To buy or not to buy?

Hello everyone,
I am a new member and was advised to join this forum by a member of another forum who said my question was more suited to SFN. I was reading an article in The Telegraph online yesterday which commented on the increasing crime in France and I posted this comment at the end of the article:

Despite the uncertain times I am cautiously thinking of buying an off-plan apartment in a lovely Luberon village. The only one I can afford is a garden apartment in a gated development of 28 homes - I would have preferred a first-floor balcony one but those have all gone.

I love France and like so many Brits would like to experience a much better, more predictable climate (albeit with the Mistral!) than in the UK. I am at a crossroads in my life and think that I would, at some point, like to spend more time in France and let out a property for rental income when not there. Most friends are warning me off the whole idea mainly because of the euro crisis, but also because I am considering buying off plan. I completely understand their point of view, especially as I don't have much of a financial cushion and not a great income over here, but I can't seem to shake off the deep rooted urge to do something of this nature and experience a different way of life, having become so weary of life in Britain.

I am doing lots of practical research on taxes, health care, etc. but reading your comments on the crime in the Luberon has been the main thing to stop me in my tracks, especially if considering buying a garden apartment.

I am going to look at the site again later this month, and will speak to the builder, accompanied by an ex-pat estate agent whom I have met and trust. I do not want to do anything rash though I imagine I could be tempted if I feel I may miss out. People say to wait for another year to see what will happen with the euro and I'm sure I will end up doing that, hoping that other such nice places may become available.

I've really just been airing my thoughts and I know it's my decision in the end, but any comments would be much appreciated!

I know that all of you have already taken the plunge but would be grateful for your thoughts. If I do buy somewhere I would then like to become more fully involved with SFN.

Thank you.

It's really annoying - I just typed a long message and then lost it when I went to my settings to upload a photo. I didn't manage to upload the photo and can't get the message back! It was just to say to you Sheila, and Jane and Brian that I went to Provence but decided not to push the budget to buy the off-plan appartment I wanted but saw a couple of other rennovated ones I'd previously seen. Still not too sure about those so am holding fire - there's no rush although the seemingly constant cloud cover in the UK this year might make me flip earlier rather than later and move over full time! My partner still has responsibilities towards his 'slow to grow up' 19 year old son and I would like to wait until he has found his feet but as I have no dependants myself I am champing at the bit ......

I also wondered whether anyone could help me with queries on taxes on a second home in France owned by a UK resident as I'm finding it hard to get a definitive answer and wouldn't want to be hit by unexpected costs. So, if anyone knows the answer to the following (although I know most of you are living in France and not the UK) I'd be very grateful:

Is the 35% tax on rental income AFTER one has taken off Taxe Fonciere, Taxe D'Habitation, Utility bills, Maintenance costs for appartments, Cleaning and Turnaround costs for holiday rentals?

Also I have read that one has to make second homes available for rental for 30 weeks of the year with a minimum of 15 weeks actually rented and that even if not rented out the government calculates the rent and charges in any case?

And finally, does this tax still apply for those on low rental incomes in the UK?

Thank you in advance!

Will do. But yes, I am also now looking into rental options to try it out!

Good for you! However, I still recommend renting first. We have been renting for the past year, and the drop in property prices means that any rent paid out will be a lost less than expected drop in prices! And you get to find out what it is like to live there before committing your hard earned dosh!

Hi again Sheila, the development was advertised on the web by a Scottish estate agent who lives in the area and said she took this on to her books as it was by a local respected builder and also on a good site. She will be accompanying me to the meeting with the builder. Mind you even respected builders can have financial problems but I've checked that he has the insurance in place in case of bankruptcy, i.e. someone else will finish off the build if he goes under for any reason. But I must be careful not to get carried away in these difficult financial times. If doing it I will be going in with my eyes open!

By the way, I will upload a photo but as I don't have any recent suitable ones on my pc (i.e. distance shots) it will be one from 3 years' ago for the time being. Time and events have taken their toll a bit since then but I hope my friends would still recognise me!

All sounding very positive. Do keep us posted and good luck!

Thank you for your comments and advice Jane and Sheila - it's all grist to the mill! I suppose when I mentioned the catering I meant the cleanliness and general professionalism of service on the whole - I've also had some terrible experiences so I do take off the rose-tinted glasses every so often.

I'm not a real gastronome - one of the nicest meals I've had recently was in a basic small family run bistro in a place called Pont D'Ouilly in Normandy where the starter was just hard-boiled egg and mayonnaise! I would probably cook a lot myself but when I do go out I just like the general ambience and nice touches you often get. Having said that the UK has improved a lot on that score, but strangely enough mainly when I've had foreign serving staff who just seemed to have the right sort of attitude - not over friendly but also respectful.

Re the gated development, it is only a smallish one of 28 apartments and many of the people who have already paid their deposit are French who intend to live there. There will be a pharmacy on the ground floor serving the village. I've seen the plans which seem fairly comprehensive and show the electric gates (frankly I would be happy without gates as less to put on the maintenance charge but they seem to come as standard in some places) but will be seeing the developer the week after next to find out more and to see one of his previous builds. I'm not really intending to live there full time as yet and if I was I would be sure to join in with any local activities. I feel that an apartment is best for me as I will also want to rent out as a holiday let for large parts of the year and I realise that if I want to claim tax relief a place has to be available for 30 weeks of the year but only rented out for 15 weeks. I do speak some French already but would also take lessons or join a conversation class in the area in which I now live in the UK.

I'm compiling a long list of questions for the developer and the notaire before even thinking about committing myself though. Watch this space!

Jane makes a very good point, IMHO, re gated community. Who will be your neighbours? Where did you see this development advertised? If many of the potential buyers are buying one of the properties on a "leaseback" or buy-to-let scheme, or just as a holiday place for themselves, I think you will find it hard to make friends. Just a thought.

Please do beware if you are moving for the standard of catering, the UK has many more good places to eat if you want seasonal food and a changing menu.

Here in Burgundy if we go to the majority of restaurants we can expect to be offered boeuf bourginon all year round.

Also, if you like eating game, the UK has it down to a fine art. It is almost impoossible to obtain here unless you are either in the Chasse, know a member of the chasse or pay an exorbitant price.

You seem to be on a budget, so take care, France is an expensive place to live.

If you really want to experience living in France, is a gated development the place to be, and why do you think it is gated?

Here in 71 we take sensible precautions against theft, we lock our doors and close the shutters when we go away, our neighbour keeps an eye open and we have him and a friend sharing chicken duties.

No chickens in gated developments I suppose.

Hi Barbara. To deal with your queries in reverse: I have never seen any vulgarity or poor behaviour where I live, but that said, it is a small village and everyone knows everyone. I have seen some drunken behaviour on the streets of the big cities, not just in France but elsewhere.

As to why we wanted to live in France, here's a link to my blog in which I set out the early days of our move here. and part 2:

Hello Sheila, I read the interesting discussion you mentioned and it does seem that people are expecting prices to come down. Apparently there is not meant to be any leeway on the price of the off-plan property I am considering but I will certainly try when I meet with the builder although I think he must feel that in an area where there is hardly any new building allowed he will get the prices he wants in any case. If I don't get the same feeling I experienced when I viewed the site last month and there are other negatives then as I said to Brian I will wait. I have thought of renting to get a feel for living in France but can't do so for very long as it would eat into the capital I will need for buying. Like you, my income is not that great and never will be I imagine as I'm just not the type of person to want the pressure so I tend to live as frugally as possible and in these rather dire times for those with savings, this also requires living off capital.

Do you mind me asking what made you want to move to France in the first place? For me it's not just about the weather but the standards of catering, general manners which seem to be slipping in the UK and a weariness of the vulgarity I see around me on a day-to-day basis, especially in the language and behaviour of the younger members of society. I'm sure there is this element in France too but perhaps one is more blissfully unaware of it in a foreign country!

Thank you for your reply Brian. I think I knew that living in France would be no Utopia but the amount of stories I read regarding crime was a bit of a shock! It's one of those hurdles that if you're willing to jump it then it shows the desire to do something must be greater than the desire to do nothing and stay in the same old rut. The person who recommended that I post on here was thoroughly fed up with living in France for several years and says he is hoping to leave quite soon. I'm trying to look at all points of view before making a decision but in the end one just has to do what you suggest and take a leap into the unknown. My instinct is strongly telling me to do so before very long but I've got to beware that I'm not just doing it as a form of escape. My next trip to France to meet with the builder of the apartments I have in mind will help me to make a decision I think. If they aren't quite what I want I will then be willing to wait for another 'coup de coeur' as in the end I think that is what's needed to overcome the negatives.

Hi Barbara and welcome to SFN. My husband and I were determined to move to France but not sure about buying, so we didn't. We are here over a year, and are happy to rent. I started a discussion similar in theme to your discussion, which you can read here:

We live in SW France in a sleepy area where there is no crime. Like heck. Houses are broken into, it seems that some big houses that should have alarms really do not bother. Not far away there is a small scale but healthy drugs trade. If one doesn't go near that then it doesn't affect you, just like anywhere else. Violent crimes happen too if one looks at the local papers. If you go somewhere you will always be told it is worse than anywhere else, as if that was a superlative!

Living in France is mainly like living anywhere else at the end of the day, so one takes the rough with the smooth.

The Eurozone and information from friends, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, etc are often so misleading they instil fear that one should not suffer. The € was predicted not to last into the new year last year. It is the middle of 2012 and still there and even some signs of not only survival but recovery and eventually back to prosperity. The present British PM has revealed his fence-sitting position at G20 without saying in words but in actions, that if the € recovers and does well there will be a time when the UK will join it. Some of us discuss the economics of the € economy quite often, after all we live in it. Most of us are not that worried.

I think there are not as many places as the one you are looking at as you might expect. If it is what you are looking for then go for it. Defy gravity, jump and land where you want to be!