Tara's property purchasing story
Tara joined us on one of our property purchasing tours then later went back to buy her dream house:
(or what happens when you end up in Bordeaux instead of Barcelona)
For our 10th wedding anniversary in 2008, we travelled around France, with 2 other country stops planned – one in Barcelona, and the other in Lucerne for our anniversary. We used Eurail on this trip, traveling up to Amiens and the ANZAC Day ceremony at Villers Bretonneux, over to Mont St Michel, down to Nantes, back to Paris, and down to Chartres. It was a wonderful trip, and we were very excited to then be heading back to Barcelona and the tapas and Gaudi architecture that we love so much. Unbeknownst to us, the weekend we had booked our accommodation also turned out to be the Spanish Grand Prix. We just couldn’t get to the Basque Capital without driving, which wasn’t really an option, given our time.
Hence Bordeaux. We had no idea what to expect and absolutely fell in love with the city and its architecture. Over a coffee in the botanical gardens, we just looked at each other and almost said at the same time “I could live here!” So we started looking at real estate. The relatively good prices surprised us, and what was initially just a fun holiday dream soon became a bit more serious suddenly.
Returning home, we started searching the net, looking for some hints and tips. One of us stumbled over Sharon and David’s site “French Desire”, and found that they ran small buying investigation trips to France. Life got in the way for a while, but we still harboured the dream – and we had begun to share our dream with family and friends.
So in May 2011 I went off on a life-changing experience. Sharon booked me in and was the primary information provider pre=trip which was great (I love details and information – I have a spreadsheet when we travel, but don’t hold it against me!). David was fantastic as a host, tour guide, chauffeur and all-round relationship man. We were a small group of 3 this trip – a couple from Adelaide and me. The trip answered all of my questions and more. I came home with a pad full of scribble, a headful of amazing information and a heart full of dreams and possibilities. Basically, yes we could conceivably buy a house in France.
So after saving in earnest for a few years, scouring maps, towns, cities, transport routes, and real estate sites we ear-marked May 2013 as our goal. We didn’t get back to France until September. Around May though I sent a quick email to Sharon to ask if there had been any changes to French law that she was aware of that would impede our plans. Sharon was incredibly helpful, and also suggested a few English speaking property finders in the area that David conducts his tours (the lovely Vendeean area that I had waxed lyrically about to Paul since my trip).
We made contact with one – Jacqueline at Ma Maison Parfaite. What a changer this turned out to be! We sent her our preferred areas, our requirements and our budget (a very modest budget under Eu100,000), which was quite a task for Jacqueline in the Vendee. We communicated weekly, and occasionally daily over the few months before we met with her, which started to give us a good sense of what to expect. She also sent us photos and summaries of houses that she had shortlisted, so that we could say whether we wanted to see them or not.
We spent 2 days with Jacqueline (and her partner Gil, at times, along with ‘the girls’ – Caramel and Hortense), looking at the listed houses, getting a sense of the region and speaking with real estate agents also. Having someone to show us around and being bi-lingual was fantastic but don't ask us how to talk real estate or banking or French law/bureaucracy!
Well, we can absolutely say that Jacqueline earned her very modest fee! The third last house we saw was over-budget, but completely what we were looking for. A 17th century stone Pied a Terre - very French as people keep telling us. We put a cheeky offer in via Jacqueline the next day - AFL grand final day and with a bit of to and fro, the offer was accepted the same day. A time was made to sign the Offer on the Tuesday, when we also opened a bank account at the local Credit Mutuel, and applied for a loan (a mix of Jacqueline translating both ways, and us and our relationship manager – Mme Isabelle – laughingly working our way through our documents).
We had brought all of our necessary documentation with us, which helped no end, bank statements, birth and marriage certificates, 2 x latest tax statements, proof of address, drivers’ License - you get the picture! We had a file, with a copy file just in case. The real estate agent needed a lot of this information too. Jacqueline also took us up to the local Notaire and gave them our documents to copy and to introduce us, which is also a good idea.
Knowing we were leaving the area and the country very soon, we asked for another viewing – as you would – and took measuring tape, lots of video and a serious amount of photos, so that we could get planning once back at home. We told few people about the purchase, knowing that there was a possibility of it falling through but also that it was not a quick experience and we just didn’t want the million same questions.
The initial signing was to be the week before Christmas. This came and went as we didn’t have all of the documents from either the bank nor Notaire – it can be hard to chase what you don’t know about! Thank goodness for the internet though. Most correspondence was via email, scanning signed documents and then sending by snail mail. The Notaire was great, sending a Google translation along with original in French. We had a number of friends and acquaintances sign to witness the same documents with slight changes (eg: date, where we were married…), but throughout, we were optimistic and excited.
In the end we had 3 proposed sign off dates. One in December, another in late January and then early February. We had Champagne ready for each of these – including from some of our closest friends! Finally, we got the official word, and the lovely Jacqueline was there to witness the sign off and accept our keys on our behalf. This was midnight on February 12th 2014. The champagne was on ice and we had a beautiful Canard avec pommes de terre et roquette salade. Tres magnifique!
Are we happy? No. Ecstatic? Yes! Was it worth it? Absolutely! Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. Do we have to pinch ourselves? Regularly! Would we do it differently? Probably not, no.
We don't just have a beautiful little place 45 minutes from the coast in a gorgeous town. We have a future full of wonderful memories to create, a courtyard whose walls are shared with the Chateau above. A 400 year+ history to contribute to. We have achieved a lifestyle dream and we are very fortunate – this does not sit lightly on our shoulders.
What have we learnt?
1. Do your homework. Listen to experts; surf the net; really consider where you want to be and want you want to experience. Why do you want to buy???
2. Have trust in the people you enlist to help you, but do your homework first. We couldn’t have done any of this without the passion, expertise and professionalism of Sharon and David and Jacqueline.
3. Have fun planning and dreaming – it should be fun!
4. Believe in your dream. Tell people you care about – they will be the difference when you are feeling that it may not happen. And believe me – they are often more excited than you feel!!!
5. Do it. We’ve lost many close friends and family too young or too soon. If you can’t do it yourself but want to, maybe suggest it to others – pool resources. We had a few friends seriously offer this, but we chose to go ahead ourselves.
6. We haven’t done this as an investment (in fact, one financial planner said he couldn’t in good faith encourage us!). You need to be clear about your motivation.
We head back in May 2014. Jacqueline is organising for our kitchen to be installed prior to this and has also got a gardener through to keep the jasmine from climbing into the roof. Sigh...did we say how much we love France?
All of this because we couldn’t get down to Barcelona…I love how life works sometimes.