Considering France

(Carl Britt) #1

Hi everyone. My wife and I are considering selling our house in the UK and moving to France to escape the rat race. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before…

We’ll have about £50k cash and no debt. We crave a truly rural life but realise the need to pay bills won’t go away. We live simply and grow our own veg successfully. Saves a fortune if you can afford the time. That’s all we want really; a little bit of land to call our own while we live our lives in peace

(Mandy Davies) #2

Hello Carl

With that amount of money it is still possible to get a house that needs some work. Have a look at this (don’t know how good your French is), it’s just outside the village I live in and we are very rural. Albine is in the Tarn about 2 hours West of Toulouse. The village (500 people) has a small convenience store and a Post Office with a mobile greengrocer visiting once a week and is in the foothills of La Montagne Noire. The nearest supermarkets are about 15 minutes away in the local town of Mazamet.

Let me know if you want it translated.

(Carl Britt) #3

Hi Mandy

Thanks for the link. I could figure out most of the listing. I had to google “voisin” but now I know that means neighbour!

I didn’t realise property was available so cheap that far south. I imagine it’s a lovely part of the world to live. Have you lived there long?

(Mandy Davies) #4

We’ve lived here for about 7 years and it’s very peaceful. The mountains and rivers and countryside are beautiful. Unfortunately, the economy is not what it once was. There used to be a thriving wool and hide industry here but that’s long gone and it’s now a much poorer area. The local town seems to be reviving a little but there are few jobs here.

Although we are a long way south the climate is very special here because of the proximity of the mountains. It is not warm or dry enough for grapes so the land is used for rearing animals and more hardy crops. It’s very green because we get a lot of rain and although the summers are very hot the winters are long (and can be very cold) and we have just had a couple of days with snow on the ground. It’s a good area for growing vegetables. You can successfully grow tomatoes, green beans, lettuces, peppers, cucumbers, onions, cabbages, aubergines, courgettes etc etc and there are lots of fruit and nut trees, particularly walnuts and chestnuts which can be foraged easily in the early autumn. The local soil is clay and it’s easy to collect lots of rainwater for watering. If you want to grow fruit and veg then this is a great area.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the lake in the village.

(Lesley Rose) #5

You do find properties to buy are cheap enough compared to UK , BUT everyday living expenses are about the same . House taxes, concierge and habitation are lower than council tax, but insurances for house, car , are more expensive. Food is dearer in France and whilst you say you will grow your own veg , it isn’t always enough to live on. I don’t want you to be put off following your dream but please do not put yourselves in a position you will ultimately regret. We find we need about €800 pm , but we do buy top up health insurance etc, . Why not see if you can come out and stay a while and see if you can manage, I don’t think your capital is going to be enough unless you have other income that you haven’t mentioned .

(Steve Cobham) #6

Making “the big move” isn’t just about all the practicalities mentioned above - as vital as it is to take them all into account. It’s whether you can actually live in a society that seems extremely different at times.
Dealing with the French - whether it’s at a friendly or professional level - needs a basic grasp of the French language at the very least. I’ve lived in France for nearly 8 years and I’m finally able to comprehend virtually all of what’s said to me whilst replying meaningfully and comprehensibly, and that’s after French up to “A” Level and many years of coming here on holiday.
Being reasonably proficient in the language is essential.

(Steve Cobham) #7

On a very practical note. If you’re going to renovate a house - it’s a money pit. Even more so if you have to rely on buying supplies at French prices. Prices for any building and DIY stuff are much higher here.

(Ann Coe) #8

I’m with you on this one Lesley.
There can be so many unexpected things that you just haven’t thought of or budgeted for. For instance I had water pouring into my sous-sol in January, a real emergency because there is a studio appartment there. I had to 'phone my insurance who gave me the numbers of some ‘local’ enterprise s who could help. Result, 3 days of work involving 3 men with finally having to bring in a small digger. The bill, over 2,000 euros but not alas covered by insurance ! I have just had to have my heating boiler replaced and all the pipes upgraded, the bill 7,000 euros ! This isn’t to put you off your dream but to make you aware that these things can and do happen. Growing your own veg; been there done that, depends on your soil, what you plant, whether your crops are devestated by a plague of insects and you see all your hard work come to nothing. As Lesley says health insurance, electricity, telephone, water, bins, local taxes, car insurance, impots, etc all come into play here. I am not being pessamistic but your budget seems a small one to buy a house and live on, normally houses at this price need a lot ‘fixing’ and materials here are expensive… Are you nearing retirement age so can count on a pension ? Please think long and hard about this, your dream is special but I would hate to see you find yourselves in an untenable situation.

(Trevor Hunton) #9

Oh yes they are, oh no they are not, oh yes they are, oh no they are not. Some stuff is more expensive here, some stuff is about the same price, some stuff is cheaper. All depends where you buy and what you are buying. With renovation it all depends on what you can do yourself and what you have to pay someone to do. There is no building control in France and you can do your own electrics, only need someone to sign it off if its a new supply coming in.
Usually with a doer upper what you find is, rewire, replumb, new septic, insulation, roof probably shot. Fifty grand would probably buy you a place you need to put thirty grand into if you do all the work yourself.

(Ann Coe) #10

Hello Trevor
I beg to differ over electricity, if there is already a supply ok you can get away with a lot of things. If it’s a new supply to come in then the regulations are extremley strict and have to comply or you won’t be hooked up to EDF!
Fosse Septic, depends on where you are, the soil etc; has to be considered by SAUR (here) they tell you what system you can install, it can be from 7,000 euros upwards, that does not include plumbing into the house, ie joining up to toilets sinks etc, for that you need a competent plumber. Re-wiring, unless you are an electrician don’t try it ! Roofing is a huge part of the budget. My gutters are in Zinc, the corners are ‘shot’, the bill to replace them 800 euros because of the complictions involved ! Need I go on ?

(Carl Britt) #11

Stunning pictures, thanks for sharing. And thank you for the info, that’s very interesting about the climate, bucks the trend slightly for that part of the country unless I’m mistaken.

(Jane Williamson) #12

You need to install a fosse septique to the latest regulations before you undertake any renovations.
Houses that need doing up will probably need a new fosse.
This is expensive.

(Ann Coe) #13

Yes Jane, I have already explained that it can cost from 7000 euros upwards depending on soil etc; and that this price often does not include the internal plumbing .

(Carl Britt) #14

Many thanks to all for your contributions. It certainly seems like some of you have learned the hard way! I’m happy to benefit from your experiences. I appreciate the reality check nature of your posts and take your points.

Apologies for my first post which was quite lazy of me. I was rather vague and made us sound very naïve, dreaming of Never-never-land! I didn’t expect to get any responses, I was just saying hello for posterity. It’s nice to join such a thriving, lively forum!

My wife and I are in our late 30’s and have a 1 year old son. We do of course realise we would need an income to live on, never mind to renovate a property within in our price range. Just the mere mention of growing veggies and I get labelled as a dreamer!! :wink: In our case it’s quite the opposite, my dad’s a farmer and I’m a qualified bumpkin so growing stuff has always just been normal for me, like doing your washing or cleaning the windows. It’s really not a problem. Some things can’t be bartered with a bunch of carrots though sadly so yes we’ll need to earn.

I’m almost certain we will end up self employed, running a small business or two to earn our cents. We’re enterprising folk and know how to get by. Our motives for wanting to move to France are two-fold: adventure and to be mortgage free. Nothing grand, we’re not looking to run the greatest gîte the world has ever seen or start a unicorn sanctuary or anything like that. I’ll be interested to hear peoples experiences setting up a business in France if anyone has any tips?

With regards to budgets, we can only spend what we have and in my experience no matter the figure, it’s never ever quite enough… We’ll have to cut our cloth accordingly and do our best to cope. I take note of the cost of building materials though, that’s very important. Is that across the board, trade and retail? We might have to go for the “rustic” look… I will indeed do all renovation work myself. Not for the first time.

We’re mulling over various options, which all involve freeing up capital by selling our UK home. Then we might rent in the UK and continue to earn while looking for a property in France, visiting as often as possible (I’m self employed so I can time off without a problem, other than not getting paid of course haha!). Once purchased we can renovate over time, topping up the piggy bank as needed with work in the UK, figure out the local situation and plan how to make a living in France, visit for holidays and then move in when we’re ready. We’ll see.

(Carl Britt) #15

@Bossbird I take your point, we wouldn’t do it any other way. Do some people seriously dive straight into moving to a new country without taking such things into consideration? We will need to earn, we know that. But I’d like to think that we needn’t be slaves to the wage and that we can make a life that suits us better.

We couldn’t be 100% self sufficient but it’s very achievable to save considerable amounts of money by growing your own. We already do by growing some of what we need. Currently we just don’t have the land and especially not the time to grow more of what we need.

Thank you for sharing your budget, that’s great to know. That’s a fantastic idea to come and rent for a while, see how we like it. I gather selling rural property can take a while in France, so best not get lumbered with a bad mistake.

@Steve_Cobham Thanks for the tips Steve, we’re very keen to improve our French before taking the plunge. Out of respect as much as anything else. I don’t expect for a minute that we’ll be fluent, but there’s no better place to improve our French! We very much want to move to France to embrace French culture and learning the language and our son growing up bi-lingual is a massive part of the appeal for us. We’re looking forward to it. I’ve worked abroad extensively and have always made lots of friends by learning the local language. It’s a great ice-breaker.

I take your point though, we won’t be expecting English versions of forms etc! And we’ll be sure to choose our renovation wisely. Caveat emptor!

@Misty36140 Thank you for your warning Ann. Presumably some people get a bit carried away with the whole moving to France dream, get lost in the romance of it all and end up buying a terribly unsuitable property. Nothing ever goes to plan does it?!! But this is not a uniquely French problem is it, this would apply wherever someone wanted to buy an old property.

@Trev57 No building control? That’s interesting… What stops someone from building a shoddy extension themselves? Is this the 10 year guarantee situation that applies to work carried out by professionals? Does this extend to DIY’ers?

We’ve been paying particular attention to places with either compliant fosse septique or mains drains and a sound roof. Not much else concerns me (within reason!), we’re fortunate that I’m competent and safe with plumbing and electrical work. I’d still get my electrics tested. Sounds like it’d be a good idea to buy a place with an electric supply already to avoid strict regs then.

(Trevor Hunton) #16

Extends to DIY’ers when you come to sell.
Septic is not expensive if you can find a man with a JCB and you have a bit of experience with drainage. Nothing phases me, been there, done nearly all of it, now looking for the next project and haven’t finished the last one yet.

(Carl Britt) #17

I like your style Trevor! Whereabouts have you based yourself?

(Andrew Hearne) #18

Some good comments and advice, especially about bills needing paying here like everywhere else. Don’t forget either that running a business here, especially with a young family, can put you squarly back into the rat race you’re trying to flee; I speak from experience! :wink:

and if you’re not fluent, the language/cultural barriers will compicate things further - not meant to be a downer, just a reality check :wink:

(David Martin) #19

You say you are self employed in the U.K. What do you do? In my experience too many people who arrive in France to start the new adventure make their plans around them being self employed in an activity that they have no previous experience in and hope to rely on other expat clients for their income. Think about your life in the U.K. now and the sort of job that you need to have to support your wife and family. That’s the benchmark for the future. If you’re an accountant or engineer working five days a week in Britain don’t expect o be able to enjoy a good lifestyle in France by walking expats dogs or watering their houseplants when they’re on a Tesco run. Without fluent French and acceptable qualifications becoming an employee in France could prove to be virtually impossible.

(Trevor Hunton) #20

Normandy. Sun shines everyday, never rains before midnight, stops before six in the morning. Beautiful countryside, lovely beaches.