Real life stories
After many happy times spent at his home in Brittany, and good friends made, Bob McCluckie has decided to sell up..
In my October 2020 article in FPN, I wrote: “2020 is the first time this century when we have not been able to visit our home in France. I will just have to write off 2000 and hope we can return in 2021. Who could have foreseen that we wouldn’t return until May 2022?
Due to Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions that were imposed on us all, along with other family commitments, we didn’t return until last summer. The house had stood empty for three years. Through our gardener, we found a cleaner to go in before we arrived. They reported that the house had needed a good dusting down and the droves of dead flies had been an issue. The flies we could cope with, it was such a relief to hear there were no infestations of vermin or hornets and that, while musty, the house was mould-free.
Boarding the Portsmouth ferry on 4 June, we had mixed emotions. We drove on to Plouguemével and parked up. The gardener had tended the garden and given the side hedge a good cut before we arrived. On entering the house, we found it needed airing but there were no major concerns. We opened up the shutters and windows and spent the rest of the day dusting and cleaning.
I lit a fire to get some warmth inside the granite structure and noticed a bit of hornet action around the chimney-we’d got there just in time to dissuade a queen from setting up a nest. By the end of the day, we had all the furniture uncovered and our pictures on the walls. That night there was a short rain shower. It didn’t rain again until the end of July.
THE BIG DECISION
The next day we set about reviewing our resolution, developed over our absence, to consider selling up. We loved the house, the area and our neighbours, but things had changed. During the Covid lockdown my friend Francois had become very ill and passed away and we hadn’t been able to attend his funeral. Our local farmer friend had announced his retirement. I was now 70 and maintenance on the house was becoming more difficult for me. House jobs that had seemed fun five years ago were becoming more of a chore and the physical effect on me was exhausting; my arthritis was not going to improve.
Property taxes (taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation) were rising every year, ferry crossings were getting more expensive and after Covid I could only see them increasing. Along with the post-Brexit 90-day rule and new regulations for dog travel, everything was getting a little too much and wasn’t going to get any easier.
The bio ferme owner had previously said that if we ever thought of selling, to let him know. His business was expanding and he had young staff looking for accommodation. We had an idea of the value of the house from talking to other local Brits and looking in immobiliers‘ windows, so we booked valuation visits from local estate agents. They confirmed the price we had been thinking of, so we contacted our local friend to let him know.
We were conflicted about the decision, compounded by the hottest summer in decades with day after day of hot weather. As the heatwave continued, it became quite dangerous for the local area. A careless cigarette end could set the parched fields alight and dairy farmers were running out of pasture as the grass died off. We found it too hot to even sit out in the garden in the shade. But when we could venture out, it was glorious.
We went to fêtes and local beaches previously unvisited. Plage de St-Guirec, with its stunning rock formations, was a real find, as was Paimpol when the Dartmouth to Paimpol channel regatta filled the harbour with all sizes of boats and the quaysides were alive with partying, Gorgeous Rochefort-en-Terre was another must-visit.
Our farmer friend invited us to his retirement party. What a great night that was. All the community gathered for l’apéro before a buffet dinner in a barn with delicious food, copious wine and beer and much speechifying. Another barn became a dance hall with a local group entertaining everyone. It continued until 3am, but we only lasted until lam, walking home up a moonlit lane after a fabulous evening of celebration.
The young couple interested in the house came to visit and were really keen. We agreed on the price and they returned with their parents. Dad, being a builder, inspected the loft and the house and gave a positive opinion and we agreed to visit the notaire.
Then came weeks of frustration trying to comply with our responsibilities when selling a French property. The chimney was swept and the certificate acquired; diagnostics arranged-a surveyor checked for insulation, rot, infestation, damp, asbestos, lead in paint and electrics. Confirming the house had no major issues, he sent the report by post.
The biggest problem was getting a report on the septic tank. According to Google, it was merely a matter of approaching the local mairie. The mairie said it was nothing to do with them but to arrange it through the local SAUR office. They said no, not them either. but gave us a phone number. I made the call and was relieved to be told they were the people to arrange it, but their one agent was on holiday for two weeks. It took a further three months of chasing before the report was done.
And that is where we are now, the promesse de vente signed, awaiting the date for the final acte de vente. Our 22-year Breton chapter is about to close, but we wouldn’t have missed a single minute of it.
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Lead photo credit : © Bob McCluckie
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