Saturday, January 23, 2010

Buying a French house

(Nicked from old blog - Aug. '05)

In my experience there are four stages in moving to France. If you're considering such a move, you may find some of the following useful...

1) The 'Looking' stage - where one inspects an endless succession of tumbledown shacks, usually described by estate agents (many of whom don't speak English and, of course, you probably don't speak French - well, I don't; I have an old school report to prove it) as having 'enormous potential' (confirmation that it's a tumbledown shack) or 'glorious views' (confirmation that the place has a view, but not necessarily through a window as it may not have any - could be through a hole in the roof, or, more alarmingly, the hole that was the roof). On average, this stage lasts about a decade, during which time you'll probably see prices quadruple (at least) and where your initial budget may allow you to inspect various chateaux, you'll end up looking at rickety barns instead.

2) The 'This'll do' stage - the stage at which you plump to purchase the first house that comes along which vaguely suits your diminishing requirements. It's a purchase that's likely to be made more out of desperation rather than genuine desire. After all, by now, it's probably dawned on you just how much of your 'maison' budget has been spent on channel crossings, hotels, air fares, hire cars and French property mags and how little time you have left to be physically capable of doing things like renovating, or gardening (not the pottering around type, but the 'getting a ten-ton mechanical digger in and clearing the jungle' type). Fast running out of time and money, the lightning speed with which you arrive at this stage is often brought about by the discovery of an old shoebox in the attic, full of old French estate agent details of the houses you first looked at years ago, followed by the customary cry of "Giddy Nora! Look at the price of this one! Why the bloody hell didn't we buy it?" Which, in turn, is usually followed by the smug riposte "Because you said it didn't have a swimming pool (or helicopter landing strip, or two-car garage, or guest wing, or room to fit a snooker table, etc.). Here's a nice French shed we can just about afford, dear..."

3) The 'Phew!' stage - when you finally sit down with a baguette, cheese and a glass of wine outside your new French home. Mission accomplished! Unfortunately however, your glass of wine is likely to be the first of however many it takes to achieve total physical paralysis; a state which you will inevitably be seeking following the months of absolute hell that you've just endured in arranging your move from England, not to mention the sudden realisation that your whole 'new lifestyle' thing could be one enormously huge mistake. Worse still, it's a state from which you may never recover. Well, maybe momentarily before a hazy recollection of your recent trauma and foolishness results in further alcoholic oblivion. And when that memory's finally been obliterated, there's the doing up of the house to consider - a daunting prospect that immediately leads to further self-inflicted paralysis. Chances are, you'll be sat (sorry, lying) outside your gaff for months. Years, even. Totally numb. Maybe best stay in the UK and get comatosed there. And it's a whole lot cheaper, too.

4) The 'Doing-up' stage - this can last years or minutes, depending on a wide variety of factors, such as one's level of sobriety following Stage 3. Other factors include one's budget (if any), one's degree of imagination (if any), one's propensity for enduring all kinds of domestic hardships and inconveniences as long as the kettle works, the degree of earache one is prepared to endure from one's partner and, of course, one's own level of DIY competence, to name but a few. For someone such as I who thinks of home improvements in terms of occasionally doing the dishes or lighting the fire, DIY is a 'no-go' area. Well, to be honest, I've been there once or twice, but with disastrous results. For example, when we first moved in, I thought I'd fit a new loo seat; as one does. After much swearing and slinging of spanners and pliers around in a very confined space, the job was eventually completed. And, after her test run, my extremely lightweight partner, Georgie, gave a glowing report. However, when I tried it, being somewhat heavier (an understatement if ever there was one), the seat wobbled. Not much, but enough to cause slight concern. One slip could be fatal. The thought of spinning through 180 degrees and landing with my head down the pan, not to mention the sight that would confront anyone who leapt to my rescue, just doesn't bear thinking about. DIY!? Forget it. Get a man in instead.

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