive past these scumbags?’”

We also see how international buyers sometimes inject extra expenditure into the process in order to fit in with French buying procedures. Hugh Wade-Jones from mortgage experts Enness International explains how a “Saudi client who needed personally to sign and return a document to close a deal” signed the sheet and delivered it via his personal jet from Riyadh.

Home Hunts had an enjoyable couple of days helping to show the Sunday Times around, and while the article is over the top and slightly tongue-in-cheek at times, it is a fun read and it gives a little insight into the world of the super-rich.

If you are looking to buy a prime property on the French Riviera, you can view high-end homes here at www.home-hunts.com. But to speak to a consultant about off-market real estate or to discuss your criteria, call us on +33 (0)970 44 66 43 or email us at info@home-hunts.com, we would be delighted to help.