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Posts Tagged ‘french property’

Little Miss Piglet

The clock is ticking and Little Miss Piglet could be here any day soon! I’m in full blown nesting mode which is really hard when you’re not in your own home. I have re-arranged parts of the in-laws house, scrubbed the floors and the bathrooms, dragged Mr Piglet to IKEA at 8am on Saturday morning to buy furniture and ironed countless baby clothes, burp clothes and bits and pieces without setting fire to anything.

There’s no way now that we have any chance in being our own home (even if rented) by the time Little Miss Piglet arrives, so we have resolved ourselves to making the best of a bad situation. I’ve also had to wave goodbye to giving birth in the birthing centre I had chosen in Lyon and on Sunday we went to check out the hospital in Valence. Thank goodness we did as I wouldn’t have fancied trying to find the birthing suites when in active labour, especially as it is 45 minutes drive from where we’re staying in rural Provence!

I’ve taken great pleasure today in arranging all Little Miss Piglet’s 0-3 month clothes in her new wardrobe which we bought from IKEA on Saturday. I just hope she loves clothes as much as her Mummy!

Contractions have been coming regularly now and are getting more and more painful. A crazy midwife whom I visited last week for a check up called me an adventurer (if only she knew the half of it!) and said that it could be any time now, everything is ready. She also said that Little Miss Piglet is BIG – boy, I’m worried now…

Last night was a full moon and they’re supposed to cause an increased possibility of labour in the following days and according to my biorhythm chart I should give birth on Wednesday or Thursday this week:

Biorhythm on my ownBiorhythm with Mr Piglet

I doubt I’ll be able to blog when it happens as internet access from my phone is not great, but if you’re on Twitter and want to follow progress I’ve created a hashtag #babypiglet which you can follow for updates. Simply search #babypiglet on the Twitter search and you’ll get my latest tweets! Maybe it’ll be a live labour, who knows!

 

The House

The house, the house… where to start? Yesterday we were supposed to complete on the purchase and today we were supposed to move in, obviously we haven’t otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this!

We’ve not had any official news from our notary since the devastating call we received and we can only deem him as being absolutely useless! I am at despair as to what to do about him but we’ve decided for our own sanity to seek information directly from concerned parties in the meantime.

I was so fed up of not having any news last week that I rung the estate agent and vendors notary directly, seeking clarification on what was going on as I was in despair at the thought of not knowing anything until May 15th. It transpires that our notary had grossly exaggerated the gravity of the situation and that whilst the SAFER had used their right of pre-emption it was on behalf of a local farmer who claimed to exploit the land. We were told that this isn’t true and that the farmer boy has to prove that he exploits it or has reason to want to exploit it and that he’s not after the house anyway. So it may be that we can find a compromise!

As we’re beginning to understand what the countryfolk are like, I can bet that he is someone the present owners annoyed and he is now seeking vengeance by trying to mess up their sale! It all sounds so very like a story you’d see on a farmer boy TV show that it has to be that – especially when you take into consideration how awful the current owners are and how they have treated us. If I wasn’t so desperate to buy I’d say it serves them right and is the bad karma they deserve!

I’m keeping my swollen toes and fingers crossed that we’ll have some news after the Easter bank holiday, one way or the other, I’m past the point of caring just as long as we can move on with our lives.

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Mr Piglet and I wish to thank you all for your kind words and support following my post yesterday. We are overwhelmed by the number of messages of support and advice that we have received here, on twitter and via email. Really, it is wonderful to know that you are all there and that good people exist in this world. Thank you so much everyone, you’ve helped us get through the weekend and find some positive energy.

This morning we started off with much higher spirits, determined to find a rental property quickly so that as soon as we got confirmation from the SAFER later this week that the sale is blocked, we could move in and get on with our lives hopefully before Little Miss Piglet makes her grand appearance.

Alas, as I’m beginning to expect now, things are not so simple.

I wish I could just go back here for the next few weeks whilst everything sorts itself out.

First of all, we still can’t find out when the meeting with the SAFER people is. Our notary does not know and the vendor’s notary is closed today. We tried to call the SAFER directly but no luck either. So no further advanced there.

We then started calling the rental properties I’d found on the internet. There are only a handful available so it didn’t take long. Because the size of house we are looking to rent is large and the area rural, they are few and far between so we only had five on the list. The first two places we called were no longer available and then the third place was still available but the guy was totally booked up for visits today and tomorrow and was expecting it to be let within the next few days. He proposed a slot this pm at 4 and Mr Piglet and I were all set to jump in the car and go up and visit but then we spoke to the notary again.

I wanted to check the financial and legal aspect as to where to stood with regards to the sale now that the SAFER are involved and the notary was calling us back to explain. In our panic on Friday we had overlooked this and didn’t really know exactly what our position was but before committing to a rental property I wanted to be sure as we can ill afford to lose our deposit money or pay for two removals right now.

I should have guessed that it was time for another BOMBSHELL! The SAFER have until May 15th to decide what to do reference the sale, so whatever the outcome of the meeting this week, it could be a month before they make a final decision and we get official confirmation whether or not we can still buy. Until we know that, we’re not really at liberty to commit to a rental place so we’re stuck in limbo.

We have loosely considered getting a gite with internet access this morning which we could move into immediately, but right now I don’t think I could stomach a move to another “temporary” place with furniture that isn’t mine. What’s more, with the Easter school holidays, a two bedroom gite is well over 1500 Euros per month sometimes far more, if we can find something available…

So, for the time being, at least for the next two weeks we’ve decided to stay put, I’m going to concentrate on keeping calm and we’re going to go to a nearby spa for a few days to relax.

Hopefully things will become clearer in before Little Miss Piglet is born, but right now, we’re stuck “living in limbo”.

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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!

The land in question


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

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The Piglet family should (dramatic pause), normally have a home to call their own again from 15th March. We’re due to complete on the city pad sale on February 15th, meaning that we need to move out really by February 11th, meaning “OH MY GOD, I’M GOING TO BE HOMELESS IN 16 DAYS!!!”

It seemed to be the perfect time to have a baby, aged 28 + 31 we were settled in life, had stable businesses, a nice home and now we are going to be homeless! What went wrong?! First of all it took much longer than we thought to actually make a baby and then the world’s economy decided to continue to being bad. So here we are at ages 30 + 33 with a bun in the oven and homeless in a matter of weeks!

Fear not for the safety of Little Miss Piglet however, as we have found a house to buy! In fact, it was the house I first presented here back in November – ironically one of the first ones we saw after accepting an offer on the city pad.

Needs some softening, nothing some plants and pots can't sort!

You may remember our original wish list?

– spacious, ideally 200m2
– outbuildings
– rural but not isolated
– character building if possible (shouldn’t be hard in France)
– ADSL required!
– Not on a busy road
– No structural renovation required in the main property

Well this property ticks all the boxes except the busy road one. There is a busy road at the end of the garden, but the gardens 1.5 hectares big, so that’s quite a way away and with some hedge growing and clever gardening we should be able to block out a fair bit of noise.

Need some hedges here

Why we didn’t buy it back in November I do not know, it just seemed to early in the search and then we went on to the other property with dreams of running gites and the like so I guess we (more like I) got sidetracked in a dream world for a while. I’m still keen on the gites idea and we will have a barn which we will be able to convert eventually if I still want to do it.

Somewhere to make our wishes


Small but pratical, I will miss my current cupboard space


Dining room


A country feel...

We made our first offer on the property last week and by Monday we had agreed a sales price and completion date with the agent and vendor. Spookily though, ever since things have gone quiet and we are waiting for them to formally countersign the offer letter we sent them to send on to the mortgage bank (the mortgage bank have agreed to speed up the process of issuing our mortgage offer if we give them a copy of the countersigned offer letter).

We didn’t have any news from the agent yesterday and no news as yet so far today. Maybe this is just normal for France, I really don’t know but judging by our experiences so far it seems as if it might be, so I am trying not to panic just yet. Afterall, the vendors agreed to everything on Monday so why would they change their mind just yet?

I have to say though, everything is slow in the property process, here are a few more examples:

1. Removal company: we’re using a removal company to remove, store and then install our belongings. We contacted them on Monday morning first thing to confirm a removal date and we’re yet to hear back. We have chased.

2. Notary: we contacted our notary ref the property we’re selling on Monday to confirm a completion date for the signature of the Acte Authentique as we’d agreed with the purchasers that we’d complete on 15th February. So far, no confirmation from notary.

3. SAFER: The SAFER is an organization who have first refusal on all agricultural and rural land over a certain size, a bit like how the townhall has first right to buy a property when a sale agrees. The vendor has to contact the SAFER and inform them that the property and land is being sold and then it can take up to two months (!) for them to come back and contest the sale. Because of our desired completion date we had to request that the fast track service was used as opposed to the normal bog standard service. Nobody in the sales chain (notary or agent) mentioned this was possible, it is only our knowledge of this that enabled us to request that it was used.

4. Our bank (three letter word with lots of L’s): refused our initial mortgage application because they were still taking into consideration our existing mortgage when deciding whether or not to lend. They wouldn’t reconsider until we could provide proof that our city pad was definitely sold (ie our buyers had got mortgage finance). This was sent to them on Monday morning. Today, I left my 6th message and finally got a call back confirming receipt but still no news on the mortgage – thank goodness we have another source to go to but I do prefer the rates our bank offer!

I’m sure there will be plenty more examples of how buying property in France is stressful over the coming weeks but let’s be positive, everything can be dealt with! So far, I’ve decided the best way to ensure that things keep moving (thanks to my business experience) is not to let up on anything! Each morning I make a list of all the people that are important to my project and I call them to touch base or to remind them I’m waiting for an update. This would annoy me so much but in France I’ve decided it’s essential.

You just cannot rely on people to get back to you, you have to remind them constantly. Proof of this is the number of people who are able to give you an update there and then and yet they hadn’t contacted you. Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot and by calling everyday they won’t bother to update, they’ll just wait for our call, but at the end of the day it’s me that wants to move in as quickly as possible so I may as well make the effort!

Finally I can start dreaming up colour schemes and decoration for the nursery!

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…a rather disappointing end at that but at least we can move on.

The House

Despite Mr Piglet’s best efforts on Friday and the agents assurances that the owner was open to an offer, poor Mr Piglet was unable to negotiate and the owner would not move from their asking price, not even by a Euro! Even the estate agent tried to reason with the owner but she would not budge and was adamant that we would be able to find the extra cash to purchase.

The fact that the house needed rewiring and a new heating system straightaway was of little concern to her or her son. The fact that the property market in their area is in a dire state with prices heading downwards was of little concern. The fact that she advertised 440 m2 of living space when in fact there were 350 m2 didn’t bother her either.

Mr Piglet pointed out that the urgent work needed to take place straightaway and he had to keep some money to do these as we are a new family moving into a house and that work had to be done straightaway.

Her son who was present and seemed to be leading the negotiations said that his mother would not move on price and would not entertain any offers. He was adamant that they would obtain the asking price either with us or someone else.

We thought the property had been on sale for 1 year but in fact it has been on the market for 2.5 years now and is probably not going to get sold any time soon.

Given the way French inheritance laws work, the son is obviously hoping that his mother will pop her clogs sometime soon and that he will become the owner of the house and won’t have to sell. He’s pretty well installed there, runs his business from there and is a bachelor so it would probably be a major pain in the rear end for him if he had to move, which to me explains why he is blocking his mother from accepting any offers. If only we’d known this before…

To top it all off poor Mr Piglet broke down on his way home and had to call the roadside assistance, a 1 hour journey back home took him in excess of 4 hours. Just what he needed to end a crappy day!

We may try and make one final offer in a few weeks time if we haven’t progressed on any other properties but if we have then we’ll just say good bye to this house. I never wrote about it here as I didn’t want to jinx myself with bad luck, but it was a lovely house with two separate gites, very oldy worldy style but snug at the same time.

So at the moment I’m still none the wiser as to where we’ll be living come February 15th. We picked up the search on Saturday so hopefully we’ll have some positive news soon.

Here are some photos of the house that didn’t work out:

Dining room

Kitchen

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For a whole week the estate agent decided to do nothing with our low ball offer as he felt it would anger the owners. We found this out on Monday when he finally decided to respond to our emails and telephone message and update us on where we stood. Needless to say, we were not happy.

Our offer was an initial offer as is often practiced in the world of property, a starting point for negotiations. The agent seemed to have difficulty grasping this as well as our reasoning behind the offer, which is worrying to say the least. We decided that it would be safer if we could negotiate without having to rely on him in the middle.

This is yet another example of how estate agents can be totally unprofessional in France. I know they have a bad reputation generally which is a shame as there are great agents out there who do a fantastic job, but this agent is yet another example of how poor they can be. When I think that he will pocket anywhere between 7 000 Euros and 18 000 Euros approximately in commission drives me wild. Sometimes it’s best not to think about these things.

Having suggested that he arrange an appointment for us to meet the owner, it took four days (yes, four whole working days) for the appointment to be arranged and confirmed with all parties. The appointment is today and Mr Piglet will be setting off on his own with strict instructions to make sure he gets that house! I daren’t attend as I don’t trust myself to manage my emotions, so trying to keep a poker face during negotiations just wouldn’t be possible!

Hopefully we’ll have some news by the end of the day… fingers crossed.

Whilst all this waiting has been going on, Mr Piglet and I have been keeping a close eye on the property market in our desired search areas in case we miss out on this house and so that we have a plan B. As of today we still don’t have a back up plan and will be homeless on February 15th but we’ve certainly viewed some more interesting properties:

The goats shed:

This was one of those properties were the estate agent annoys the hell out of you to go and visit, for once they remember your number and call you every other day asking when you’d like to view. Eventually, with nothing moving on our favourite property, we gave in and agreed to visit. Oh boy, was I angry when I go there.

We met the agent in the nearby town, it was a snowy day and thankfully we had snow tyres on the car. One of my criteria was to be close to local amenities (no more than a 5 minutes drive) so as we started to take windy, one track lanes up a steep hill, I realized that the location was going to be an issue. Of course, this was one of the things we had checked with the agent prior and he had reassured us that it was just a five minutes drive… 20 minutes of winding roads later we arrived… we were at the end of the road, we couldn’t go any further and we were surrounded by piles and piles of snow. We couldn’t even drive up the drive to the property so we just left the car on the road outside (it was so remote there was no traffic as there was no where to go!) and walked.

When we finally made the trek up the icy hill we were met with a fantastic, panoramic view of the mountains and the valley and a rather large goats shed.

This should be proof that you should never visit a property with no outside photos… I was so enraged that I didn’t even think to get my camera out for your benefit, but believe me when I say goat shed, it looked something like this:

Of course, it had been converted inside, but the first thing the agent said to us was that the asbestos roof wasn’t dangerous… WHAT? What planet is he on? Okay, so it may not be dangerous if you don’t come into contact with the dust particles, but does he have any idea how much it costs to remove and dispose of asbestos and then how much to re-roof? Fancy even beginning to imagine that this is the type of work a pregnant women would even consider undertaking!

A quick dash around the property confirmed my thoughts and I didn’t even bother going into most of the rooms. It was supposed to have been refurbished in a loft style (I am quite partial to industrial conversions as I currently live in a paper factory) but this was a joke. The floors were uneven, the studwork was not done correctly and the ceilings were just plasterboards nailed to bits of wood. The bathroom smelt of excrements and rot and the stairs were not safe – Mr Piglet didn’t even want me to go up them!

We made a sharp exit after about 10 minutes, our quickest visit yet, and started back down the hill onto our next visit:

The Ravinghouse:

Nestled between two hills we arrived at a rather bourgeois house, that was slightly out of budget but we had been told the owners were willing to accept an offer. The house was set in split level grounds and had a large double garage, 6 bedrooms and plenty of living space. However, it just wasn’t getting us excited and it was all rather “boring” compared to other stuff we had seen and of course the house we want to buy.

I’d pretty much written the house off and my thoughts were wandering to the journey home and turning on the heated car seats to ease my back pain (I am currently suffering from a bad back due to being pregnant, hence I’m not spending much time on the computer these days).

The estate agent led us down some stairs where we discovered an indoor pool area and gym space. I had not read the details so hadn’t been expecting this at all! It was Mr Piglet’s surprise for me as I’d said I wanted an indoor pool one day (I love swimming but cannot stand public pools and an outside pool, even if heated, just won’t cut it). It was a lovely pool but I still couldn’t see myself living in the house, it just didn’t have that wow factor.

Whilst Mr Piglet and the agent carried on looking around, I had noticed some doors, rather like stable doors on what looked like a building under the terrace. I then discovered a red door on the side of the wall and pushed it open to see where it led. Mr Piglet and the agent followed me as the agent had not been to the house in a long time and was not aware of any more rooms.

We entered what only can be described as a pub bar/nightclub complete with pole dancing pool, raised dance area and dance floor with chairs on the outside! We were all absolutely gobsmacked, this was completely not expected and the agent wasn’t even aware of it!

I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t resist taking some photos of this unexpected surprise:

A pub at home!


complete with pole dancing...


...and dance floor


not to mention the indoor pool!

We wrapped up the visit pretty quickly after that as I felt as if the bar/club area was used for some not so normal activities and was completely put off by the whole thing. How weird it was to have such an outfit as part of your house!

When we returned to the car I noticed the village name signpost was just outside the house – RAVIGNHOUSE! Okay, so the G and the N are the wrong way around but if you look at it quickly you read RAVING HOUSE – for me that just about said it all!

Turns out the village has an appropriate name...

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After the house that came with a llama we discovered two more interesting selling points on Saturday. We saw two of the saddest properties that I have seen so far. I won’t post pictures in case I’m identified, you will see why especially for the first property!

The first property was in the middle of no-where. Literally. There was a house opposite and that was it. There was an eery dark feeling about the house even though it was early afternoon. The air around was very still and there were no trees. It was a lifeless, soulless place.

Mr Piglet and I had strange vibes whilst visiting and the fact that the owner looked rather like a witch and was following us around with frequently giving us the evil eye whilst puffing furiously on her cigarette didn’t help.

Parts of the house were really smelly and stunk of dog pooh and petrol and rotten food. With my morning sickness persisting, I had to discreetly cover my nose with my hand so to avoid gagging. After all, I didn’t want to suffer the wrath of the witch by vomiting everywhere.

The bad feelings continued as we ventured to the upstairs of the property. I followed the agent into the bathroom and immediately had to divert my eyes as I was confronted with an array of gothic erotic underwear laid out on display. Not knowing where to look and having my suspicions confirmed (surely she must be part of a witch sex sect?) I could barely contain myself and wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.

My face must have been a picture as back on the landing the estate agent launched into the final part of his sales pitch, obviously hoping to clinch a deal.

The information he revealed would be something that I would be desperate to bury in the garden and keep a secret forever and ever, certainly not something that I would take glee in revealing!

The house was in fact the only neighbour to a prominent murderer’s house! Seeing my shocked reaction (I nearly passed out), the agent was quick to home in on the celebrity factor: the murderer was a well known international rugby player. Great! I can just see me telling everyone that, as if it makes it all better!

Needless to say we couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there!

The second property we visited wasn’t anywhere near as creepy it was just sad. A typical result of France’s inheritance system: the ownership of the property had been passed down to the children upon the first spouse passing away and had then been owned by the children and the husband. The husband remarried, had children and then when he passed away, ownership again got passed down to the children.

After a while I gave up trying to understand how many people currently owned it. The long and the short of it was that the property had been abandoned by the owners for a long while, whilst they fought about who should live in it and what to do with it.

During this time the property was neglected and started falling to bits. I felt rather sorry for the property but angry at the greedy owners who were now looking to try and make a mint and yet had failed to look after the property in question over the years.

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