Looks like we've nailed the house we wanted - now for the details. But how?

After a year of painful searching, and thanks to some excellent work by Sheelagh Gorham, we finally found the kind of French property we knew could be pinned down - but could never quite manage to get the immos to do the pinning. Sheelagh was an instant game-changer and our house hunting went from an enforced tickover to full-throttle in a matter of weeks, and we went firm last month when we came across and fell straight in love with what she'd found for us.

Our UK hovel is now in the final throes of being sold to satisfyingly enthusiastic buyers and we're planning to move across to Gavray, Normandy in mid-June after we've transferred the family silver, along with the first-born's birthright, over to the Notaire.

The problem is, the Normandy house we've bought has been unoccupied for a few years. It's in fairly good condition and I can deal with any structural issues having renovated our current 19th century stone hut (and evicted the rats, bugs and sundry exotic fungal growths). In fact, by comparison, the French place is actually perfectly habitable. It's getting the various long-disconnected services reinstated, and then joining the administrative dots that's puzzling me.

We both have pretty passable conversational French - we worked near Versailles for 3 years from '03 to '06 - but the prospect of getting down and dirty in technical French with service providers' help-desks, while using a scratchy UK telephone connection that's the BT technological equivalent of taut string and bean cans (at this end - Anglesey - not yours) isn't exactly something I relish with unbounded joy.


  • The huge propane gas tank out the back. Presumably this will need to be tested after its 3-4 years out of service, and before it can be filled? What if it fails? Who replaces it? At what cost? How long?

  • Getting a 'phone and internet connection set up remotely before moving-in. Is this even possible? I can't afford to be without internet for weeks on end because I'm a computer geek with clients in the UK, whose systems I'll need to administer/troubleshoot remotely. And the modems used in France now - can I just plug my UK kit straight into the modems supplied, or do the service providers have a hissy-fit if you go off-piste with this?

  • I'm thinking of using Orange if only for simplicity and an inclusive calls, mobile and 'net package for the first year at least. I only need a 2-3meg connection for the stuff I do. Is it safe to assume they're not as comprehensively dreadful as the UK version?

  • And property insurance. I gather I'll need to get that in place before we sign the Acte de Vente - but how d'you go about setting THAT up before you have the title to the place you're insuring? And how d'you pick the right insurance agent? Is it a good idea to use the same agent for all our insurance needs (on the basis that a sizeable annual income for him will get us a decent service and/or discount)?

  • My brain hurts.............

Is there a central repository of information that we can delve into for this stuff? In my case, a "Moving to France for halfwits" kind of thing would fit the bill perfectly. Even better, is there someone in or very near Gavray who 'fixes' for newcomers, facilitating the type of stuff described above for a fee? If so, any recommendations would be grovellingly appreciated.

And can anyone recommend a cattery fairly near Gavray please? His Mogship will need to put somewhere out of harm's way for a week while we shovel a lifetime's worth of total junk (and his) out of the removals skip and into the new place.

If I can't figure out a way through this information fog soon, I'm going to book a session with a phrenologist! Would some kind soul please consider tossing me a pair of mental armbands .............. ? ![:shock:](upload://yuxgmvDDEGIQPAyP9sRnK0D0CCY.gif)

Hello there I am a near neighbour !!! I live in Quettreville about 10 mins away on the Granville - Coutances road. Having been here for more than 15 years and dealing with the realms of being self emplyed here I'd be more than happy to help you with anything (I have previously been used by the local notaire and mairie to help with communications etc for local British ex pats) call me on 09 80 93 90 83 and ask for Helen (hubby doesn't speak any English)

Hi Bob Just seen your post and we are going through pretty much the same issues now. Our solutions are as follows- Ozone.net has been recommended as a reliable internet/telephone/tv supplier &I have been able to arrange delivery of box Tec prior to move to property. Just requires a further phone call to them once kit delivered to arrange date for connect up process. Really helpful &patient on phone with my attempts to communicate effectively &accurately in French! 're house insurance-we have been recommended an independent chap who has quoted us a much lower cost than Bank Populaire. Contract received within 24 hours &he speaks good English. In Correze but deals via internet &phone anyway. Happy to give details - Samuel.Rudelle@axa.fr. Good luck!

Hi there...

For insurance for the house I found Lynda Busby at....agence.international@axa.fr

excellent. Sorted all for me and sent policy etc. via e-mail (as well as hard copy) so I

could forward to Notaire.

On the phone front, call the English speaking Orange help line, again all set up and

modem received within 5 days !!! The previous line had been disconnected for some months

but it is useful if you have the old number or persons name so they can refer to it..

Their number is 0033 9 69 36 39 00

They are slow at answering, but once through I found very helpful.....

Hi Bob and welcome! We're a bit far away to help directly (Trie-Chateau, border of Normandy and Picardie) but glad to provide advice if we can.

No problems with Orange phone and internet service. Both by phone and in store, they have been helpful.

we bank with CIC - not one of the big ones so very personal service. Bloody excellent in fact. We naturally organised our house insurance with them once they gave us the best deal for ou mortgage. Now have multiple produsts with them and not a bad thing to say!

Good luck, keep askinf questions and hope to see you on SFN again very soon.


Danielle and Sam

I don't think they connect the internet with the phone line any more, they come and fit in a special cable, this is what took so long for me. That and technicians with half a brain and two left hands…..

Anyhow, I'm happy to hear that so many people got their internet sorted out that fast!

Above all, I'm relieved to hear that your cat, Bob, will stay with a nice family rather than a cattery!!

Hi Bob, If you require any local help then you should look at Valerie Roger from SOS Anglo. She has a good reputation and isn't too far from you

My husband and I moved here last April and within days had the phone and internet connected not weeks. We went to the Orange shop and did it all there and then. The house had been empty for 3 years and it was no problem to get it all sorted and although we were told allow 5 days it was much less than that. As for internet in the interim we had a choice of popping along to Macdonalds for a coffee, lunch or dessert and using their free wifi or going to one of the larger Eleclerc supermarkets that have a cafe and using the free wifi in there. As we shopped in there and it was not too far, we found this to be a great temporary solution.

Re: Insurance - I took out AXA house insurance initially whilst still in the Uk and it was all done by email in English and I was able to sign the paperwork and then scan in to be emailed to the agent. This was all done in a matter of days before signing the final contract in France. The agent sent me a questionnaire in English so that he knew what policy to sell me and then sent me a quote which I found quite agreeable compared to UK prices! I transferred the funds by Swift bank transfer. All easy to do. I was given 2 weeks notice by the notaire to make arrangements to travel to France to sign the house sale paperwork and the axa agent did not let me down. All done in a timely fashion.

Did you use a French estate agent to buy the French house? If so then it is their job to sort out a lot of these things for you including sorting out the utilities. Our estate agent did it all while we sat in his office so that he could ask us questions as its important to get the right electric tariff/fuse otherwise you could trip the electrics through over loading. So we were asked questions like do you have a tumble dryer, dishwasher, washing machine, water heater etc. It is better if you have already set up a French bank account as you can just give the details to the estate agent to give over the phone. Our estate agent sorted out the water and electric and advised us where to go for the telephone and bank where the staff spoke English. We were not able to actually open a French bank account straight away as we did not have a utility bill for part of the ID so we had to wait until we arrived and then the bank sent us a recorded delivery letter that proved that we were there. Then we had to take this into the bank with passport etc plus the attestation document from the sale of the house. The estate agent will also be able to advise or sort out the issues regarding the butane tank. Having looked into this ourselves we discovered that its cheaper to just buy the gas cylinders as it works out more expensive the other way. From my memory I think you have to either buy the tank or pay a deposit and then a monthly amount.

I think my AXA agent was based in Normandy but it doesn't have to be an agent in your area as it can all be done electronically. He was recommended by our French solicitor based in the UK. Message me if you want his details. AXA do have a lot of premises in France though so you can always walk into your nearest one. You can do it the day before signing at the notaire's. I was told that the insurance needed to be in place prior to the signing as once you have signed the paperwork, the house is yours and there for responsible for anything that happens to it. It is also a legal requirement as it will also have public liability attached to it. Again this is also a requirement. Parents have to take out special cover for school children.

Re: EDF for electricity - they do have an English speaking customer service but I prefer to use the client space online and you can email them to make any changes or if you have any questions. They also have live chat. We've gone paperless so can see our bills there as well as monitor electricty usage. A very useful tool. We use an automatic translate tool to cope with the language barrier.

Hope after reading everyone's comments you feel less fraught. I remember it all too well as it was only just under a year ago! Still navigating our way round the system. Still don't have a permanent car insurance certificate! Don't ask!

Bonne chance et bonne courage!

You've got French so that's a good start! Insurance agents are used to the system so I've (4th house now) found just call them up and tell them what you are buying and when you want the insurance to start from...normally the day you're sighning the acte. I've found the bank really expensive for cover and for me I've got this house insured through an agent in my town that way it's easy to pop into the office and add or subtract cover or just clarify stuff if I need to. There is also generali in cognac who offer an English speaking service (I can find their contact details if you like) they offer English translations of their policies and English speakers by phone. I used them when I first came here as I didn't speak French...fool!...I've still got a car insured with them and and don't find they are charging a premium for the service.

Can I also recommend a couple of dictionaries one is the 'oxford duden pictorial dictionary' and the other is the 'oxford visual dictionary' If I was only going to get one I'd probably get the duden. What they both do is offer pictures of all sorts of things and I don't mean simple things I mean complex things like the structure of a roof or the engine of a car or plants or pretty much anything really with both the English word and the French word for that precise bit or thing. I love them and still use them and my French isn't that bad. Think trying to explain to a French person 'sloe gin'...you can explain the gin bit and the process and the colour but what is a 'sloe' and what is that widget that connects your bit of car to another bit of your car...you can see I don't know much about cars!

For your internet if you've already got a phone line it should be straightforward. I didn't have one here or rather the wires had been destroyed It only took a few days to get someone out to put a new one in but I was transfering my internet from my previous address so I can't help much. I use alice I know others are cheaper but I'm fine with them as they always send a new box promptly when one gets blown up by storms and it happens a fair bit here.

It's exciting to be setting out on a new adventure...don't stress, enjoy the process...should have said that to my self!


Firstly, good luck with everything......I just hope that you've chosen the right area weather- wise - as a settler in Dordogneshire, a big consideration from me was to escape from 'les temps Anglais/Irelandaise'.....can't stand it !

I have signed up to PHONEXPAT, not the cheapest but a straightforward English Speaking service, based in Paris. No problems with them so far. Like every thing else in France, it will still take at least a month -six weeks to get it all set up. I was very lucky and discovered a local internet cafe' Scofi' who buy sell and fix computers and after listening to my reasons(no electricity,no internet or phone), were perfectly friendly & helpful (great potential customer relations), allowing me to turn up midmorning nearly everyday and connect to their internet wifi, completely free.

Just for your central repository of info, try French-Property.com. They have a wealth of useful information in English on their help pages…there are other sites that are also useful but we found theirs the best when we arrived three years ago.
Presumably you have thought about health insurance? It is illegal not to have it in France so you must put something in place very soon after arriving. We are now covered by my husband’s S1 as he has reached retirement age but before that we paid for private cover and it isn’t cheap. I can advise, from that standpoint, if you like. Just pm me if you would like some help with that.

Depending on your reception and contract, you could use your mobile as a wifi hotspot on a temp basis at least until

you obtain a more permanent fixed line arrangement. It's only an expensive option, if you want to watch videos.

Orange have an English speaking helpline. If you know the address (and ideally the current landline number) you should be able to arrange ADSL installation remotely. However, they won't necessarily test that it actually works from the house (they'll just enable it at the exchange).

You can use your own ADSL router (given parameters supplied in Orange's welcome letter) - and so you can specify you don't require Orange's LiveBox (may save a Euro or so on the monthly bill). Naturally, their support will presume you have a LiveBox rather than your own equipment.

Bear in mind Orange's discount telephone offer is likely to be based upon their VoIP service (via socket on their router) rather than the landline. So, you may consider obtaining your own VoIP service provider and VoIP/SIP router, also retaining the ability to keep the landline operational during a power cut.

Welcome to France! Please check with your notaire or agent about the property insurance as some notaires expect/require this as part of the acte de vente signing. If you have a French bank account, they can indeed get you the property insurance from their partners. Also, most towns have an AXA office so you can check locally as well.

The best thing about Orange is that they do have an English speaking line which helps if you have limited French (especially technical words). Typically, they will have to send someone on sight to check on the line (France Telecomm lines which they rent, I think) for the bundled package of phone, internet and cable programming if the house has been unoccupied for some time. Once they update this for a small fee, they will send you a box to hook up/connect yourself. I actually demanded that they send someone but the customer service line insisted I do it first and if I fail then they will send someone but they did not want me to pay for unnecessary fees (Imagine?!). Living in Languedoc, we have been satisfied with the Orange bundled service and their support.

Bonne chance!

Welcome to the realm of France!

I can only give you a few pointers here as I'm far from being a specialist. So, gas tank:

I know that you can have different kinds of arrangements have a look here http://www.fournisseurs-gaz.com/propane/cuve to see what suits you best.


You are expected to go from the notaire's office straight to the insurance company, they are all more or less the same (IMHO), but I know that a lot of people don't agree with me, you can also get your insurance at your bank (you do have a bank account, don't you? Without it, your life will be quite horrid here…)

phone and the internet:

Ha! I found that Bouygues was faster and better in getting me set up when I moved back to France 5 years ago and was quite satisfied with everything. I praised them and encouraged friends and family to sign up with them. Two years ago, we moved (a few streets) and remained for over 2 months without any connection. Apparently Orange and SFR are even worse...


Now that's the most important!! I use www.animaute.fr for my cat, so that he can stay with a family/cat nanny as I don't trust catteries. I pay about 10 euros a day.