My Story #2: Location, Location, Location
So just how do you go about choosing where to purchase overseas property? Unless you have visited an area or country many times, or have family in the region, this is the part that can be very overwhelming. Just where do you start your search?
For me, I had never set foot in France but I just knew that this country would be my second home. My husband was set on purchasing somewhere in the south of England along the coast but when I started to research properties between the towns of Exeter and Plymouth we found this extensive and beautiful area
would require more funding than we were initially prepared to commit. I kept suggesting that ‘just over the Channel’ the countryside was just as beautiful, properties more affordable and the food and culture like no where else. We came to the agreement that we would make a shortlist of homes to tour and go from there.
Our checklist was created with our family requirements, financial budget, travel restrictions and long term goals in mind. To get an honest and appropriate checklist for yourself you will need to think hard, research extensively, and be true to yourself.
This is what my checklist looked like: the property needed to be relatively close to both Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle Airports for easy access, not have a huge garden to maintain, not require major renovations, and have an attractive price tag as our Australian assets would not be taken into account by our mortgage broker. I also wanted a rural village setting with at least a local Tabac as I believe a thriving Tabac or café keeps a village dynamic and alive. It also ensures you never run out of the essentials: fresh baguettes, cheese and cold wine.
Each of these points were not negotiable for different reasons.
- Easy access: As much as the beauty of Provence and the South of France appealed to me, I knew that after two connecting flights to the Northern Hemisphere, it would not be fair on my young children to then travel further to the South.
- No huge garden: A garden would be lovely but the upkeep a bit difficult to manage remotely. I decided that a large garden would be a luxury we would have to go without in the short term. I figured that creating a garden could be a project undertaken on our planned retirement to France.
- No major renovations: Derelict barns and stone houses that require rebuilding or renovating are a romantic and challenging option. Restoring these types of properties can also be financially rewarding and have a low initial monetary outlay. You need plenty of time to undertake these projects and, for us, travelling mainly in the school holidays with our three children we did not have the time or spare energy to choose this option.
- Attractive price tag: Purchasing property internationally is different than a domestic residential purchase and funding can initially be an issue to work through. Not impossible, but a more affordable property makes this part of the exercise easier, of course.
- A rural village location was our preference over a city. I wanted to be part of a community and give back what we could, fulfill my dreams of attending fresh markets, walking through woodlands and generally being close to nature. Sound cliche? Maybe, but true.
Your wishlist may be very different to ours, but you need to be honest with what you need, what you can afford or are comfortable to risk, your state of health if considering major renovation work, and resources, including time, you have available. A bit of dreaming however is often also an essential ingredient!
With this checklist to hand I turned my thoughts into action and I got down to the business side of things. I searched numerous real estate sites on the internet, read property magazines, talked to international mortgage brokers, spent hours on Google Earth images and maps, questioned my accountant and located a translator. Oh, and I started basic French lessons.
So months later, with my husband agreeing (albeit still a bit skeptical) to at least have a look at the homes I had now shortlisted with various Immobilières, finance approved, and one child in tow we headed over to France. We decided to spend a few days in Paris and this is where disaster first struck. My husband’s wallet was stolen on a metro station on the first day leaving us with a mess to fix up with our banks and no cash. This did not bode well for me as my husband still entertained the idea of buying in the south of England and was accompanying us more to see my research through than to definitely buy a house. I was sure this misadventure had done it, and we’d never convince him this was ‘the country for us’!
Anyway with matters sorted after lengthy international phone calls made while sitting in the courtyard of Notre-Dame de Paris, Ile de Cite, we continued on with our plans. We looked at lots of homes, and eventually chose the very last one we inspected. This agent cleverly kept his best to last and we fell for it – hook, line and sinker, or maybe chimney, garden and village. Our home is in a rural farming village which has a Tabac, a thriving primary school, boules fields, a lake for fishing and is filled with wonderful generous citizens who welcome us ‘home’ each visit with gifts of fresh homemade goat’s cheese, or farm eggs.
We now fill our days in France with adventure and experiences and our days in Australia working to keep our dream alive and growing together as a family. More on our village and our building project in Living in Rural France: My Story #3. Until then, please share what you would love in a French property. What would an essential requirement be for you?
I’d love to know… Annette xx
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