Part 1: Buying a house in Normandy – It was love at first sight


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We probably broke all the text book advice on how not to buy a property.

The day before we were flying back home after a wonderful week in Normnady, there we were with our noses pressed up against the window of Century 21 Estate Agent’s in Pont-Audemer. “Look at this at only 90,000 euros! Wouldn’t it make a lovely holiday home and we can rent it out to help pay for itself?”

The estate agent drove at breakneck speed across open farmland and then through the Forêt de Brotonne to the picturesque village of Aizier with its 13th century church. Nestled on the banks of the Seine was the “chocolate box” cottage , Le Mascaret, named after the legendary tidal wave, which used to raise the level of the River Seine by 2.5 metres and generate massive waves which swamped the villages on either bank.

Le Mascaret

It was love at first sight! Set in its own 1,300 m² secluded orchard garden with apples and geraniums flowering in troughs outside the blue-shuttered windows, it was just like the quaint Normandy style cottage or chaumière you see in picture postcards – but without the thatched roof.

The interior needed some updating. A new staircase was essential for anyone over 4ft as the original stairs required anyone over that height to limbo dance up and down to the bedroom! A new wood burning stove in the living room was also a must to replace the open fire hearth and chimney encrusted with soot. But we knew this was an exciting project that we could manage and that it wouldn’t take much to get everything to our taste… or so we thought.

Feeling quite confident that this was the cottage of our dreams, we went back to the Estate Agent’s office, put an offer in that was accepted by the proprietors, signed all the necessary papers (which took about 2 hours)with the help of our daughter who speaks fluent French and that was it! We jumped on a plane, flew back to England, feeling as though we had just made a dream come true. And then we woke up the next morning feeling a little nervous. What had we let ourselves in for? Had we rushed into things? Would it really be that easy to redecorate? What if there were hidden problems with the cottage that we didn’t know about? At such a distance, there was not much we could do to find the answers to our questions. Only time would tell…
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