18 Feb 2013
Fine & Country has announced the opening of its first office in France, Fine & Country Cannes, in January 2013.
Guy and Vicky Watson-Smith, originally farmers from Zimbabwe, have overcome a struggle with African politics and rebuilt their lives to the point where they have a successful business and have opened Fine & Country Cannes.
One of President Robert Mugabe’s closest allies illegally seized the couple’s farm in 2001, leaving them and their children no choice but to flee to South Africa. They had just two hours to pack up their belongings because they were threatened that any removal trucks would be burned.
The family seized personal photographs and papers before leaving behind their farm and home, bringing to an end three generations on the land.
Guy launched legal action in the Supreme Court to challenge the seizure of his home and assets by the former leader of Mugabe’s Zanla guerrilla forces. The moveable assets left behind were estimated to be worth £2 million and unfortunately, his attempts were unsuccessful. Instead, he was ordered to inform his farm workers that they would now be working under new management.
The family have never been able to return to their farm and as well as being forced from their home, they lost their livelihood; their farm vehicles, tractors and equipment, cattle, game and crops.
With an ability to speak some French and a desire to make a fresh start in a new country, the couple moved to France in 2002 where they began to rebuild their lives.
With a passion for real estate, the Watson-Smith’s built their estate agency business harnessing interest and support from a network of acquaintances and international buyers.
Vicky also provides a valuable property management function, helping foreigners who need someone to look after their properties and their administration, and Lao, their son set up a rental company. The couple’s efforts evolved into the family-run business that has now become part of the Fine & Country network.
Guy, who is now a French-speaking property professional and advisor to international clients, says they have put everything into their estate agency in France over the last 11 years and he is proud to now head an experienced and honest family team which has beautiful properties for sale.
Properties range from luxurious apartments with beach access on the famous Boulevard de la Croisette to villas in Super Cannes and on the Cap d'Antibes.
The couple’s daughter, Alice, who gained her real estate experience working with a reputed agency in Cape Town for two and a half years, has also spent time working part-time or holidaying with her parents, and has joined forces with them on a full-time basis as Sales Director and Property Consultant.
Her fiancée, Chris, joins her as Sales, Sub Licenses and Property Consultant.
Finally, Lene Nielsen, General Manager and Professional Card Holder, has worked in the family’s business for six years. This makes up the close knit team who have been through adversity and pulled their efforts together to be successful again and open Fine & Country Cannes.
The way of life on the French Riviera is unparalleled and it here that the ‘joie de vivre’ can truly be experienced. Cannes offers sunshine, character, a sense of freedom and world class cuisine to those who live there.
For the past four years, Fine & Country has been the winner of Best International Real Estate Agency Marketing because of its innovative marketing which focuses on the lifestyle a property offers rather than just the bricks and mortar.
Guy says the estate agents' use of online marketing and property videoettes is a great resource for overseas buyers who want to get an idea of what a property is really like before actually visiting it.
The Cannes office is supported by a head office in Park Lane, London, giving sellers access to the London and international investor markets.
Three luxury lifestyle and property magazines, Refined, Finer and Exclusive Homes Worldwide are distributed across the UK and internationally, further harnessing the global market.
The Fine & Country Cannes office was opened at the beginning of January and the launch party was on 24th where rhythm and blues and jazz band Cozy Corner played, and champagne and canapés were served to a glittering guest list, including no fewer than seven representatives of Fine & Country in London.
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