Getting The Ball Rolling; The Start of a New Venture - Many a Hoop To Jump From Here On In!
Wow! Just thinking back to this time makes me feel a little queasy! So much happened in such a short amount of time!
In April 2012, just 2 months before our wedding, after finding a bank through the estate agent who were offering an unbelievably good deal we made the dash to France to view the house ourselves, meet with the agent and bank and do all the paperwork. We had finally bitten the bullet and the ball was set in motion!
We spent 4 days in France, exploring the surrounding area local to the house, getting a good feel for the place and discussing ideas and the way forward. As soon as we touched French soil, we drove straight to the house to get our first real glimpse.
We weren't actually set to meet the owners and view the house until the next day, but excitement had completely taken over. Unfortunately, in following the satnav and there being no real road names anywhere to be seen, we ended up driving through the neighbouring farm (I say neighbouring, but it is probably about half a kilometer away, being the only other neighbour but one to us, connected by the same gravel track). We were quickly greeted by two rather intimidating looking barking labradors whilst trying to look inconspicious and pass by un-noticed - a complete fail there! It was also that time of the year where the farmers are preparing to go muck-spreading to fertilise their crops, so the mountainous freshly piled heap that we passed did not smell too pleasant! Both slowly and silently being a little put off and thinking our minds may have been changed on this property, we drove on down the gravelled track and finally found the driveway, which we approached from completely the opposite direction of which we should have.
From the top of the winding drive, you cannot really see a lot of the property, but being on a hill, what you do see is the most amazing view of untouched blue sky (well, it is blue the majority of the time!) and rolling countryside stretching out to the forests which border the horizon, with the odd farmhouse, church and little villages scattered within. It is truly beautiful and even breath-taking. Something which we have never taken for granted.
Although the very recent memory of the farm was still very fresh in our minds (as was the smell!), we were very pleased with what was saw. With a sneaky few steps down the drive, the big barn (which we now refer to as "Tiny Tim" and are totally in love with) came into view. We were totally in awe and maybe a little daunted with the actual real life size of it. We had only ever seen it in photographs. It was ginormous and at first sight, slightly imposing. It was hard to imagine how it wouldn't be imposing in comparison to the little stone longère and so frustrating that we couldn't just walk down and take a look. It was so surreal seeing it in the flesh and so tempting to walk further down the drive and take a peak at the rest, but our visit was unplanned and we would have to wait until the next day.
Very excited, we re-visited with the estate agent the next day to meet with the owners and view the property. We had also arranged for an english speaking builder (now a very good friend and neighbour) who was recommended by the estate agent to meet with us and advise on any work which may be required, making sure that all was as structually sound as we had been led to believe - something that I would recommend anyone looking to buy a property in France to do before going ahead with the purchase.
We could not believe the shear scale of the plot, the land and the various other outbuildings which were't even mentioned on the property details and came as a bit of a surprise! The garden with its various fruit trees and shrubs gave a comfortable breathing space between the barn and the cottage and just seemed to wind on and on, with another little outbuilding adding extra possible future potential (and more maintenance needed) around every corner! It was a real eye opener!
The house was as we had expected. We intended to convert the attic upstairs into 4 bedrooms with 2 ensuites and let it as a gite, which Scott had already sketched up plans for. The 2 bedrooms which were currently downstairs would be the kitchen. The beams upstairs were beautiful, with a big A-Frame structure in one of the rooms. As my mother had advised after her viewing, it was lacking in natural light, only having windows on one side of the building, but nothing a few sky lights couldn't solve. It needed a huge amoung of work - there were roof leaks galore, big gaps where you could see the sky, rotten floor boards, big gaping holes in the floors upstairs and gaping/half collapsing walls to match! The garden was overgrown and would need a lot of work to get into shape. It would also be a constant job to maintain it during the hotter months when everything grows wildly. The barn was soooo much bigger than we had expected! But we weren't at all daunted. It just seemed right. Fitted our plans completely. We were absolutely besotted!
The meeting with the mortgage advisor went really well. We had brought all the requested documentation which he wanted to see and take copies of which included:
6 months of wage slips
6 months of bank statements
Mine, Scott's and Summer's passports as Identification
3 months Utility bills
We had a talk through everything and he was happy to very confidently offer us the amazing mortgage deal which had been talked about. This was excellent news as within mortgage lend we had allowed an extra amount which would cover us to carry out the renovation work for the first year and get the gite to a letable state. Without this, we could not afford to take on the project.
We were very happy, but rightfully so, knew that nothing was set in concrete until the offer was there in writing and the contract was signed and so were not going to be celebrating until we had that signed contract in our hands!
I think that was the quickest, most surreal 4 days of my life. We didn't stop for 2 minutes, we just had so much to do with meetings booked on 2 of the days and the rest of the time spent scouting out the area, travelling and making sure we were making the right decision.
The time just flew by and before we knew it , it was back to England.
The process of a purchase of a house in France is a long one, especially in our case! When we got back, it was up to the estate agent and bank advisor to liaise together so that the mortgage offer could be drawn up, put in writing for us to sign and the "Compromis de Vente" could be raised. The compromis de vente is the sales offer, which must be signed by both the vendor and the purchasor with a 7 day "cooling off period" which follows whereby either party can pull out, hassle free and no strings.
Everything needed to be signed by hard copy and with us being in England, the vendor being in France and (as we had already been advised and were quickly learning ourselves the hard way) with the lack of urgency and long administrative timescales which generally occur in France (the slightly more laid back approach), we were in for a nail biting wait!
Where we had expected everything to be straight forward with the visit and meeting out of the way, what actually followed was weeks of nothing happening; hearing nothing, constantly having to chase for updates and no sign of the Compromis de Vente which we were hanging on. Time was getting on, the wedding was fast approaching and we were on tenterhooks, feeling like we had no control over the situation. We were constantly calling the agent and sending emails, worried that we had not yet received anything and constantly being told that things were in full swing and the mortgage advisor had confirmed the offer had been raised and sent to their head office for sign off - we would be getting our Compromis de Vente, hopefully even before the wedding!
Unfortunately, our hopes were too high. We had our wedding and went on honeymoon. Our first week was in Croatia, whilst Summer had her own little holiday in France with her Nana and Grampsie. We were to join Summer in France for the second part of our honeymoon together as a family the next week.
It was on honeymoon that things took a turn for the worse. For some reason, whilst sunbathing next to a beautiful turquoise blue pool and supposedly relaxing, I decided to check my emails on my phone. Almost immediately, I wish I hadn't. There in my email box was a message from the estate agent confirming that the vendor was wanting to increase the purchase value of the property and that if we weren't willing to meet that figure (which we could not), there was every possibiilty that the purchase would fall through as he apparently had a cash buyer interested.
Immediately, we arranged to meet with the agent while we were in France the next week. Knowing that it could all fall through, we would also arrange to view other properties which may suit the bill if the worst came to the worst. So much for a nice, relaxing honeymoon (although it was towards the end of our week in Croatia, so at least that was something!)
When we met with the agent, he advised that the mortgage advisor (who we then learnt he had not actually used before!) had told him that the person who needed to sign the mortgage offer in their head office was away on holiday and not back until mid July, when it would be signed and sent on to the agent. He was finding it impossible to contact the vendor to update them and gain any further information on the current situation. The whole situation was so frustrating!
We found 4 properties through another agent and arranged to view them with my mother, Simon and Summer in tow. There were some good back up properties which would be of interest to us if our purchase (which wasn't looking too clever) fell through, but we would need to change our business plan as none of them had the full criteria that our initial property did.
That evening, Scott contacted the vendor direct and got through. After a very long and stressful conversation, it concluded that he would still sell the property to us at the original proce agreed, as long as the mortgage offer was in olace in writing by 31st August, otherwise he would place the property back on the market, to which we agreed.
It had all been rather stressful and we knew that the pressure was on time wise to get everything in place, but at least we knew where we stood now and that the vendor was still holding the property for us. All we needed was that mortgage offer to be sent when promised, which we knew was cutting it fine as the whole of France shuts down throughout the whole of the month of August!
We were into July by the time we arrived home from our "honeymoon" and we were still awaiting the documentation from the agent (which he kept promising would be with us very soon) and still no official mortage offer for us to sign - all we had were emails and the mortgage advisor's say so. All we could do was wait until mid July and then start putting the heat on with the agent to make sure the offer would be received ASAP.
We were utterly shocked and over the moon to received the Compromis de Vente on 12th July 2012 - nearly a week after Scott's birthday. We believed this to be reason to celebrate and believed that possibly the agent had received a copy of ouor mortgage offer which had prompted this, so we cracked open our wedding champagne which was a gift from my mother and we had been saving for this momentous occasion!
A week or two passed and still no offer in our hands, even with our constant chasing. We were heading towards the end of July!
On 30th July (the last but one office working day before the August shut down), it was declared that the bank had gone into liquidation and there was no longer a mortgage offer!! We just could not believe it and felt so cheated! So much time and effort had been wasted and they had probably known for a long time that they were not going to be able to carry the offer through. Why they could noot just be honest with us I will never know!?
The agent had basically given up. We wanted more options and he giving us nothing. It wasn't until my mother and Simon actually visited his office and asked him face to face what he was going to do that he actually picked up the phone and spoke to another mortgage advisor.
We contacted the vendor and told him what had happened. Given the circumstances of events and that we had been let down through no fault of our own, he was willing to extend for another month, holding the property for us until the end of September.
Low and behold, this mortgage advisor was based locally to the property within a well known and reputable global bank. The agent knew him well and had used him before. Even better, the mortgage advisor personally knew the property and was even to be able to give some history on it. We were over the moon when he came up with an offer that was affordable to us. He understood our current siuation and we had his word that he would puch things through as quickly as possbile for us.
As soon as he could, Scott flew back out to France to meet with the mortgage advisor, again with all the documentation required.
All was very straight forward and our new mortgage advisor, Patrick, a very smiley, jovial fellow with a great appreciation for rugby, a huge love for Shropshire in Wales, and perfect spoken English was an absolute godsend! He was true to his word and got to work immediately with raising the mortgage offer for us. Although there were still delays, there was not really any need to chase him as he kept us in the know at all times.
On 25th October 2012, we finally received our "Offre de Pret Immobilier" (mortgage offer)! We just could not believe our eyes and were really having to pinch ourselves! It was real! Yeh, OK, it was a little on the late side, even with Patrick working his magic, but we had learnt now that that is just the way it goes in France - never a rush and always long winded processes to take - things must be done correctly and there is always time for a 2 hour lunchbreak, noo matter what the urgency is! :o)
Even with the Offre de Pret now in our hands, the process in France is that it must be sent via recorded post, you are to sign in the day you receive it, but you cannot return it until 11 days from the date you received it, or it will become null and void. Those 11 days were excrutiating!
Our vendor had been constantly updated on progress and had just managed to hang on with written confirmation from the bank that the mortgage was on its' way.
Pheeeew!! And breathe!! Time to open another bottle of well earnt champagne!
And this is just the start!
A great source of help, advice and helpful information for everything involved in the French property purchasing process from the contract process, surveys, what sort of fees and taxes to expect,visit: