The week where we fell in love with a view, became confused by a bathroom suite and I fell off my bike! At least our weeks are never dull!

The views from the Bastide at Laparade are magnificent. You can see for miles upon miles. The River Lot in the foreground and the plum and hazelnut orchards all around. Dan’s comment on seeing this was ‘well this view might have just sold the area’ 🙂

It’s May 25th and this week for the briefest of moments I met a lovely lady who was celebrating the start of the next chapter of her life. Having just blown out some 60+ candles on a recent birthday cake she had decided the time had come to move back to ‘Blighty’.

As ever on this journey its the people we meet along the way that provides us with the priceless experience. It’s a gift that Dan and I didn’t anticipate that fills a hole we didn’t realise existed!

The passing comment she made “I don’t want to grow old here” firmly lodging itself in my brain. A thought for my future consideration perhaps as I reflect how fortunate we are to be free to live in the moment we are creating. Covid restrictions permitting obviously!

I wondered seriously for the first time what our ‘old age’ might look like. If perhaps in 20 years time we might also be looking to return to England?

Some folks come to France for a pre-defined number of years, some move to scratch an itch or experience a different way of life. Some come for a while and stay forever while others arrive and leave in the blink of an eye.

I know which one I hope we will be!

It feels like there is an equal number of people leaving France right now as there are those trying to get here. I imagine it’s always quite transient with ex-pats but perhaps the political and world health situation is focusing minds more?

I heard this week that there is a spike in Parisians and those in major cities buying property in the countryside. People want a back garden if the next Covid arrives! Historically old country houses have been the prey of the international arrivals with ‘locals’ preferring new builds within easy reach of amenities. Maybe times are changing?

This week has seen our property search focus on the Lot et Garonne department. The views and landscape really are spectacular!

As Macron announces more de-restrictions to Covid lockdown starting on June 2nd there is a real feeling of life starting the return to the new ‘normal’.

The housing market is also waking up. One agent told us that this week alone they have sold 5 houses! Foreign buyers are starting to arrive for viewings and if I am frank there is a little worry bead starting to form that our unique opportunity may be starting to wane.

We are under no illusion how fortunate we are to be able to view property when the majority of the ex-pat buying population is stuck on the other side of the borders. Until now it felt like a blessing! The de-restriction whilst encouraging, has also started a countdown in our brains. We must see as much as possible before our ‘competition’ arrives! It’s an odd kind of self-applied pressure!

On the flip side – with so many Ex-pats stuck in the UK there is a unique market forming with Gite’s being made available for long term rental.

This very French house shall soon become the next chapter of our adventure!

It goes without saying that the effects on the property market are significant but seem minor when compared to those of the holiday industry.

We have so many friends now that own Gites or B&Bs that are seeing huge losses with cancellation upon cancellation. Its hoped that Macrons encouragement for the French to plan to holiday at home this year will help but it certainly focuses the mind!

A great many of those who are now seeking to book holidays in France are favouring private access and private facilities to limit their exposure to others. The talk of cleaning requirements has gone through the roof on social media as rental owners try to keep up with expectation and demand.

It’s partly due to this situation that we started to see if there could be a mutually beneficial arrangement to be made. A few gite owners preferring to secure a long term rental and a set income over the uncertainty of the holiday market.

I need to just point out here that there are legal & tax ramifications to a Gite owner changing the use of their accommodation to long term rental so please be aware that it is not a simple swap.

Interestingly this avenue also identified for us that there are a lot of property owners that can’t currently maintain their homes and gardens do to the closed borders. A business idea is forming…watch this space!

We need to rent in France to help our case to remain at the end of the year. Being a motorhome dwelling nomad is great but without an address in France that we can call our own, we would struggle to tackle some big steps required to reside here permanently.

Just the little things like opening a bank account or buying a car need an address. We also need to register our business asap so we can start to make some money and replenish our savings.

Renting (either furnished or unfurnished) in France is a bit of a minefield and many of the major agents won’t even consider you if you don’t have a job contract and a bunch of french paperwork to prove who you are.

We fell into a category of not being legitimate enough to easily rent via normal means but wanting more independence to support our right to remain (bills in our name ) than most holiday rentals could offer us.

Just to clarify – the ‘bills in our name’ comment. Ultimately most things can be done in France if you have a utility bill in your name. An EDF electricity contract is a great one and can be used to prove your address. Another option is the Tax Foncere in your name although EDF is slightly easier.

After a lot of searching, we found a great place near Duras that ticked all the boxes. As it happened we found a solution that met all our needs and helped another person out! Win/ Win! We pick up the keys this week and can move in at the start of June!

Our house hunting continues and we find more and more that the advert and reality are not always aligned! This place was described as a ‘turn-key’ business when in actual fact it’s not been a business for a long time and would take months to get it back to a standard that could be let out.

A huge plus point of viewing houses in our motorhome is that we carry around our conveniences! If we need to wash our hands after a particularly grubby explore of the loft space or put the kettle on to wait for a late agent we can!

I mentioned above about reality and the adverts not always being aligned. The pattern continues this week…

We have reached the stage now where we fully expect the property to not really match the advert. The bones marry up but the detail is often different. Its a huge realisation and actually changes the way you house shop virtually.

Its not a very easy thing to account for when trying to narrow down the properties that you want to visit so you avoid wasting everyone’s time. You do, however, become familiar with your market and price point after a while so we have gotten quite good at predicting if there is going to be anything wrong before we arrive.

If its too good to be true then it probably is! Simples!

We have modified our search approach this week to try and take into consideration the ‘description effect’ where the faults are rebranded as ‘features’. Aka the airy ambience is code for drafty!

You might remember me mentioning about the development tax last week? Well the discussions with the Maire continue….they have now confirmed that we can develop the buildings if we want (so long as we put a pool in as a fire management tool) but they cant confirm the development tax implication…we need to talk to a different department for that.

The development tax concern remains for us and its also partly due to its potential impact that we have also made some adjustments to the sort of property we are looking at.

Its been a useful chance to re-evaluate what we are searching for now that we are a couple of weeks into the physical search and we are armed with more information than when we started.

Our ‘shopping list’ is pretty well defined now. As is our focus/ priorities in terms of where we feel comfortable spending money materially e.g we understand building costs better now and are confident that we could estimate a realistic refurbishment cost should we need to.

As I sign off for this week I want to leave you with the bathroom…and me falling off a bike…

Check out this fabulous shower room I saw this week while house shopping! The majesty of the tiles has lodged itself in my brain somewhere between retro cool and retina burn?!?!
A little known fact about me…I am a terrible cyclist! I can’t be trusted to not fall off! Thankfully not a big issue and mostly just my pride damaged!

Until next week! A special thanks to our wonderful group on Facebook that despite our recent absence have been checking in with us regularly to make sure we are doing ok!

Find out what happened last week here