Thursday, 16 June 2016

'Escape To The Chateau'. My Top 10 Tips on Finding Your Dream Home in France. 

The Old Presbytery
I think it is safe to say that all who have dared to dream, have been captivated by Channel 4's current series, 'Escape To The Chateau', as Dick Strawbridge and his partner Angel Adoree purchase and renovate a fairy tale chateau, bought for the cost of a rather basic two bedroom flat in London. 

Dreams come in all shapes and sizes. Some dream of fairy tale chateaux, others a houseboat on the river; for me it was an old presbytery at the heart of  French village life. Whatever your French dream, it will come at a price. Like Dick and Angel, this is generally a lot less than we would pay in England, allowing us to make that dream a reality. Today, using my own personal experience of purchasing and living in France, I want to share with you my top ten tips, to make sure you don't pay 'too great a price'. 
  1. Choose a property within an easy drive of a local airport.
  2. Don't let your heart rule your head. A 'Coup de Coeur', as the French would say, could blind you to the fact that you are miles from anywhere!
  3. Check if you are on mains drainage or a 'fosse septique' (septic tank). In 'Escape To The Chateau' their waste water went straight into the moat. It is not uncommon in some rural parts of France to find waste water simply piped to a river, in which case you would be liable for the cost of a septic tank.
  4. Be realistic about your budget and cost of works to be done! We had £20,000 left over and thought we would be fine, but this was not nearly enough.
  5. Do you want to be in a village or out in the countryside? In a village, we found integration much easier than our friends in the countryside, as they often only spoke to their nearest neighbour.
  6. Learn to speak French! Some knowledge is essential.
  7. Check out your nearest market town. A weekly market is an important part of French country life, both for fresh produce and for socialising. 
  8. Locate the nearest city. It is helpful to have a city within an hour's drive at least. Peace and quiet is fine, but sometimes it is nice to visit the theatre or cinema and get in some serious clothes shopping.
  9. Think carefully if you need an income from your property and factor in the cost of renovating outbuildings etc. We created a very successful B&B, but if you decide to do the same, be sure you don't mind sharing your house with strangers! We also found the cost of renovating the house left nothing for the barn and had to forego an excellent source of income.
  10. Most importantly, pick the house that fulfills your dream and start your adventure.  Good Luck!
Well I hope my tips have been helpful and you find your dream home in France soon. The story of our relocation to the 'Old Presbytery', is told in my book, 'Bonjour Darling' by Heather Francis. Available on Amazon, by clicking the book image top right.

The last episode of 'Escape To The Chateau', was screened on Channel 4 on Sunday 19th June. It is now available on Chanel 4 Catch Up. 

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