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Posts Tagged ‘moving to the French countryside’

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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Why is it that you often have to leave a place to fall in love with it just a little bit more?

Lyon (photos taken my Mum!)

In two weeks time I will no longer be Lyonnais as I up sticks and move in with my in-laws whilst we wait to complete on the house in the country. I’ve been desperate to get away from Lyon, its pollution, traffic and some of the ignorant inhabitants whom I have recently written about, so why is it that I’m now feeling so nostalgic?

Probably because I have had had a love hate relationship with the city for the last 14 years and it is the only place I have ever lived in France. The unknown of our new home and lack of familiarity of nearby towns, not to mention I have never lived in the countryside before, are becoming daunting as I watch my city loft become stuffed with removal boxes waiting to go into storage. Have we made the right decision?

My renewed passion for Lyon has also been fuelled by this weekend’s glorious weather, a stark contrast to the cold, grey days we’ve had recently. Also I’ve been able to enjoy some of my favourite activities here: the restaurants, shops and theatres Lyon has to offer… just yesterday I enjoyed cupcakes from Candy Cookie Boulevard and although not quite as special as I had hoped, they certainly did the trick in terms of satisfying my cravings!

Cupcakes: Fraises Tagada, Nutella & Coco, White Chocolate and Speculoos!

I also love wandering around the small backroads in Lyon centre and discovering small shops selling all sorts of wonders. Yesterday I found a great wine shop (I know, no wine for me at the moment, but I can store!), a craft shop and a doll clinic!

The Doll Clinic: such a cute shop to look at!

The fact that a British foodstore called Little Britain has also opened here has done wonders in helping with my cravings for British food products and taken away the feeling of homesickness that I’d been having, as I’ve been able to enjoy bacon sarnies, chicken pies, proper custard, Cadburys cream twirls and other much missed British goodies on demand (you wouldn’t believe I left the UK when I was 16 would you?).

Little Britian: Boulevard des Brotteaux, Lyon 6

"Little Britain" British food store heaven!

Despite my nostalgia I know that it is time to move on. A chapter of our life is coming to an end and a new chapter will soon open with the arrival of Little Miss Piglet. Life in the French countryside will be much better suited with a little one and our daughter will be able to enjoy greater freedom and various activities which she could only dream of if we stayed in the city.

And all is not lost. Lyon will be just a 40 minute drive or 30 minute train journey from the new place so it’s hardly as if we’ll be cut off from city life, British food or my favourite Thai restaurant! We’ll also be able to explore the nearby towns of Chambery, Aix Les Bains and Grenoble, not to mention wakeboarding and sailing on the lakes of Lac de Bourget, Lac de Paladru and Lac Annecy. Next winter we’ll be 40 minutes closer to our favourite ski resorts so really we’ll be getting the best of both worlds.

Now we just need to sign the Compromis de Vente tomorrow and cross our fingers, toes and arms that we get a mortgage!

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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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Happy belated Christmas everyone!! Hope you all had a great holiday and that you enjoyed the festivities of the season.

The New Year is just around the corner and the Waiting Game continues in the Piglet household although there have been some small but major developments…

Our bank still has not come back to us on the mortgage despite last Wednesday requesting yet more information from us! I know there has been Christmas in between and all of that, but there haven’t been any bank holidays in France since Christmas day was a Saturday so all the banks have been open as usual.

I was absolutely furious when the request came through as the information they requested had already been supplied once, on their mortgage application form and they had acknowledged receipt of it two weeks prior. If they can’t read their goddamn mortgage application form then what hope do we have of getting a mortgage with them or what hope does the world have given that the world’s economic stability depends on these bankers?

Rather more annoyingly is the questions the bank asked do not relate in anyway to whether we can financially afford the mortgage or not. One of the questions was what my maiden name is, another is in which town was I born? What the hell does that have to do with lending me money? Supposedly to do with money laundering but surely they should have this information or have at least checked it out 4 years ago when I opened my account with them and before they initially lent me money for my first mortgage? It’s not as if I’ve just arrived in France and they don’t have any of my banking history! Argghhh! Needless to say the information was in the application form we submitted and also on my passport and my livret de famille so the fact they had to ask this again really does make one wonder…

In fact, I was so wound up that I could not relieve myself of the negative energy within me and I was absolutely gagging for an alcoholic beverage of some description, but now that I’m preggers I daren’t so much as take a sip of anything remotely intoxicating, so instead I took myself out for a walk, chanting away to myself to calm down and found myself in front of the food shops.

I bought the hottest curry paste I could find and all of the parsnips I could get my hands on and came home and made myself the hottest green curry I could possibly stomach and then had the delights of having our baby girl kick my insides until I felt like I had gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. Probably not the cleverest thing I could have done but the stress and negativity descended and I started to feel more human again.

On Thursday and in much desperation, I called upon the services of a mortgage broker and have not regretted it at all! Our mortgage application was complete by Thursday afternoon and he submitted it to a number of banks on Christmas Eve and by this Monday, we had already received a mortgage agreement in principle. I should have known that this would be the best way to go about things working in finance myself, but I did not have the energy to try and explain our rather bizarre situation to anyone yet alone countless banks – I know how headnumbingly stupid and illogical they can be, especially before the end of the year which is always a busy time for them.

Still no news from our bank though – I haven’t chased them and won’t do so. I want to see just how long they do take to come back to me so that I can tell them where to stick their mortgage, their bank accounts, their insurance policies and their savings accounts when they do. It will be of a great pleasure to me as we have spent a fortune with them in fees and policies over the past few years so it will be a great pleasure for me to tell them to take hike. Maybe they’ll think long and hard about how they should deal with customers, but then again, who am I kidding? Customer service doesn’t exist in France so what the hell?!

So we’ve finally closed one round of the Waiting Game but now the second round has commenced: we have just made an offer on the house (very low) and once again the ball is not in our court. We will just have to wait and see! Hopefully the estate agent will prove to be more professional than our bank!

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I’m an impatient Piglet and am certainly not renowned for being able to wait for anything, so at the moment it is like I am living through hell as my patience is being pushed to its limits and there’s not much I can do about it.

I debated even writing about this on here as I am also a superstitious person and don’t want to tempt fate in anyway, I need all the luck I can get right now otherwise I won’t have anywhere to live.

Mr Piglet and I have to move out of the city pad on February 15th, after which we will be homeless. We don’t want to ask the buyers for an extension as every month we remain here costs an absolute fortune.

It’s not as if we haven’t found somewhere we would like to live, we have. It is perfect. It is a farmhouse between Lyon and Grenoble and comes complete with a separate 3 bedroom gite with kitchen and living room, which would be perfect for us when having family or friends to stay. The house is plenty big enough for us and offers extension possibilities as well and is full of charm.

We first visited the house about a month ago and ever since I have been dreaming about it. I can see the family living there and can imagine large family Christmases with our huge Christmas tree and a large dining table full of lots of yummy things to eat. It’s a real family house and what’s more it’s not isolated in anyway, the nearest town is just 5 minutes drive away and has all the commodities you can think of (or I can think of anyway).

We’ve even been very British about the whole thing and had a technical survey done on the property which the French do not have done very often. As we’re no experts in old buildings and the house is made of something called pize which looks rather like weetabix to me we wanted to be sure that we know what we’re getting ourselves into before proceeding any further.

This took time to organize and time to get the report back on and in the meantime we started making progress with our mortgage application as we wanted to know exactly how much we can borrow. The house is over our price range and our financial situation has changed over the past few years (not for the better I may add) so it’s all a bit hit and miss at the moment.

Hopefully we’ll hear back from the bank this week and then we’ll be able to make an offer. It’s taking every possible ounce of will power at the moment not to call them to chase everyday, it’s dreadful but we need to wait as knowing that our finance is in place will help tremendously when it comes to making an offer on the property.

At the moment I won’t post anymore but if you want to join me in crossing your fingers, toes and arms then that would be fabtastic!

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