Janssens Immobilier specialises in the sale and rental of luxury properties in Provence. Through the cooperation with the international group Knight Frank, the real estate agency has grown into an international market player. 'Since our start in 1999, we have been selling beautiful properties in Provence with great enthusiasm and drive. But above all, we are traders of happiness! says inspirer Rudi Janssens.
Rudi, how did the success story of Janssens Immobilier begin?
"Inspired by the book 'A year in Provence' by British author Peter Mayle, my wife Carine and I went on holiday to the South of France with our children. We soon succumbed to the charms of the region and decided to buy a holiday home there. We had a beautiful spot on the eye in Lourmarin but at the last moment the sale did not go ahead. A heavy disappointment but we did not stay with the suits and continued exploring. So we ended up in the beautiful Bonnieux. At that time - we're talking about twenty years ago - it was not as easy as now to find a house. That's how the idea grew to make it our business and start a real estate office.
Our children weren't too old yet and neither were we (laughs) so it was really the time to go for it. I came from a long career in the banking sector so it meant a return to the essence, a big leap. In 1999 our office in Bonnieux was operational and things went very smoothly. After all, the economy recovered from a crisis, the Iraq war was over and the Euro was on its way."
Today Janssens Immobilier has no less than five offices, nicely spread across Provence. How has that evolved?
"Around 2008 the financial crisis broke out. A holiday home is pure luxury, so it is a market that is logically highly influenced by the crisis. In order to continue to grow, we decided to expand our agency to other regions. In the following years, we opened offices in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Lourmarin, L'Isle-sur-la- Sorgue and Grimaud. Soon we will establish ourselves in Vaison-la-Romaine and we have the ambition to expand to Saint-Tropez and Aix-en-Provence. Our team now consists of thirty motivated employees. We strive to be the reference in terms of beautiful, luxurious houses in a large region - from Mont Ventoux to Saint-Tropez - that appeals to many people."
What exactly attracts people to Provence?
"Provence is a particularly diverse region. There is beautiful nature - the Alpilles, the Luberon and so on - and bustling cities with a lot of culture. Think of Aix, Avignon, Saint-Rémy...The accessibility, thanks to the TGV and many airports, is also an asset. Provence is a favourite of many French, Belgians, British, Americans and other nationalities. They all feel attracted to the typical 'Provence feeling'. If you want to get acquainted with this, I can certainly recommend Peter Mayle's book. Or just come and visit one of our offices, which is even better! (laughs)"
Apart from the many advantages of Provence, what do you consider to be the great strengths of Janssens Immobilier?
"We operate in a very large region and serve our customers in four languages - French, English, Dutch and German. Since 2012, we have also been working with the international Knight Frank group. This was a strategic choice to further raise our international profile in the luxury real estate market. Because the days when people just walked into a real estate office to buy a house are long gone. The market has now largely become digital and most customers live thousands of kilometres away... In order to reach and serve a large clientele at their beck and call, the association with Knight Frank was essential to us. We also have a strongly expanded marketing department."
What type of houses is most in demand today?
"There is a large market for recent houses and villas with a price between 500,000 and 1 to 1.3 million euros. Also village houses with a garden and (possibility of) swimming pool from 500.000 to 800.000 euro are popular. Finally, we also sell much larger properties, type mas or provencal farm. Our clients then have a budget of one and a half to two and a half million euros for a preferably renovated house of at least 250m² with a swimming pool and garden. We notice a preference for an exterior in natural stone or an old facing stone combined with a modern interior with large spaces and lots of glass."
What are your expectations for the future?
"It's with great pleasure that I can say that 2017 was our best year ever. I notice that people are once again confident about investing in beautiful, top-quality real estate. France is an ideal country for this: it is stable, dynamic, in short a safe investment. Our focus remains on selling properties - from modern new-build villas and apartments to typical 'mas', charming castles and authentic village houses. We also offer rentals through Made in Provence. No matter what our customers call upon us to do, we make their dreams come true anyway. We have been doing this for twenty years with a lot of passion, enthusiasm and love for our profession!"
Photography by: Ine Dehandschutter