Cheryl and Stephen are, by their own definition, a normal British couple who moved to France and in their opinion, anyone could do the same. They had, however, a really good overall experience of having their home built from scratch and they were kind enough to share aspects of that experience with us.
Tell us about the property.
It’s a BBC or Batiment Basse Consommation, (energy efficient building) of about 95m2, located in Saint Gill Escroix de Vie in the Vendée, a town with a population of about 7.500 and many more in July and August. As the population swells in the summer we get the facilities and shopping that you wouldn’t normally get in a place this size.
Do you live in France fulltime? What brought you to France?
We live in France fulltime, we moved here for no special reason – just a bit of a challenge and a change. Our old house is only 500m away from the new build so we got to walk past it every day.
Is there anything that you would do differently now that you have more experience?
Expect it to take quite a long time. It will be done BY the last possible date in the contract – that’s the date they’re working to, although they’ll tell you anything before you’ve signed! When you’ve chosen a plot, check at the Mairie planning department whether there are any restrictions or any changes to the rules of the lotissement (we had a copy of the rules, but no-one told us that they’d been changed a couple of years previously, meaning our first planning application was refused)
How did you cope with the language?
How did you cope with paperwork?
The builder dealt with all the paperwork as we opted for a ‘key in hand’ job.
What is your favorite part of the house?
The kitchen/diner (builders didn’t like it as it’s separate from the living room) and the douche Italienne – which is fantastic.
What do you like about the area?
The beach, harbour, fishing port, marina, 2 rivers, fantastic climate, friendly people, great shops, good restaurants, activities/entertainment all year.
Why did you decide to go for a new construction as opposed to buying an existing property?
We’d had old houses and wanted ‘BBC’ for low energy costs, plus a house of our design. All new builds now have to be to BBC standard, although looking around it seems that a lot are achieving the standard (at the price?) by building in wood. I’m sure that’s fine, but ourselves we prefer traditional construction.
What would you recommend to someone considering taking a similar road?
Chose your plot carefully – the best position you can afford, then ‘interview’ the building companies, look at their work, make sure what’s included in their quote, visit the site daily, take photos, join Forumconstruire.com, ask questions on there, put your build on there as it progresses (with photos).
Don’t forget that you can contract the builders to do just as much as you want – just the shell if that’s all you want. We opted to do the inside painting (doors, walls and ceilings) as it would have cost an extra €4000 if the builders had done it.
We had the choice of stud internal walls and plasterboard or block walls and plaster. We chose the latter and are glad we did.
What is your experience with the professionals you worked with? Would you recommend them?
Excellent company – would recommend 100%
The builders C.A.B.C.L. deserve naming as they were so good. They thought of things we hadn’t considered – they asked for a kitchen plan (the supply/fitting of the kitchen was for us to do) so that sockets, cooker outlets etc were in the right places and the window above the sink would be high enough not to interfere with the tap.