What would your perfect home be like and where would it be?
OK. Chances are you’re not going to find that perfect home.
1. What is essential?
2. What do you really, really want?
3. What would you like if it’s possible?
4. What, to put it bluntly, don’t you really need at all?
Essentials will vary. Parents with children might have schools at the top of the list.
Communications of all sorts should be high on the list. Is there an airport within reasonable distance for when you want to go back to the UK for a visit? Is there a mainline railway station nearby and is it served by high-speed trains? What’s the internet/mobile phone connection like? And so on.
If you can't imagine life without a couple of multiplex cinemas, concert halls, theatres, major exhibitions all within easy reach, don't bury yourself in the country. But if like me you can't abide the thought of living in a major city then buy a house in the country. But you'll either have to find somewhere with fast links to the big lights or be prepared to buy a pied-à-terre in the city or add hotel bills etc. to the cost if you want to see the major concerts, exhibitions, plays.
Medical services will be more important to young families with children who have a habit of falling over and breaking something which requires treatment in an emergency department and to the elderly who are more likely to need the services of a good hospital and a range of medical specialists. So where’s the nearest hospital with an emergency department? How long will it take to get an ambulance to your door? What’s access like in winter? We reluctantly gave up the idea of buying a drop-dead gorgeous farm with a huge barn with a stunning oak-beamed roof simply because it was at the end of a single-lane road and access at any time was problematic let alone in winter.
Apart from the fact that we like it here and my wife was born in the region, the main reasons we bought our house are that there is a motorway less than two km away linking us to Clermont Ferrand and Montpellier in 90 minutes, there is a hospital six km away where a number of specialists are available for consultation 7/7 and the Centre de Secours (fire brigade, rescue services, ambulances etc.) is the same distance. When we moved here the hospital had a small emergency department. That has since closed and the nearest one is now 37 km and 45 minutes’ drive away. The train service has also deteriorated so we’re forced to rely on the car which will get more and more difficult as we grow older. In hindsight, maybe we should have looked for somewhere with better access to an airport (nearest are Clermont Ferrand or Rodez) and above all a decent train service.
As to where you choose to live, that’s really a matter of taste. I wouldn’t live near a river or the sea, but that’s not everyone’s idea of heaven!