Your name, age family, and where you are from in the UK
June and Robert and two children from West Sussex, in early 50s and children in early 20s
What made you decide to buy in France?
Back in 1987 we wanted to have our own type of Pension Plan. A 2nd house seemed to be a very good idea for several reasons: a. We lived in a flat running our own 2 businesses and we felt it would double as a pension type investment as we were not on the look for a quick profit; b. Holidays in flats are not easy for young children – so we had somewhere we could spend the holidays, have friends and family to stay and increase our investment by doing reasonably major renovations.
The children being very young then, we decided that we did not wish to travel far. Cornwall, Scotland and Wales were excluded very early on, but with Portsmouth 15 minutes away by car and as we love France anyway, we decided to plump for Brittany or Normandy. It took a couple of trips over to look around, but the moment we saw the farmhouse in Normandy and its apple orchard with French cows, that was it. Early in 1989 we signed a Compromis about two weeks later for this huge granite farmhouse mid-way between Villedieu and Vire, on the Manche border. We completed on the 1st August and spent our first holiday camped in one room as the renovations began!
What made you choose this particular area to buy in?
a. Close to several ports for a varied and reliable source of crossings.
b. Beautiful countryside – very like my grandparents’ farm in Somerset.
c. Close enough to the sea to come and go easily.
d. Plenty of activities in the area: swimming pools, cycling, markets, fetes, golf, canoeing, walks, riding to mention but a few we have done over the years.
Why did you choose this particular property?
a. The view from the main salle de séjour looked over an idyllic valley to 2 sets of hill ranges in the near and far distance. From here you could watch the weather moving in towards you in all its varieties.
b. Plenty of space. Eventually we could sleep 18, with plenty more room for those who came armed with tents and/or caravans. Even then there was double the potential to develop into the barn. Something the new owners are doing.
c. It was so steeped in history main structure dated 1779 and the earlier parts we had deeds going back to the 15th century.
d. Down a dead end – no through traffic, could have 100% quiet or make as much noise as we pleased without disturbing anyone.
e. The structure was so sound – 1 metre thick granite walls which were still perfectly true.
f. Very friendly French people in the local village.
How much did it cost?
Back in 1989 we paid about £15,000 which included all fees. On top of that over the next 7 years we probably sunk in a further £10,000.
Was the process of buying the house better or worse than you expected, or about the same, and why?
Extremely simple. One of us speaks enough French to not only read but also understand most of what is presented to us or said to us. We also had a charming estate agent, who we also bought our second house through. He speaks very reasonable English and all meetings with notaries, he has been at the meetings with us, just in case I ask him to clarify something. The French mortgage we took out with Societe Generale was amazingly easy to do.
How much work did it need doing on it?
Quite a bit of work needed doing. There was no bathroom inside, no kitchen other than over the fire and a scullion. One bedroom habitable and everything else left to be done. We changed this into 1 bathroom with bath, shower, loo and hand basin, 1 shower room with toilet and hand basin, 4 bedrooms, mezzanine floor for activities or extra sleeping space, games room with ¾ billiard table and a couple of beds, large hall with reading/window seat and electric organ for music, very large salle de séjour of about 35 sq meters.
All this involved a large amount of plumbing, wiring, painting decorating, making good and a major structural overhaul to make the hall, which did not exist initially. From the hall we went up into the apple loft, so all that had to be completely fitted out too.
This still left 3three barns to be done in the grounds. Although we did not get around to renovating these, we had plans and whilst at the farm, they had to be maintained – new barn doors, make weather proof etc. We also made good the lovely pond with own wash place, fed by our own private spring which, by the way was piped into the house and was tested and drinkable. This reduced our water bills considerably.
If you had the chance, would you do it all again?
Yes oh yes, it was quite the most enjoyable of places. All who came sung its praises! They said it had the most relaxing atmosphere and they could not remember ever sleeping as well. The fun we had there both as our own family and sharing with many others was really fantastic. The friends we made and the jobs we took on and completed were challenging but rewarding and fun to do.
What’s the best/worst features of your property
Its peace and tranquillity; its space and beauty; it gave us access to the French style of life we love –there to enjoy good wine, good food and good company.
The metre thick walls took ages to heat up in the colder weather and we spent a fortune on massive log fires. At half term the place was not really warm until half way through!
We bought a Massey Fergie tractor from Monsieur and Madame and Robert bought and renovated a set of gang mowers so that cutting the 2 acres did not take long eventually – our industrial flymo could not cope. If you buy big you must move up to full size mowers and strimmers etc. Otherwise you spend two weeks getting on top of the vegetation!!!
What piece of advice would you offer to anyone thinking of buying in or moving to France?
Make sure you know why you want to go, (your own personal reasons) and make sure the area you buy in can give you what you are looking for. We literally wrote out two lists of plus and negative points. You will not necessarily ‘make a quick buck’, but properties are moving up in France more quickly than lots would like, but for us the house was for our pure enjoyment and if it is that for you, you will never regret buying one there.