The pitfalls are evident for all to see. Old masonry, rotten timbers, dodgy roof structures and a lack of basic amenities such as water or electric. These are just some of the problems encountered by people looking at renovation projects in France.
So. What’s the attraction? For some people, the idea of creating a space that is uniquely their own is a big incentive. The growth in knowledge about design and planning issues, coupled with the development of materials and processes, has led to a rise in confidence and self belief that means projects like this are not as daunting as they once were.
At its simplest, the term ‘renovation’ means renewal. It is distinct from restoration as it involves the changing of an object and making it new using different materials and techniques from how it was made originally.
In the context of property (especially French property) it involves taking an existing structure and renewing aspects of its layout, decoration or style or a combination of all three.
At one end of the scale, it can mean redecoration. At the other, taking a ruin or derelict shell and creating a home from next to nothing. Most projects come somewhere in between.
The quantity of older style properties in France in disrepair is quite high as the trend over the past 15 years or so was for French families to move into newer, more efficient houses. This has left a legacy of property that is solidly – if not structurally – well-built, ripe for renovation. In popular regions it is proving more difficult to find property to renovate at a ‘bargain’ price.
This is to do with the fact that areas such as these hold a certain value and the cost price reflects the final building’s value after renovation, less the costs of the works undertaken. There are still properties available for renovation. They may be harder to find and may be located more in rural settings.
The bargain property seen in magazines and television media costing £25,000 that only needs £1,000 or so spending on it may have been a reality once upon a time, but you will find it hard to locate one nowadays. Estate agents have educated the French and they now know that the derelict farmhouse in the country is, with permission for renovation, worth quite a bit.
True, these projects are not as simple as some media would have us believe, but they are definitely more attainable. France is still cheaper, property wise, than the UK. This coupled to a rise in self knowledge of what is and isn’t possible to achieve within this field make it an attractive prospect, well worth the investigation.
• Stephen Davies