Visiting A Property For The First Time


We’ve started to look for houses to buy. It’s going to be a long process; we’ve found out we can’t get a mortgage in France as my husband has his own business and French lenders are very strict on who they give their money to. So this has meant that our house in England which we rented out before we left has to be sold, but we can’t give notice until the tenants have been living there six months (mid-February), and then we have two months until they have to vacate.

We’ve seen four houses so far ranging from the described ‘à restaurer’ (to restore), ‘à rénover’ (to renovate) and ‘à aménager’ (to convert). The first can mean anything from a crumble down hovel which is going to cost a small ransom to bring up to speed – beautiful, but unless you’re a millionaire…

The second that the house has a small habitable space with some sanitation, but the remainder is  dilapidated. We went to see a property like this with a market price of €185,000. The house had been a beautiful farmhouse and had been lived in by the vendors owners. It had a new boiler, very expensive in France, and a new kitchen with the downstairs which was liveable. However when the vendor took us upstairs there where rooms which we, as adults, felt unsteady walking in let alone bringing our two children there; and those were the rooms we actually dared to walk on the floor!

Other parts of the property had stone structures that were unsafe which presented other hazards to small children and would be costly to even corden off. We knew that the cost of renovation would be three times the asking price and still the beauty of the place meant we left and spent the night dreaming ‘could we just….’. But we must be practical!

You must be wary too of those advertised as to convert if they don’t have the proper permissions.

Many old properties in France are advertised with the vague date of pre 1800, but it actually means that the property could be much older. It is referring to the fact that it’s age, before there were records kept, means they cannot be exact about the date of it’s build. We therefore looked at the following…

imageMy builder father is often with us and these are his tips.


The first thing he looks at is the roof. In particular is it sagging in the middle, as this would suggest the underlying wooden structure was not secure.

Also whether the tiles seemed secure, or if there are gaps because some are missing, or they’re damaged, or whitening in the case of slate ones as this indicates they are crumbling and letting in water – check particularly for those on the end. Check too the mortar along the ridge and the flashing around the chimney stack as if these are unsound then water may have come in causing damp. Although a roof can be fixed it will probably be very expensive and you may find any bargain turning into a money pit if it’s damaged the structure underneath.

At this time check too whether the chimney stacks have caps on them, again because of rain.


Are the walls straight? Any signs of leaning, bulging or cracks in the walls can mean that they have serious defects and correcting these could be as expensive as tearing down the building and starting again!

If there are cracks outside make a note of where and check if they are on the inside too as this would indicate a more serious threat. Also look to see if cracks may be the result of any large trees growing too near the building as the roots may have damaged the foundations.

Inside the house you should be examining for damp patches which could indicate, well, damp. Starting to look now damp may not be evident, but we plan to have second viewings when we’ve put our house on the market as they wouldn’t have had time to dry up over a hot summer; so it is worth considering the time of year you’re going property hunting in France. A slow market means viewing in different seasons isn’t a waste of time either.

Also, look under any old, peeling wallpaper –  which is well worthwhile doing as it may not be from age that it’s peeling!

Damp can be treated, but it’s good to be aware of it as it will add to your bill for renovation costs.


Taking a look at the types and condition of the windows is very important – particularly if you’re planning on imageliving there whilst any renovations are taking place. Are there any gaps between the windows and their surrounds? If they’re made of wood is it sound or rotten? Are they double glazed? In this particular house some were metal windows – good and sturdy until and if we decide to update to double glazing (thankfully no listed status in France) – and some double glazed.


On examining properties we look for radiators and piping ( which can suggest if the heating system had been well maintained). How radiators are run and their condition is important; older, thicker radiators are actually better for heat.

It’s important too to check the age of boilers as well as electric alternatives and working chimneys. The age of the boiler is essential to ascertain as replacing boilers in France is very expensive – friends of ours were recently quoted €8000!


In rural properties it is essential to check how water is supplied as it could be from a neighbours water source and therefore rights of usage could be disputed.  However as it is mains supplied, surprisingly, it is a real bonus in the consideration of the property as you don’t have to pay for connection.


Rural properties have sceptic tanks (fosse septique) – which may not sound great but does actually benefit you in relation to taxes. However, in relation to any such properties we will be sending an email requesting when it was last checked to ensure they comply to the latest standards.


Due to the ages of the houses Le Marie and I are assuming that the electrics will need to be updated and are mentally adding that into out costs for renovations. However, we are making sure each house looked at have an electrical connection. Obviously this may not have been the case for a potential conversion.

These were our initial concerns, but we know there will be more research to do on any house we like, along with second visits to be made with further checks – after all any rectification to be made in France will not only be expensive, but be more trouble than in England due to the language and cultural barriers; so we’re taking even more care. I’m certainly not an expert in this and I’ll be looking for advise from loctal artisans on possible prices and difficulties. In the meantime if you have any thoughts or tips I’d love to hear them!


The Beauty Of Autumn

The season has changed; days that still felt summery when we walked past the local img_0337farmyard animals have turned to a landscape filled with russets and reds. I love the Autumn and the colours and the cold delights me.

La Marraine has recently visited with her family which was wonderful. I asked her if my perspective, that here in the countryside the seasons were more vivid, was my imagination and she said she thought so too. It seems that, perhaps because of pollution, there’s little of this colourful leaf phase back home and they just fell. Imagination or not I think you’d agree that these images are beautiful; we’re truly blessed.


It’s not only the surrounded by trees that these changes are apparent. Living close to the sea it’s wonderful to visit the beaches and see seascape with its French greys; an image that reminds me of our former home by the sea in the UK. Living very near the sea there I always used to love turning a corner on an everyday journey, finding myself confronted by an image of the sea.

Sparkling and blue, covered in little boats on sunny days, or grey, exciting and stormy – I loved it. The journey is longer to get there now, but the beaches are sandy and the girls can make sand castles all the time. Happy days!

Places In Normandy · Uncategorized

Bayeux and La Marraine


It’s been a long time since my last post, but we now have far better access to the Internet so hopefully I can start posting more regularly. Le Marie arranged for us to get a SIM card that picked up a signal here in the country, at least if you put the phone up on the latch of the window. By activating the personal hotspot setting we can now get signal to iPads and laptops. As we can’t get broadband here it’s sufficient for personal internet access, although Le Marie must still go to work in my parents house as its not powerful enough for work.

We’ve also had a wonderful visit from La Marraine and her family. La Belle Fille couldn’t believe that she was here when we went to meet her at the village church to guide her to the house. She kept asking “at the church in England?” and didn’t understand my explanation that no, she was here in France; just like when we used to come to visit Nanny and Grandad France.

All the way to the meeting point she repeated this question in various ways, trying to understand. Then, when she saw La Marraine’s car she was stunned! On the journey back to the house she kept saying “and they’re here, in France, and Père Noël (my name for La Marraine’s other half, he’s got a white beard) waved at me!”

La Marraine and her family were making a tour of the WW2 battlefields in the area and, because La Belle was on half term and La Petite needs a nap at midday, she took La Belle with her on them. La Belle adores her, an adoring adult that she can boss around in a sweet little girl way. Apparently she was pointing at all the placards with a stick getting her to read the contents. She misses her so much now she’s gone home, but at least now she knows that her old world isn’t beyond reach.

Whilst they were here we all went to Bayeux together and, of course, were struck by the extraordinary beauty of the town, particularly as Autumn has turned the leaves to a riot of russets, oranges and yellows.

Bien sûr, we went to visit the tapestry; made by Anglo Saxon’s to commemorate the victory of the Normans (nothing like rubbing salt in wounds). It’s amazing and, although La Petite wasn’t very impressed, La Belle was entertained throughout the visit with her personal audio guide with child specific content. She was heard exclaiming about what she was hearing throughout our tour. That and the fact that she’s now able to list the beaches of the DDay landings thanks to La Marraine means this was a very productive half term!

I thought I’d share some shots of Bayeux with you here….

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