By Sylvia Edwards Davis, Property & Living Editor
Having moved to France in 2004 with husband, son and mum, Maria first worked with an expat information portal as their European Director of Sales and Marketing and then in 2009 created a marketing agency meeting the needs of international businesses located in the South of France.
Maria’s husband has developed a property management business and son William settled quickly into French school and was perfectly bi-lingual in a matter of months. They love cooking, eating and sharing their summer in the South of France with friends and family. Here’s their story.
We had friends in the area with a holiday home, spent many happy holidays there, decided to buy an investment property and stayed. We managed to sell our property in the UK, pay off all the mortgage and with my Mum, buy a second property that we rent out it in the Summer. Mum also bought a house in the village. Remember, this was then the exchange rate was 1.50 or more!
Tell me about the property.
We have a modern villa, 4 bedrooms, large garden, pool on the edge of a Provencal village. It was the first house we saw and kept coming back to it. We finally made the offer 6 months after our first visit. It’s not in the village, but we can walk in if we want to, the garden is large but manageable and the pool sold it to us! The property search 10 years ago was really leg work, we knew where we wanted to be and simply trawled the local agencies.
What’s your favorite corner of the house?
My kitchen, complete with UK TV and a bag full of ingredients bought that morning in the market.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re in the house? Cook and eat with family and friends.
What’s there to do in the area?
Loads! Aups is a great village all year round form pilates and yoga to visits to the local vineyards. We are only a short drive to the lake at St Croix and the Gorges du Verdon. We are an hour from St Tropez and Cannes and about 90 mins from Nice or Marseille airports.
What would you say to someone who is considering buying a property in France?
Don’t try and do it all yourself if you don’t speak any French. The property laws are complicated and need explaining. Find a local contact that can help, there are several property search companies that can help with a network of English speaking professionals. Mistakes at the purchase stage can be very costly.
If you hadn’t come to France , what might you have done instead?
No idea…I’d probably still be on the 07.49 train into Waterloo and feeling stressed all the time. I am a great believer in fate and finding this gorgeous corner of Provence was meant to be.
What was the best day ever in France?
The day we arrived here to live and we looked around realising that we would never have to go back unless we wanted to.
What was your experience with paperwork and red tape?
Dreadful! Everyone complains about French red tape. My only advice is that you must follow the system, when they ask for yet another copy of your birth certificate, smile sweetly and send it in. If you say ‘you’ve already had that’ then it all goes wrong.
How did you manage with the language?
You can’t manage long term unless you speak good French – I learnt before and after we got here. Having a son at school helped, French homework is a great place to focus the mind. And not speaking the language you miss out so much on the culture and the opportunity to make great French friends.
•With thanks to Maria MacLean
If you would like more information about Maria’s marketing agency please visit her website www.mariamclean.com