The Professional, Handyman, or Jack of all trades?


Despite the current economic situation, foreigners are still keen to buy a property in France. This creates commercial opportunities for companies and private individuals and most of these behave and act impeccably.

Unfortunately, there are also people who specifically target gullible and naive (future) home owners with a view to rip these off. In addition, there are opportunistic crooks who will immediately take advantage of the lack of knowledge that an owner displays.


Some of the services that FPS provides are not only specifically designed to protect you against dishonest service providers but also to warn you against making the wrong decisions. We use our

expertise, experience and observations to assess the likely consequences of your decisions and will inform you if these consequences are not in your best interest.


The house that you purchased in France probably requires some work. That work could be minor and relatively easy. Perhaps some painting and decorating. It is possible however that the house needs a major renovation or restoration. Have you decided to do all the work yourself? Are you looking for someone who can help you or do it for you? Will that be a professional or someone who is not qualified (a “Jack of all trades”)? Some home owners find this choice extremely difficult.


Why a professional? Is that not very costly?


The French professional is called artisan. The French use that word often. We have discovered that few foreigners know what an artisan actually is. A brief, simplified explanation might therefore be useful.

An artisan is either a self-employed professional or someone who runs a company with one or more employees. For example, an artisan could be the local butcher or the owner of a small plumbing company with three or four employees. These employees are not artisans. The owner (the artisan) is responsible for the work that his employees deliver. Any apprentice that he employs will be supervised by him or another, experienced employee.


The artisan should be a qualified professional. He must be officially registered at the (local) French Chamber of Commerce and carry a Professional Indemnity Insurance. In most cases, the artisan will be a member of a relevant professional organisation. The latter is important as this normally means that the artisan must follow a code of conduct.


Contract an artisan and you know what you will get, provided you follow the normal business practices of course. Prepare in detail what you want the artisan to do and ask at least three artisans for a quote. The quote that the artisan presents must demonstrate that he understands your requirements. Check if the quoted solutions and prices are realistic. Compare quotes (suggested solutions and prices) but remember that the cheapest quote is not necessarily the best one to choose.


This way you will get value for money. You will always encounter problems during the execution of a contract but at least you know that you can resolve these, in close cooperation with the artisan, in a professional manner.


Why not Mr Jack? He is a lot cheaper.


A Jack of all trades (we will call him Mr Jack) may seem cheaper but will he have the required qualifications?

Is he a member of a professional organisation? Does he know and follow the relevant procedures, rules and regulations, and how do you check all that? Is his technical knowledge sufficient or adequate (that also applies to the specific location where your property stands)? Will he offer you a guarantee and, if so, is that worth the paper it is written on? Is he insured in case he makes mistakes (which he is likely to do)? Does he really understand your requirements? Does he produce a detailed, written quote? Does the quote enable you to make a like-for-like comparison with other suppliers? Can you, after having received all the information, really establish if the price reasonable? Is he paying taxes?


Using the wrong supplier of building related services can have dire consequences. Instruct Mr Jack and you could, in an extreme case scenario, end up with a property of inferior quality. That may be directly obvious but it is also possible that you only discover that if you ever try to sell your property. A buyer could have the property surveyed and the report will merciless show all the defects. You may never be able to sell your house for a reasonable price, if you can sell it at all.


Using Mr Jack could eventually cost you a lot more than you would have paid the artisan. The costs of damage repairs can be substantial; you could run into trouble with (local) authorities; your frustration levels rise to astronomical level; etc.


The risks associated with hiring a non-qualified person are high and the consequences can be catastrophic.

Imagine that you hire Mr Jack to sweep your chimney, install electricity in your house, or carry out major building work. Would you expect your insurance company to pay out when your house goes up in flame and the fire started in the chimney or the electrical installation? They won’t pay damages either if sudden subsidence is caused by Mr Jack’s building activities.


You may wonder why it is important to pay so much attention to these Jacks of all trades. Simply because there are very many Dutch (and English) DIY enthusiasts, (ex) builders, (ex) plumbers, etc. in France who offer services. Many of them have a low or no income and are in need of cash. They try to earn some money and have every right to do so. The likelihood that a new home owner runs into one of these people is very high. It is in the interest of these home owners that the Jacks of all trades offer services for which they are qualified, that they follow the rules, and are insured. Unfortunately, that is hardly ever the case.


During the years, FPS has got to know quite a few of these “service providers”. Clients who have used these people have asked FPS to give advice for remedial repairs, if that was at all possible.


The client had obviously been too trusting in these cases and we understand why. Mr Jack can talk for England.

He comes across as very convincing, especially to home owners who have recently arrived in France. Mr Jack will invest quite some time in grooming a home owner if he thinks that this is worth his while. He will try to build up a relationship of trust. That feeling of trust, combined with the idea that he gets a good deal, makes the owner decide to contract his new friend Mr Jack. The owner will find out later that there is no such thing as a cheap deal.


The handyman


To complete the picture we have to mention the handyman. You must be familiar with the advertisements in which someone (or a couple) offers a range of services. They can paint your house, clean gîtes, welcome new guests in your gîte, feed your cat, maintain your garden, keep your swimming pool clean, ride your horse, you name it. The more bizarre and complex the combination of services the more desperate they are for money.


Check them out thoroughly and you do not run too many risks when you use them. They should of course have liability insurance. It is annoying when they make mistakes but the consequences are manageable. That is why we do not discuss handymen further.


Very strange ….


It is amazing how many home owners allow non-qualified workers to do as they like. We asked some owners if they would allow someone repair the engine of their car, if that person was not trained and qualified. None of them would ever allow that, not even if that person would charge half the going rate. “He could cause a lot of damage” was the most common reply.


So, a non-qualified person is not allowed to touch their car but they allowed a non-qualified person to damage their property. Very strange considering that their car only costs a fraction of what they paid for their house.




Using the services of non-qualified people often leads to major problems. FPS has therefore started a crusade against the Jacks of all trades who harm the interests of the English and Dutch home owners in France.