Getting closer to the life-changing family move!

It’s been a little while since I’ve last posted. Since then we’ve sold our house here in the US, downsized some of our things and temporarily moved into an apartment. We have tickets booked to France for the springtime.

Last time I posted, I mentioned that my wife and two kids would like to spend a year traveling around France, living in different regions to get a better idea of where we’d like to look for a home. Unfortunately, I was then made aware that the French are very strict about homeschooling. Therefore, it seems that we’d be in the need of some sort of long term rental/let for at least a full year until we’ve figured things out.

We won’t have any furniture as we plan on selling most of what we own stateside (other than our luggage), so we’ll want a place that’s furnished. I’ve been looking around online and there are places here and there that fit what we need, but they’re pretty scattered. Would anyone have any recommendations for websites to search?

Another idea I had (and maybe this is a bit farfetched) was to potentially find someone that would rent us their gite on their land for a discount in return for some helping hands around the property. If the kids are going to school full time we might as well get some work in for either money or a discount of sorts. Anyways, like I said, maybe a bit far-fetched.

During that year we’d hope to be able to explore in order to narrow down an area we’d hope to purchase in. Still many months to go but it’s approaching quickly. Each day that goes by causes a bit more panic, but also excitement for the adventure that lies ahead.

If anyone has done anything remotely similar with a family, would love to hear any advice you have. Cheers!

A little more background in case that changes the advice. We’ve never lived in France but we have visited several times. I was born to a French mother, so I am a dual US/French citizen (though I’ve never been a resident), along with my youngest son (4 yr old) who will also become one as soon as I get a livret going. My wife and teenager (stepson) will remain US citizens for a while as they continue to improve their French.

To me it all seems a bit vague. How old are the children? Do they speak French? Will you need to work? I’m trying not to sound as if I’m prying but to get a sense of your aims.


Exciting for you all…

The issue you will face looking for a gîte is that legally they can only be rented for 3 months, and one can’t then renew to the same person.

You don’t say where in France you are looking for, but may have better luck looking at University towns/cities that may have more accommodation available on “bail mobilité” if a landlord will accept you are on a mission temporaire (within your professional career). Up to 10 month furnished lets.

With no job and no track record in France landlords will be cautious about giving you a standard one year meublé tenancy as the law is on your side, so once in you are protected.

Strasbourg, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Rennes, Lyon. - places like that.

Also working for free is frowned on….

One thing you could search for is house-sitting. You might be lucky enough to find someone planning a big voyage themselves and wanting someone to care for their property and animals while they are away?

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I’m sure you will have researched this but when preparing to purchase a property, you will need to give careful thought to inheritance. Stepchildren can be complicated if not legally adopted by the step-parent as they are not blood relatives, hence have no rights under French succession law.

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No worries! I didn’t want to write an entire novel from the get go. The children will be 15 and 5 when we arrive in the spring – the eldest turning 16 over the summer.

We’ve been working on reading some children’s books in French with the youngest and tossing in phrases in French here and there. I’m less worried about him though – he’ll end up soaking it up like a sponge. The teenager I’m worried about. He’s entering his 3rd year of French in school this year but it’s not one of his strengths. I’ve been trying to help him prepare for what’s coming and keep telling him he should be working on it daily but… what can I say? Teenagers. We’ll have to help him as best we can along the way.

As for us, we can get by without jobs for a good while – although, doing so will cause us to dip into our savings and I’d rather not be doing that for an extended period of time. I would like us to find some local jobs so we can earn an income, while also immersing ourselves in the language/culture, and to build a work history in France (which I imagine will help make a lot of things much easier).

Thank you for the advice! I was not aware of the gite term limits and laws. Do you know if this would be the case with AirBnB properties as well then?

I’ll have to look into the house sitting possibility.

Very interesting. I had not thought that far ahead – I’m 37 but I suppose one should always prepare for the worst. Would succession first go to my wife if only I were to pass, and then from there both children?

In France, when you die… your estate will NOT “go to your wife and then (on her death) to both children…”
France is very different…
Take legal advice and get things sorted asap…


I think you are right about the youngest one, however, the teenager will be another matter.
I feel like writing more but it would be to pour cold water on your adventure. I wish you luck.

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Do I need a will or is it even more complicated than that?

Can both of our names be listed as the owners?

Feel free to pour it on. My father does the same. I’d rather know the challenges that await.

If you are buying a property, I do know of occasions when it has proved beneficial for both people to have their names on the Deeds… and I know of a few occasions when it has NOT proved beneficial . Each personal situation can be so very different.
It really is important to take legal advice…

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As said you need to talk to a notaire about succession. Likely the notaire will in any case raise the issue when you start the purchase process because depending on what your plans are, arrangements may need to be put in place at the time of purchase.
If you read up about French succession law you will start to see the potential problems, i.e. on the one hand your children are your protected heirs, and on the other hand anything inherited from a non blood relative (e.g. a stepfather) carries a succession tax of arou d 60%.

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Thank you very much for this information – both you and Stella. This helps a lot as there are just so many things to consider for this move that I’m constantly worried that I’m overlooking something.

Our kids were 14, 12, 11 and 9 when we moved here and our main worry was for the eldest who really didn’t want to come. However, within six months she loved it and now has French nationality and lives in the Caribbean partying all the time whilst earning a good salary.


All seasonal/holiday/tourist properties are covered by this. Some people do ignore the rules and do longer lets, but carries risks!

There are only 4 types of rental contraxts here.

Seasonal, max 3 months and suposed only for people who have permanent home elsewhere.

Bail mobilité, up to 10 months for students and workers on a mission

1 year furnished, automatically renews

3 year unfurnished, automaticzlky renews

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That’s great to hear! Would be interested to know more about your family’s experiences.

Hmmm, ok. I figure we will need to find a yearly rental/let then in order to have a legal address to establish residency.

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Possibly the biggest challenge we faced was finding accommodation. My partner wasn’t working at the time but I was continuing to work for my UK employer.

Without wanting to sound crass, I’m very fortunate that my salary more than covers the rent for the properties we were looking at. However, that was irrelevant because all my payslips at the time were in English and issued by a British company. Almost all the agencies and landlords we spoke to were simply not interested in us because, we later found out, they take out insurance against non-payment of rent. And the insurance companies require French payslips.

Out of approximately 100 properties that we’d shortlisted for her to visit during a flying visit before relocating, there were only 2 landlords* that were prepared to forego the insurance and agreed to a visit. And this was across the entire department of Gironde… Which is the largest department in France!

I’m not saying this to dissuade you. It is hard work and very frustrating but it absolutely can be done, so don’t be put off by the hurdle you may face too if, like us, you can’t supply French payslips. The offer to pay a year’s rent up front didn’t change anything either sadly.

*one landlord was a private landlord, and the other was via an agency (Century 21). Both were advertised on Le Boncoin.

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