Here is a list of my Top Tips & Pointers, Along with useful links for anyone looking to make the same move!:
Can I Do This?
I know this may sound silly, but before you dive in head first - please have a good look at the featured stories in my blog and ask yourself, is this really what I want and am cut out for?
Although this is my own personal story and everyone is different with different experiences, we do find that others we have met along the way have shared very similar experiences and can relate to our story in some way or other.
As you will read in my featured story "The Quandary", for me the hardest thing is being away from family. Although this is something we knew we would have to deal with when we purchased the house, we thought we woujld be able to see and speak to them more regularly and it just doesn't seem to be regularly enough for us at the moment, for various reasons. It is not until we were here for a year and a half that I really started feeling it.
The reason I created the blog is not only to offer help and advice and hopefully reduce the time and stress of research by having the relevant information all in one place, but also to give an all round feel of what it is really like - the impact it can have on families and relationships and the serious changes that are involved.
Research, Research, Research!
So, your mind is made up and you are going for it! But you haven't found your dream property yet? If you have managed to narrow down to an area you wish to search in, that is a great starting point!
In order to give yourself the best chance of success - research the area well and get some ideas in place of what you and your property may be able to offer business wise in order to bring in the money, giving yourself a head start and a focus for when you arrive. I remember we had about 5 business plans in mind at this point, which would mean if one didn't work, there would be a fall back plan. Are there any gaps in the local market? The internet is your best friend - all the information you need at this point is at your fingertips and in the comfort of your own front room! Happy surfing! :o)
Know Your Market, Get An Idea of Prices & Stick to Your Budget!
Ensure you get a good idea of prices and what the local area has to offer prior to booking the trip and arranging a viewing. I would recommend searching the estate agents within the area you are looking at and having a browse through their website, as if you do a wide search, you will find a lot of English agents who tend to price higher in the market.
Have a budget in mind and limit yourself to this as your top bracket - do not get carried away and be realistic!
Ideas, Ingredients & Costings
If you have a business plan in mind (very advisable at this point), this should help give you the ingredients you need to look for to make the property work for you and help you to narrow down the search criteria (ie land, outbuildings, number of bedrooms, attics, swimming pool etc).If you decide to go ahead and purchase, ensure you meet with a stone mason at the property prior to making the offer to check out that it is structurally sound and advise on any work which may be needed and the approximate costings this may entail.
Taking on a Building/RenovationProject?
If you are undertaking a building project, be sure to have a clear plan of how you can fund it whilst giving yourself the time to do the renovations. Is it possible that you could perhaps borrow the estimated cost of renovations within the mortgage lend? Allow for costings of materials and labour. Are you able to undertake any of the renovations yourself, cutting out the costs of outsourcing labour where possible?
Keep a Foothold in the UK if Possible
If you own property or have a business in the UK and there is any way you could hold onto it and make it work for you while you are in France, not only will it contribute towards your income, but will keep a foorhold in the UK in case you ever did decide or need to return.
Have A Plan!
As well as having a business plan, if you are renovating, a work plan is extremely helpful, and necessary if you plan on working to a deadline.
If possible, try to get a scale plan draw up of how you wish the property to be laid out. We were lucky with Scott's line of work that he was able to do this for us, giving us a scale CAD drawing to work to. This will also help to give a realistic idea of the work involved, time scales and costings.
If, by chance you are looking to move to the Vendée / Deux Sevres area, Scott may even be able to help you with your plans and advise as to whether you will need to apply for any planning permission, in which case a full package of scale plans will be required for submittal.
Email Scott at Plan_170: firstname.lastname@example.org
Depending on the scope of your plans, what they entail and the location of your property - you may or may not need to apply for planning permission. Requirements can vary depending on which commune the property is based and the regulations there. Your local Mairie will be able to advise on this.
Do You Need To Apply For Building Permission and if so, What Type?
Please be aware that if your property is over 170m2 of habital surface and you are required to submit a full planning application, the plans will need to be carried out by a qualified French architect. Scott focuses on developments below 170m2 habitable surface, but if your Marie is happy to accept plans that have been signed off by a French Achitect and have been produced by another professional, using the services of a design engineer can really help to reduce the costs of an architect, although they will charge quite a fee for their just their signature!
The type of planning permission required for your project (if any) will depend on many aspects. For more information on the French planning system, the different stages and what it entails, please follow this link http://www.french-property.com/guides/france/building/planning
Plan Your Trip Effectively
Have you found the property of your dreams? Next step is to visit the property! Excitiiiiing!!! :o)
Research the area well and view other properties in comparison. Allow yourself enough time to really explore, test out the local restaurants and amenities and investigate. Plan questions and use the estate agent to the best of their potential - they should have a good knowledge of the property, it's history, local amenities and attractions and any local contractors you may need to get in contact with.
If you are taking up a mortgage with a French bank/lender - they will want to meet you face to face. To save yourself another trip, arrange to meet them and run through the figures together. You will be asked to provide any paperwork they require from you to start the ball rolling, suchas passports, bank statements (usually 6 months are required), wage slips (6 months) etc. Make sure you contact them before your visit to confirm what you need and ensure you come prepared.
You may wish to coincide your meeting with the bank manager with your estate agent, so that they can meet face to face (if they have not already) and establish a good relationship to be able to work effectively together from that point onwards.
Meet Your Local Mairie
If you can fit it into your initial trip, meet with the local Mairie (Mayor's office) as they will know the property well and be able answer any questions you may have. They can also give you advice on the planning procedures which may be required and offer the contact details of any local contractors you may wish to contact. You will also find an array of leaflets on the local and surrounding areas, events and attractions.
If you are lucky, your local Mairie may be able to speak English (or you may be fluent in French!?), but if not, it may be worth investing an the accompanyment of a translator.
Getting The Ball Rolling and Selecting The Mortgage Provider For You
You are really doing it! Now to get the ball rolling! My advice here would be to make an informed decision when it comes to selecting the right mortgage for you. Obviously, the best deal for you will be the main focus and comparing different providers and what they are offering is key. From our experience and having had the first leander let us down big time - nearly loosing us the property in the process, I would also recommend that you go with a good, reputable lender who is well established and can be recommended by others through their own experiences.
Know and Understand The Fees Which Will Be Involved
Understand from the agent from the outset exactly what fees should be incurred - including their fee, the notaire (solicitor) fee (usually approximately 10% of the purchase price) and any stamp duty fees.
The French Mortgage Process
The French mortgage process abides by a strict rule of processes, some of which are of a traditional method and a little painstaking - involving obligatory "cooling off" periods. You will be relying on the estate agent, mortgage lender and notaire to be carrying out their part whilst keeping you and the vendor in the loop. They will all be meaning on each other for paperwork to be raised and signed at various stages of the process and should be keeping you and the vendor in the loop at all times. It can be very time consuming and sometimes, they will just sit and wait for the other person to do their bit without prompting them if overdue. All parties will need to sign particulars at different stages to ensure the process continues.
Although I have witnessed people get their mortgages in place very quickly and with ease, please be prepared for delays where the French administration process is involved. Stay on the ball and chase for an update if you feel it is needed, but try not to ruffle any feathers. Patience is a virtue!
My advice is to know the French mortgage process, how it works and the order of the different stages, so you can be as in control as possble.
For more information on the French mortgage process and the various stages involved, please visit: http://frenchalps.angloinfo.com/information/money/banking/mortgages/
Installing a Sewage Treatment System?
Part of our plan was to install a microstation to treat all the waste water from the gite, our home and extra facilities for possible future plans to have a salle de fete.
Please know that the system you choose, whether a fosse septique or microstation system (more economically friendly), it will need to abide with French law and be the correct size to cope with the amount of people using the system.
If installing a new system of any type - please visit your local Marie first! They will be able to advise you of what the requirements will be and arrange for and etude de sol (study of the land) to be carried out. The Consiel (council) will need to get involved and you will most probably have to sumit plans to be approved.
The main thing to know here is that wherever you are planning to purchase your system from, please, please, pleeeaaaase ensure it is on the SPANC (not and easy one to forget once you know!) list!! This is the list of approved manufacturers and systems that can be used in France.
Unfortunately, the system we opted for (The Biodigester T24) which we were assured by the manufacturer was installed and approved all over France was NOT! It is cheaper to buy in England, which is why we made the choice to do so, but if you do, please choose from the following list!:
It tool me a whole year near enough to the dat eof submittal of plans to get the system (which we had already installed) approved. We only just managed to escape having to replace our system by the skin of our teeth due to the fact that our system was catering for over 20 people and any system for over 20 people (if you can prove that 20 people will be using it) does not need to be on the SPAC list. Phew!!!
It is a big investment - make sure you do it right and that it is approved BEFORE you install it to save yourself the headache that we had! It was not nice!
Learn The Language!!!
It will help no end! We still have a huge way to go, but are at a point where we can socialise with the French and feel that it has really helped to become part of the community. It really builds your confidence and opens up so many more opportunities. Things will be so much easier for you.