Earlier this month, Brice Viard took some time out to chat to me about his transition from technical manager to successful property agent in south-eastern France…
Brice is based in the spa commune of Montbrun les Bains, at the heart of the Baronnies Provençales Natural Park, which overlaps the departments of Drôme and Hautes-Alpes. He works there as a Leggett estate agent and lives there too, with his wife Alexandra and their two children in their renovated farmhouse.
Before becoming a Leggett estate agent, he was a technical manager for a TV station, and has worked in Qatar, the UK and France. It was while he was on a sabbatical last year that he met Trevor Smith, Leggett regional manager of the Drôme and Hautes-Alpes area. They got talking about running a local Leggett agency. Brice quickly realised that with his property renovation experience, his love of the area, his transferable organisational, managerial and technical skills, and his fluency in French and English he could really make a go of being a Leggett agent based in the place he loved, Montbrun les Bains.
A 180-career change…
After meeting Trevor, Brice weighed up other professional options, but chose Leggett because, in his words, “They are a British-influenced agency with an international market”, which meant to Brice that they were professional and can reach a wide target area. With his Media Technical/Engineering background, Brice was also impressed with the systems that Leggett used and the statistics that they provide to support their agents in the selling/buying process.
“It was a pleasure to change to a much more human job,” Brice told me. “And I go to beautiful places, the kind of places I would never have visited if I had gone back to an office-based job in the city. I’d say 95% of the time my prospective clients are interested and happy to see me!”
From zero to 75 in nine months
Brice started with Leggett just nine months ago and works full-time on his business. He quickly built up his business to a 65-plus portfolio of properties. “I like to have 60 to 70 properties, with different criteria. I need that number to make this business successful and to survive,” Brice told me. “I worked very hard over the first six months to develop a varied portfolio.” Brice’s best sellers are properties close to villages, with a small amount of land, selling for around €300,000.
“I continue to build and develop my portfolio, but now I have some flexibility during the day and can take time off to spend it with my family. That flexibility is one of the great benefits of working as a property agent with Leggett.”
Brice told me that having the support of an international brand, which has been voted top estate agency in France for four consecutive years and is one of the 1,000 fastest growing companies in Europe, according to a Financial Times report, makes the selling process easier. Brice firmly believes that Leggett is gradually changing the face of property selling in France: “Happily, I only need to say the truth to sellers and buyers, which is not what some agents from other companies do here! So, I can relax and be myself.”
The Natural Park is an area of extraordinary biodiversity and beauty. Brice covers a territory that includes the villages of Sault in the North Vaucluse, Saint Christol and Revest-du-Bion on the Plateau d’Albion, Barret Sur Meouge in the Hautes Alpes and St Auban in the Drome.
The Natural Park is also home to a project that promotes locally sourced food and products, which has been the inspiration for Brice’s wife Alexandra’s food blog, more on that later.
“The biggest thrills one gets here are walks and hikes within the park, in this the ‘Provence of the mountains’, discovering a very rich fauna and flora.”
Brice and Alexandra bought a Provençal farmhouse in 2004 and spent ten years renovating it. They visited each year, from wherever they lived in the world, finally moving in full-time with their two young children in March last year.
It’s a busy life in the Viard household; as well as running the Leggett agency for his area, Brice and Alexandra own and manage a gîte on their farm, Grange Viard and Alexandra writes a food blog called ‘Rootsseedsandleaves’, a great place for inspirational and healthy recipes based on local produce.
Getting to know the locals
The years of visiting and renovating their farm helped Brice quickly integrate into the local community, once he and his family moved to Montbrun les Bains permanently. The locals were used to this Frenchman from Brittany, who drove a car with English plates, and his English wife. They had seen how they had put their hearts and souls into renovating “Grange Viard”. So, the transition to a property agent, working for an English brand, was easy for them to accept. In fact, Brice had his first commission to sell a property before he had completed his training with Leggett!
Anything negative at all?
“There are days when you show a buyer a house and they are difficult and negative about everything. I have learned not to let that get me down; often a negative reaction is simply pre-negotiation, and though I have never been a sales guy, I have learned to push the positives and to do it properly.”
Could it be you?
It was clear from my conversation with Brice that he loves what he is doing; he is passionate about it and so enthused. So, I asked him why that 180-change from technical manager to Leggett agent was proving such a success for him, and why it could be the same for anyone who may think their background isn’t suited to a property agent:
“It’s the human contact that I love. If you like human beings, do this job! You will find out so much about people; their history; their desires; and about the place that you love – where you will live and work. I am constantly learning about what people need, but you must be patient, every person is different and unique. If you want a complete change in your life, this is the right career for you.”
If Brice’s lifestyle and change is something you can picture yourself doing, find out more about becoming a Leggett estate agent at a recruitment fare in France or the UK.
This article was sponsored by Leggett.