Paul and Rita's Place in France - The Search


Properties viewed
Le Vivier viewings 
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Our search started on the internet while we were touring India at the end of 2005 (see India and About 2005/6), but getting details of properties we were interested in proved problematic, mainly because the estate agents didn't want to give more details than the very basic description, they just wanted you to go and see it for yourself.  Kind of difficult from India.  So we waited until a week or so before we got back from India and made some appointments to view some properties in Brittany.

Our first visit to Brittany in early March, 2006, gave us a good grounding in dealing with estate agents and what to look for when viewing a property, but we didn't see anything that really grabbed us. For our second we had more time in France and also more time to arrange viewings in Brittany and Normandy.  

One of the main problems we had with the details available on the web site we were using was that they were very brief, e.g. 'Old farmhouse with 1 acre of land' and a picture or two.  To conceal the actual location of the property and so stop us from trying to find it through other estate agents, the location given was the name of a village that the property was within a radius of up to 30km of.  Not very useful when trying to find it on a map!  I wont mention the actual website we went through, but I would recommend using agents that actually have the property listed themselves and not on behalf of other estate agents.  The one we used didn't have any detailed information about the properties we were interested in, but just arranged an appointment with the French estate agent and had no further involvement except to collect a commission if we bought the property.  It's difficult for us to recommend anyone in particular, the company we went through was British based but I wouldn't tar all British based companies with the same brush, we did view a couple of properties through some British based companies and they had their own representative in France who showed us the property and were very forthcoming when we asked for extra details.   

I read numerous advice columns on the internet about how to go about looking for a property in France, and I guess the same rules apply wherever you want to buy, but when you're looking for something cheap, then you need to be flexible and open minded.   What you need to do is decide on the most important attributes that you want, for us it was simply something cheap with at least an acre of land, and try not to be swayed when you see something that doesn't meet you most important criteria.  Having said that, you also need to be flexible to some degree because when you might very well come across a property which has attributes you had not even considered.  Because we were quite open to the type of property and at various times were interested in properties as diverse as an old factory, a school and even an old church, it was quite difficult with estate agents who thought we should be able to tell them exactly what we were looking for.

Our approach was to find all the properties that sounded interesting and print out the limited details available on the internet, then group them by how interested we were in them based on our limited criteria.  We also contacted the relevant estate agents and tried to get more detailed info, but 90% of the time there was no further information available. It was interesting how many properties we kept going back to even though they didn't meet our prime requirement, at least an acre of land. Some properties tempted us to perhaps rethink the acre of land rule, but we wanted the land to grow our own food, so in the end we reluctantly put those properties on the rejected pile.

Having compiled our list of hopefuls, the next step was to make appointments to view.  This was when we found out that some of them were already sold, or couldn't be viewed because they were under offer.  We had properties spread over Brittany and into West Normandy, so we also had to juggle appointments to make sure were weren't criss-crossing the country from day to day.  

The viewings were quite exciting, we managed to make most of our appointments on time and were taken to the properties by the various agents, usually following them in our van as they led the way.  Some properties we had arranged to see had been sold or were under offer by the time we got to the appointment, so we were not allowed to view, in which case the agents would suggest alternatives.  Because we were mostly looking at ruins, it wasn't difficult to arrange short notice viewings, especially as we already had an appointment with the agent. 

Towards the end of our second trip to France, we came across Le Vivier which I immediately fell for. Rita thought it was a great place but obviously too much work, although at least the main house had a roof of sorts on it.   I could easily see myself living there, but we still had a few properties to look at, including one or two on our favourites list.

The only other serious contender was a property we looked at a day or so later, it had a lot of potential, but to me Le Vivier was the better option as it had more buildings already in place, whereas the other property only had two buildings and we were told we would be unlikely to get permission to build new buildings as it was close to a working farm. 

It was on our way back to the ferry at Roscoff that we made the decision to put an offer in, and so we did.

The story continues on The Purchase page. home