Chris and Julia moving to your area and need advice

Hello everybody,

Catherine asked us to introduce ourselves so that is what I'm doing.

we are hoping to move to the area in a few months time and in the meantime we are going through the difficult process that you will remember trying to find a house.

We are looking for something rural but not isolated with a minimum of 5000 m² of land and something which we can run as a Chambre d' Hote but hosting courses on food, wine, language, and culture.

In the meantime we might be looking for some rented accommodation for July for 4 to 8 weeks, or possibly longer so if anybody has ideas about that would be very helpful.

Julia has an online gift business and is an interior designer and I have an online language teaching business and will be setting up some physical courses in languages when we are settled, as well.

We are very sociable and look forward to making new friends in our new home. We have two dogs and our interests are wide and varied. Mine centre around sport, watching rugby as I no longer play and trying to play golf and tennis. Julia loves shopping and is looking forward to getting to know the local brocante dealers and running courses on interior design at our new home. Julia already writes for American magazine and has her own blog on the subject.

We are tremendously excited about moving to this lovely area but there are a couple of practical things that we could do with some advice on immediately, if anyone can help?

  • The first requirement is for a reliable and honest builder to go and assess the work that we would like done on a property before they can offer

  • the second is advice on rental property as I have referred to above.

We look forward to meeting some of you soon.

Kind regards

Julia and Chris

John we will call you soon. Thanks for your number.


Hi Brian,

Thanks for your messages and encouragement. We are ready for the challenge of living in the country though I am sure there will be surprises and hassles. I was originally brought up in India where we had a tea estate and took 45 minutes to drive off the property. The nearest hospital was a days drive and all the children nearly died before they were 5! There were all sorts of nasties in the garden and we kept a pet mongoose and monitor lizard the keep the snakes away from the house. So how bad can the centre of Europe be! I apologise for my ridiculously optimistic attitude!

Thanks Alison, good to have an endorsement about Neil and I would be grateful for the other contact as well, thanks.


Hi again there are lots of other reasons why short term winter "holiday" lets are more expensive than long term normal houses -one is that the holiday lets tend to be more luxurious and furnished to a higher standard but I suspect the main reason is that the owners who have been used to getting maybe 2000 euros per week in the season see the idea of 500 per month for the same property as far too low so stick out for 600+ per month

A long term let comes with a proper rent agreement normally in 6 months stages but they tend to be unfurnished a 6 month off season let is invariably furnished but more expensive. If you want to go that route advertise on here for the dates you want and for that matter on all the other ex-pat sites. Maybe offering winter care and maintenance services

Correct both Andrew & Brian, heating bills are heavy whichever system you choose and spending at least a six-month period from say, mid-october to mid-march is a must in order to guauge the reality of life in most areas of France, especially 'rural' France.

We finally came to our senses about 8 years ago after numerous rural experiences with old places 'to do up' from Normandy to the Med since the mid-seventies and decided on a more modern, less maintenece 'urban' property on the edge of a fair sized town with all amenities and within walking distance in case of inclement weather, the addition of a hospital on the doorstep proved invaluable. In our case we quickly realised just how much precious funds were wasted with the renovation and upkeep of the previous older cottages & barns etc.

We realised that the dream of becoming landowners was totally moronic in our situation as I tended to spend any free time cutting grass and trying to keep neighbours happy with the boundaries etc etc

Take your time and don't be rushed into any decisions based on romantic whims - just be level-headed and enjoy your french dream.

you'd be far better off renting for at least a year wherever you think you want to live. Winter in France is sooo different to what most people experience on summer trips ;-)

Usually fuel costs which in France are high. Nowhere is warm enough to not heat the place for at least three or four months.

John, Is there any reason why the off-season rents are much more expensive? In our ignorance, we imagined that an owner would be very happy to get €500 a month for, say, the 6 months October to March when the property would normally be almost empty. If they're going to be greedy about it, I'd rather go for a 'standard' rental, albeit normally unfurnished, and be able to experience the area for at least a full year. (In our case, we already live in France, but now we're retired want to move south to be warmer in the winter than is the case at the foot of the Jura.)

Sorry on renting there are two markets long term lets which range from 350 to well 600+ per month. reasonable budget might be 500 euros per month for a 2/3 bed place around here and holiday off season rents which are a lot more expensive and require you to move out for the holiday season. the chances of finding a seller who would let you rent before buying is remote. Also you need to be in an area for a bit before you commit to buying its strange how what you want changes after living in an area for a time - check out rentals on this small ads site which covers all of France

Hi again I live in the Aude a village called La Digne D'Aval (11300) about 3 kms outside of Limoux. I don't know Mr Vesma but I'll be happy to help -don't like posting up too much stuff for public consumption because I can't be as open as I like which does tend to be critical of the way that most people try to do build works down here.

A lot of whom end up with huge negative equity when their projects run out of control, when they try to run fairly substantial refurbishments when they can't use costing spreadsheets nor project management software properly. And its not always the fault of the builder its normally to do with the quality of the drawings/spec provided to him - my number is +33 (0)9 80 72 61 60. If you're looking for a place down here in the South which has of course a longer holiday period than most areas then you also have the advantage of being able to buy materials just across the border in Spain which can show a 30-50% saving. Good luck John Rolfe

Hello David,

I understand your comments and your right in the main. As it happens we live in small village in the UK already so I thinks we have already become used to using the car for everything! We do want to be within 5 minutes of a village for the basics of beer and boulangerie, of course. But as Laraine said we crave that view, trees and the sunset. We are lucky to have a stupendous view to the back of our house in England and we have become used to it.



Thanks for your contribution. Whereabouts will you be? I guess you must know Ian Bullerwell? He is in the Gers now.



Your input is both respected and welcome and I think your comment about different standards is well made. I have been in contact with a guy called Neil Vesma, do you know him? He is a surveyor who seems quite well known. We will contact if you don’t mind? Where do you live?

Reliable and honest builder!, well good luck.

Well firstly you need to get proper full survey done if you don't you will risk finding, at your expense, lots of problems later.

I've been involved in the building industry for 40 years and every year I watch people come over here and fall into the same old problems. Most french builders are very good but they are not use to the same standards that we take for granted in the uk thats not to say that their work is shoddy just that expectations vary so much between the two countries.

The main problem is clients who start major works without too much idea of the building trade and the considerable capacity for misunderstanding that exists when such a project is undertaken.

So my input is get a good surveyor, explain to him or her what your ideas are regarding the property and allow him to guide you - its not just about structural issues its the complete costed project which he can run a professional eye over and advice on, there are a huge list of technical matters which you need to be aware of and for this you're going to need proper input. Let him recommend both an architect and a builder.

There are several around but the one I'd recommend is Martin Rusden based in Limoux but he covers most of France,(+33678408298 - I've used him many times and he's been absolutely superb. If you want to ask more detailed question email me and I'll try to help - and I'm retired now so I'm not touting for business, so within reason my input is free.

Hi Chris & Julia,

What i dont understand is why so many brits want to live in the sticks?

Yes I like the countyside but I guess it depends on age and outlook, but for me and my wife (both in our 60's is was importnat to be near a town even a small one) as we did not want to be stranded as some older people we kmow are and so reliant on driving themselves or friends to get to any shops.

Also if you like to socialise and have a drink or two bear in mind that public transport is practically non existent and taxis very expensive.

i do appreciate that when you've lived perhaps hectic lives in a busy U.K town the rural idyll seems attractive but personally I like to be able to walk to at least a local boulangerie or bar.

You may be in a position to find a place which is both walkable to a town but also has a rural outlook which is the best of both worlds.

On the subject of building works, from our own expereince I would advise that you are here to project manage any work.

Anyhow best of luck and hope I'm not putting the dampers on any dream you may have!

We are selling our renovated farmhouse with chambres d’hotes in the area between Provence and the Alps. The chambres d’hotes business is running excellent here (we are moving one hour further North for work purposes). Let me know if you are interested. We have an add on the site of Green Acres, you can search on the village Laragne-Monteglin.

maybe - 'pm' me and I will give you details

Aha I played there once and changed in primary school!

Hi Peter,

Thanks for adopting me! That depends on what needs to e done and what value it adds and also the purchase price. Do you have something in mind?