After the recent "Vendor's tale" which recounted the successful sale of a property I owned in central France, I found myself with some spare cash in the bank.
Not a fortune mind you - not by any stretch of the imagination.
Now, there seemed to me, a couple of options as to what I could do with the money.
Either I could go on a Viv Nicholson type (within limits of course) "spend, spend, spend" frenzy, frittering the money away on things I probably didn't need or want.
Alternatively I could put the whole bundle into savings and wait for the current excuse of a government to decide how best to get its hands on any interest accrued by levying a tax...a move it was rumoured to be considering retroactively and over which it got itself into yet another fine Laurel and Hardy mess a couple of months ago.
Or - and this seemed the most sensible choice - I could invest in bricks and mortar and "upsize" my apartment in the Paris region.
Now househunting - or rather flat hunting - in Paris and its burbs, is quite a different ball game to looking for the home of your dreams in the countryside.
For starters, property - especially if it's located in the right sort of area - seems to sell more quickly.
I knew "upsizing" would swallow up most of my savings and require me to put my current appartment on the market.
What I didn't know was that the search for more-or-less (I couldn't afford - in all senses of the word - to be too choosy) the right place would be more difficult than I had envisaged.
Especially as it was supposed to be a buyer's market.
Anyway the hunt was on.
And as I had had such a positive experience with Leboncoin as a vendor (although it had been ruddy hard work) I decided to try the same approach as a buyer, combining it with the use of estate agents.
I wanted to stick to roughly the same area of my current flat or move to the neighbouring town. In either case I defined a maximum of half a dozen streets in, what estate agent jargon, is called the triangle d'or.
The budget was a combination of the money I had already received from the sale of the house and that expected from the eventual sale of my present apartment.
And I was equally clear on what sort of place I was looking for; it had to be old with parquet and original features.
I waited for the estate agents' response, all the while looking at the small ads myself on Leboncoin.
Maybe it's a Paris thing - but the estate agents with which I registered - three in total - inevitably sent through properties that came on to their books which roughly (in their eyes) corresponded to what I was looking for.
That often meant 40,000 or 50,000 euros over the maximum budget (even with a margin for negotiation that was pushing it, I thought) - and the wrong area entirely.
And their behaviour often left me perplexed.
While some were punctual and helpful in answering my questions as straightforwardly and comprehensively as possible, others simply didn't seem to know very much about the places they were showing me.
"Where are the radiators?" I asked one during a visit.
"Er...I'm not sure," he replied as he rang back to home base to discover that the flat was heated by an air pulsé (no, I didn't know what it was either) system located in the cave and apparently installed back in the dark ages.
"Would it be possible to visit it, to check it out?" I asked.
"Well I don't have the keys on me at the moment but it should be possible during a second visit."
He didn't - produce the keys, I mean - on that counter visit and I lost interest.
There was also of course, the agent who missed an appointment completely, leaving me waiting at the agency for over half an hour with a colleague insisting that he would be arriving any moment now.
When the 30 minutes were up, I had had enough - and left. One hour later I received a call.
No apology or even an excuse - just telling me that he would be available to see the property the following evening.
No thank you. Goodbye.
And those properties I saw.
Did the agents follow through wanting feedback? For the most part, did they heck as like.
None of them (thank goodness) tried to close on the sale.
They weren't pushy. Their job seemed to consist entirely of showing me around, answering questions as best they could and letting me take the initiative.
If I didn't buy, they seemed to know that another potential purchaser was just around the corner.
Over at Leboncoin, things weren't going quite as swimmingly as I had hoped.
Several properties seemed to fit my spec perfectly - at least in theory.
The reality of the visits though, proved to be a disappointment.
They had been beautifully (in the eyes of the current owners) renovated to the very highest "do-it-yourself" standards by those who clearly shouldn't...have done it themselves, I mean.
And of the dozen or so I saw, more than half of them didn't live up to the description happily and unimaginatively borrowed from the estate agent's thesaurus.
"Ready to move in to" said one.
Except there was no heating (the place had previously been rented and the tenants had presumably used oil radiators) and the bathroom was a hovel.
"All the charm of the old with a touch of the modern," said another which turned out to mean that the cuisine americaine (and I'm not a huge fan at the best of times) gave out on to the...hall!
"A lovely ground floor flat" with a garden offered the promise of "a haven of peace" (I kid you not) in the middle of the city. Except it was just a con.
The terrace was a couple of slabs of concrete overlooked by...well anyone who wanted to and could.
Another ground floor apartment with a green garden this time was a non-starter because on arrival I discovered that the owner had scheduled visits en masse (convenient for her, not for potential buyers) and one of the rooms was off limits because her young daughter was asleep!
"Hello? Did she want to sell or was she intent on wasting my time?" I asked as I left early not waiting for her response.
And another property in a "quiet residential street" was exactly that...except there was a ruddy great big building site next door.
Sadly Leboncoin didn't come up trumps for me this time around and it was instead through an estate agent that I finally found what I had been looking for.
And then of course the "fun" began as I bargained down the price (well, I ain't such a "fool and his money"), had my offer accepted and tried to fix a date to sign the compromis de vente.
Because I was initially told the date on which it would be signed was the one that would be most convenient for HIM - the estate agent - and not the one I had suggested.
Er pardon? Did I hear correctly? Was I buying or was it the estate agent?
I stood my ground.
"Could you send me a copy of the compromis before the signature?" I asked. "It'll save time and allow me to correct any mistakes in advance."
It also meant I could run it past my notaire. She was woman I had used several times somebody I trusted.
"No problem," he said after my second 'phone call asking once again for the compromis to be emailed to me ahead of time.
And it was just as well I insisted a third time (sigh) because I saw that my date of birth had been messed up (mind you, making me one year and one month younger, so I suppose I shouldn't complain) my middle name had become "Bareth" and my nationality...well, it was now - without having gone through the naturalisation process - "French"!
All's well that end's well (roll out the clichés). The bridging loan is in place and the final signature is set for this afternoon while the sale on my current flat is due the middle of March.
That'll give me time to have the renovation and redecoration done (no I'm not going to turn my two left hands to either) and gradually move what furniture I plan to keep.
The rest will be flogged on Leboncoin. Where else?
But that's it for the buying and selling game.
I've had more than my fill...until the next time that is.