Sunday, 19 August 2012

The beginning - moving to France

Well this is it, we’ve done it!!!!!!
We have sold up lock stock and barrel and moved to France, Huelgoat in Brittany to be precise and I would like to welcome you to join us on our adventure, I plan to complete a daily blog (well when the hangover or work do not get in the way) detailing the trials, tribulations and joys of renovating an old town house in to a luxury B&B. You will probably get to hear about the drunken antics, rows and tears as well, but John isn’t too happy about that bit, but hey ho, I’m the one typing!
Let me introduce ourselves, I’m Jenny, I’m 42 in my previous life I was a Quality Management Consultant (great title, I know and roughly translated it meant that I inspected adult social care accommodation). I left work full time approximately 18 months ago to work with John as his labourer come dogsbody, so my family thought I had already had my midlife crisis before setting out on this one.
John is 48 and 4 quarters, he’s still not got his head around being 49 (it was a recent event) and in his previous life he had been a self employed builder for over, well lets just say a very long time.
We met a few years ago and had the same outlook on life and easy going nature, which is going to be essential for living in a house with no water, electric or other essentials. First tip of the day is to be very wary of French estate agent particulars, as we apparently bought a house with electricity and water!!!!!!!! Both had to be switched on but I’ll talk about that later.
Everybody has seen the TV programmes and read the magazines about how fabulous it is to renovate a property abroad, this blog will give you a realistic, detailed account of what it is really like, including leaving children and parents behind, made doubly difficult as one child (she will not be pleased at being called a child) is currently 6 months pregnant with her first child, am I going to be nominated for mum of the year??????
We have travelled around Europe for the past 3 years, the trips getting longer and longer before we realised we did not want to be in England, work was also getting less and less so now seemed to be the perfect time to go for it.
We chose Brittany as the area is stunning and it’s also easily accessible from England, in case we need to go back for any reason i.e. a call from the hospital saying labour has begun. If you are considering moving abroad this is an important consideration, how would you really feel if you have elderly parents or children and it will take a couple of days to get back, I’m not being a kill joy but this is something that not many of the programmes actually mention, and it does need to be considered. The other main reason is the price of houses, our 5 bed roomed town house cost 44,000 Euros and with the exchange rate, roughly translated to £36,000 BARGAIN!!!!! But only because we are going to do all the work ourselves, if you have to employ artisans the price will sky rocket as French builders are extremely expensive, definitely something to bear in mind if you are considering doing this.
We lived in Reddish, Stockport (on the edge of Manchester) and put the house on the market on the 26th May, with the intention of spending 3 months pottering around France and Spain, but unbelievably the house sold on the same day to the first viewer and as an extra bonus they wanted all the furniture. This solved the dilemma of do we take the furniture or put it into storage. The buyers were already well on the way to selling their house and we were told it would complete in 4 weeks. 
Goodbye Stockport 

So our 3 month trip turned in to a week trip to find the house in Brittany. We had a number of viewings booked; we had also been earlier in the year and viewed a lot of properties. This was when we realised we did not want to be in an isolated farm and that a town house was a much better first go at renovating in France. The houses in France often have a septic tank (or not!!!) and only houses in towns are connected to the main drains. This can result in a big cost if not doing the work yourself.
The estate agents are also really useful if you give them an idea of what you are looking for, as they will select more properties for you when you arrive. The estate agent we used was fantastic, we emailed during the day and a reply was guaranteed by 9.30pm that night,
There are 2 options when buying in France, you can buy from an estate agent but beware of who is paying the costs. There will also be the Notaire costs to add on, so often the price you see is not the price you pay.
The second option is to buy direct, there are no estate agent fees but you will have to pay the Notaire’s fees. With this option you miss the services of the estate agents, who do work well in France, they also provide excellent aftercare such as liaising with electricity, water, telecom companies etc.
When we found our chosen property, we knew it was right straight away. 
It is currently a 5 bed, one bath town house with a 500 square metre garden, close to all amenities and only 100 metres from the lake. We cancelled our other viewings and put in the offer, it was accepted and a meeting was arranged with the Notaire.
The Notaire in France is the equivalent of the solicitor in England. The seller has to complete all the surveys and you all meet together to go through the paperwork. This took approx 1 and a half hours (due to having to be translated)
Top Tip                
1.       Be prepared to visit a few times to view properties
2.       Be aware of whether the cost of the house includes the estate agent’s fees or whether these are added later as fees are between 10 and 15 per cent of the house price
3.       Don’t be too rigid in what you want as you may be surprised as to what is on offer

We arrived in France on Sunday 29th July (after spending 4 weeks in Spain) a week at FIB – Festival International de Benicassim.  Here we are 

luckily we also acquired a new tent courtesy of some young Irish girls who couldn’t be bothered to take it down, so a big thank you to you, if you ever read this.
The other 3 weeks were spent at Andy’s, who was our next door neighbour in Reddish until he packed up sticks and moved to Spain. Andy will be joining us for the first 4 weeks to help with the work, say hello Andy  

We set up at the local campsite, which looked beautiful, but had an unofficial bedtime of 9pm (this is only a slight exaggeration!!!! The first night was spent at a local bar and a merry time was had by all, until the family next door started to cough at us, ever so polite there was no shut the f**k up, just a very loud and exaggerated cough, which resulted in us coughing back at all those inconsiderate people who got up at 7am and disturbed us, yes we really are adults and not teenagers.
We had hoped to exchange on the 31st but due to our buyers employing the most incompetent solicitors in Manchester this was not to be the case (when I remember the name I will add it to ensure that nobody else has to put up with them).
In total we spent 8 nights at the campsite, and had the campsite police come and discuss our rowdy behaviour, luckily he got the wrong day so we could legitimately say it wasn’t us on that occasion, phew! But one evening the campsite police turned up again to ask me to be quiet; I was on the phone to my daughter!!!!!!!! 
we were very pleased to leave.

Top Tips
1.       If you arrive in France on a Sunday have supplies with you as the shops are all shut, it is NOT England!!!!
2.       If you visit Huelgoat and stay at the municipal campsite by the river, beware, you have to whisper once it has passed 9pm


  1. Hi Jenny,

    I was introduced to your site by your friend Ray Cunningham, I too live in France in the Dorgogne at the moment.

    I love your blog and will follow, I love blogs like this as I have lived abroad for 9 years now,7 of those in Greece, believe me France is easy after that! Oh and yeah I get the 9pm bit WOW! LOL

    Good luck with your Project

    Cher :)

  2. Hi Cher
    thanks for the comments and glad your enjoying it. We'll never forget the 9pm bed time lol

  3. Always interesting to hear your progess ! Good luck ! we are linked on Twitter - we are the other John and Jenny ! but so far no plans to emigrate to France - just enjoying holidaying !

    1. Hi Jenny, thanks, I still read your reviews,really useful info for when we travel :)

  4. I should have read this earlier...
    Mike. X

    1. Hi mike and better late than never, hope you enjoy x