When Nicolas Ancel was offered a job in the US 14 years ago, the French family took a chance.
Their daughters were teenagers. It was not an easy move. But they found what they were looking for, Nicolas’ wife Dorothée says: “Freedom. The ability to create whatever you want. If you have a good idea, you can can get it done.”
Today, all 5 Ancels are American citizens. And Dorothée’s idea has become a thriving business.
In 30 years of marriage, she and her husband have always had a side interest in real estate. They owned small condos all over France.
After coming to Westport they bought a second house. Then they purchased one for their daughter near the University of Connecticut. A rental home followed.
Each time they had to find contractors, landscapers and repair companies. Dorothée became adept at property management. Her organizational skills, common sense and reliability were a natural fit.
To learn even more, she earned a real estate license.
In July 2019, good friends moved to California. Their departure was rushed, so they asked Dorothée to represent them at the final walkthrough.
The new owners were a young couple from New York, with 3 children. They planned to move in 9 months later, after renovations were done.
They wondered: Who could keep an eye on their house in the meantime?
Dorothée had an idea. And in true American spirit, she got it done.
Snowbirds — her new company — provides home watch services to people who spend part of the year away from Westport. (Our town is filled with snowbirds — men and women who live at least 6 months and 1 day in the Sunshine State, for tax purposes. Well, at least Westport is filled with them a few months a year.)
When they return, Dorothée arranges airport pickups and ensures that the refrigerator is full.
She also prepares homes for newcomers. She facilitates their arrivals; coordinates with contractors and deliverers and the pool maintenance guys; does exterior and interior checks, and performs the bajillion other small but crucial tasks that make them feel comfortable and welcome.
The usual helpers — cleaning ladies, landscapers and the like — are not always up to those jobs. “Someone forgets to lock a door,” Dorothée says. “Or they close the wrong one, and everything in the closet gets musty.”
The other day, heat was off in a home’s 3rd floor. Dorothée realized a thermostat battery had leaked. Someone inexperienced in property management would not have thought to look.
Dorothée has several clients from overseas. She helps them with the daily chores we take for granted: registering for school, navigating the DMV, you name it.
Every day — and home — is different. Each client has different needs and expectations. “The sky is the limit,” Dorothée says.
So far, she has never said no to any request.
“People buy peace of mind,” she notes. “I take away distractions, so they can focus on their jobs.”
Dorothée also finds time to teach English as a Second Language on Tuesday nights. It’s her way of giving back to the nation that has given her so much.
After more than a decade in the States, she remains impressed by the opportunities, the beauty of this area, and the wonderful people she meets.
“They are so nice!” she says. “I love what I do.”
And — whether they’re snowbird in Florida or move here from France — her clients are grateful that so many of their homeowning headaches are now hers.
(Click here for the Snowbirds website. For more information email SnowbirdsFromCT@gmail.com, or call 203-260-4281.)