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House hunting

July 8, 2011

Well after almost two months  in France we have found a house and signed the compromis.  

After the first house we found and offered on fell through (it really wasn’t very good at all) we started again and reinforced what we already knew – houses are much smaller and are not kept in show-ready condition. I won’t bore you with too many details but one example of a really nice building was totally let down by months of neglect and the fact we couldn’t open the laundry room door because of all the dirty laundry still on the floor, left by the deceased owner L  Eventually we came down to a choice of a house close to the first one – nice view, good garden, some issues; and another, much larger place that needed work. We made an appointment to view the first house in and although it had issues we were prepared to take it on if we could get the offer in low enough. Right as we are leaving, the owner tells the agent that someone else had made an offer and the decision was to be that evening – and the offer was only €5000 under asking price. No way.

 So we decided to revisit the bigger house in Trefflean and we wanted our friends to check it out with us – house hunting was getting old and we needed to be done. Quick text message and they agreed to meet us at the house, call to the agent and he is there at 6:00pm with the keys. Second visits are interesting, it really wasn’t that much bigger and it was manageable. Friends arrived and started smiling immediately, there were issues but his (professional) estimates for remedial work were well within budget. We decided there & then to make an offer. The offer was countered but not by much so we had a deal. We signed the original offer on Wednesday 29th, went back for the full offer signing and deposit taking on July 6th and now there is a seven day grace period for us to change our minds. We have a full diagnostic report which I hope our friends will help us with – but I don’t think with my limited technical French that there is anything seriously wrong – certainly nothing that has to be done before the sale can complete.

 We are going to redo the living room floor before we move in so all the heavy furniture can go straight in place when the container arrives. However, this is three months away as the legal process takes that long L Then we’ll have to redecorate everything – lovely Victorian or Indian restaurant wall paper on walls & ceilings, old knackered carpet upstairs everywhere!  The house has a full sous-sol or basement – loads of room for stuff, more stuff and even more stuff. It’s 174 sq m or about 1800 sq ft and has 2000 sq m of land which is grass, trees and bushes. Ride-on mower and a big weed wacker should keep it under control. The big bonus is the living room has enough room (and a suitable location) for our Bar Billiards table – every other house we looked at this was either impossible or going to be in the sous-sol.

 Lessons learned:

 a) There is no MLS in France; agents keep details of houses secret from each other so you have to visit every agent in your chosen area – a royal pain.

b) Keep detailed records of which houses they take you to, don’t let two agents show you the same house as you’ll pay two sets of fees should you buy it.

c) The French do not keep their houses in sale-ready condition, be prepared for dirt, clutter, garbage and worse in houses listed for sale.

d) French taste in decorating styles and colors is very different, we’ve seen rooms with bright green & yellow walls, black cupboards etc. Be prepared to redecorate anything you buy.

e) Houses are smaller, rooms cramped so your furniture could be a challenge. Take measurements of everything you own and then take detailed measurements of the house you want. We ended up buying a slightly bigger house than we really wanted just to be able to use our stuff. This despite several investigating trips in the past.

f) According to our agent, 60% of house sales in France are now being done without agents so searching the websites such as pap.fr is essential.

g) Our agents have insisted that we have a professional translation of the sale documents – this is good advice as many things are very strange. We had to write and sign (in French) a disclaimer that as we are not getting a mortgage we cannot use that as an excuse for dropping out of the sale. However the translation costs money so we waived it on the compromis but will have to pay for it on the ‘act authentique’. 

Now for the long wait

 David

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