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 .............. ?