Our bad luck has continued and words have betrayed me ever since the latest news in the house saga came in on Friday morning. Since the bad news came in, I have not been able to stop crying, teary fits of hysteria have become common place and I feel like a butterfly floating around with no-where to go. I will be 38 weeks pregnant as of tomorrow. I don’t think I have ever been at this level of desperation and I am clutching at the ropes right now.
Friday started pretty well, a gorgeous sunny morning with record breaking temperatures. I’d planned to spend the day relaxing on the terrace, soaking up some rays and reading the baby books I’d purchased. Fairly early on though, I could see that Mr Piglet was agitated and was trying to come to terms with something. He had one of those looks on his face and was flitting around, trying to occupy himself, as if he wanted to tell me something but couldn’t bring himself to do it. After nearly 12 years together I can pretty much read him like a book so I suggested that he tell me whatever he needed to say and I promised I wouldn’t hit him.
As it turned out, I could have killed someone but he wasn’t to be the one and I am still working out who it will have to be today. Our notaire had called to advise us that the purchase of the property wouldn’t be able to complete on the 18th April after all. The SAFER had utilized their right of pre-emption on the land and property and had forcefully stopped the sale and purchase going through!
What on earth is this all about you’re probably wondering? Well, the SAFER is a French government, supposedly non-profit organization whose job it is to preserve the French countryside and look out for agricultures interests. As part of its role, it can stop a sale going through if there is someone with an agricultural interest in the property or land that is being sold.
Each time a property with agricultural land is being sold the SAFER must be notified. You can pay (or as Fly from “French Leave” put it “bribe”) the SAFER to treat your request quicker than normal as we did by writing a cheque (for a couple of hundred Euros BTW) and supposedly get a quicker response, or you can wait two months for them to come back to you and find out whether or not they want to buy instead.
For most property purchase this is just a formality, a piece of paper that you have to obtain, just like obtaining the piece of paper from the Town Hall regarding their right to pre-empt. Never in a million years did anyone expect the SAFER to utilize their right and to put an end to the sale!
As the notaire tried to explain to a devastated Mr Piglet, the SAFER had (at the very, very last minute) notified the vendors notaire that they would be putting a stop to the sale as they had a “paysan” (farmer) who wanted to buy. The notaire explained to Mr Piglet that they could impose a lower sales price on the vendors, forcefully stopping the sale of the property to us and if the vendors weren’t in agreement then the case would have to be presented to the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) and it would be up to them to decide. Being familiar with the French legal system (I have had a business court case that has been going on for nearly five years now), this spelt things out pretty clear to us: we were in the s**t!
According to our notaire there is a meeting next week between the SAFER and the vendors and we will try and attend also with legal representation as we are sure that there is something fishy going on:
1. the property we’re buying has only 1.4 hectares of land (not all of which is considered agricultural) so we cannot see what interest the property truly represents to a farmer or how the land needs to be preserved
2. the immediate surrounding land are all residential
3. the adjacent residential buildings for the most part are all new builds (the small hamlet contains properties from the same era as the farmhouse) but the properties adjacent to the land are all new. This leads one to believe that someone may have their eye on the land for building purposes
4. there was some suspicion back in March as the Town Hall utilized their right to pre-empt the purchase but then quickly withdrew it when it was queried by the vendors notary. No-one knows the exact reason they gave (as they didn’t give one!) which is fishy as now it’s been pre-empted again but by the SAFER! Could this be linked to point 3?
Writing this has been quite therapeutic as the facts are in black and white – we are stuffed unless we can prove one way or another that something dodgy is going on and try and fight it. Of course if everything is legitimate then we must also have a plan b so we have two things to work on:
1. Find out when the SAFER meeting is and seek legal representation (a lawyer) urgently. I have told Mr Piglet that I will look after this as I need to have some role in what is going on to make me feel as if I am doing something rather than just sitting back and accepting the crap that is being thrown at me.
2. Find somewhere to live! Little Miss Piglet is due to arrive and we cannot continue living with my in-laws, 2 hours from our friends in Lyon! We need to find alternative accommodation and quickly! Mr Piglet is going to start hunting this week for a rental property that can accommodate us, our furniture and the baby as soon as she arrives. Just what we needed!
So there you have it! The latest saga in our quest to purchase a property in the French countryside and after months and months trying, we’re still not any closer to realizing our dream. Rather off putting isn’t it? Mafia and Barons spring to mind, maybe I’ll write a book when this is all over, who knows…
PS. Buying French property isn’t usually this hard – our first property purchase was easy and took just two months.
PPS. Find out more about the SAFER here