Walk away or take the jump?

Hello, I am new to the forum and I would like your advice! Looking for a home in Charente-maritime to start as a vacation home and in due time to live there. It should have enough space To accommodate visitors. I love maison de maitre and hate Houses that have been renovated to death - so immediately I arrive in the category “fixer-upper” as my budget does not seem to be large enough to shop in the category “renovated to my taste”. Not afraid of working and have a budget to take care of immediate needs like roof, electricity and fosse (have Completely transformed two houses we lived in before).
I came across an amazing property, have already visited twice, price is low but…roof needs replacing-quite some damage from the leaks in the house on the first floor- and it is 8 hrs away from where we live. The house is also still full, owner died years ago but house looks like she just had breakfast. It is also one of the first houses we visit (after months of internet study and potential house selection) It is the perfect size, exposition south, in a tiny village with very well maintained large properties.
My questions to you are: did you have to travel far to your French house while renovating and how did you experience that? Feasible or ruining your appetite to renovate? Can a house be too cheap (is this a sign of hidden defaults). Is waterdamage to planchers and walls detrimental or does it just need to dry and its OK? (Can I expect only replacement of part of placher or prepare for a whole floorstructure?).
Should I get an architect or macon to see the house before signing anything? The structure of the house looks totally fine- some chainage, but nicely done and no obvious cracks or weird walls.
Looking forward to your reactions!

Architects design houses, not build or repair them. Find a good builder, get them to list all works in ‘needs to be done immediately’ to ‘can be done in a few years’ with the associated estimate costs.
With that info you should be able to see your priority list and also costs involved - that should allow you to make an informed decision as to whether you can afford the cost / time of having the home you want.

Ask more than one builder and make sure that they are insured and in a position to guarantee their work for ten years.
You say that you have renovated two houses, but you do not say if that was in France.
If it was in UK you would be used to getting a discount on bulk buying, but this does not apply here in France. Everything is bought by your artisans and they get the discount. I am saying this, as it could well afford your budget.
If you intend to do work yourself, you will have to buy either from the DIY sheds or builders yards at top price.
Good luck.

Then multiply the figure given by a factor of not less than 1.5 :wink:
Buying a house is very much a personal choice issue… and not one that I think others can advise you on realistically.
There was a thread on here recently where someone managed to buy a splendid MdM for around 90k€ which had many people salivating at the prospect of it being turned into a splendid home - even if it was to cost the same amount again as a do’er upper. If that prospect doesn’t phase you, only you can know or visualize what it will be worth to you to jump.
Just don’t expect the SF community to crowd fund any disasters :grin:

A link to the thread that Graham refers to is below:

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I’ve restored the title to « New House Adventure » so it make sense - if you want to edit your link to it…

Not in my experience, when I startedbuying materials I asked a few merchants for devis, then I took my best list back to the source, pointed out any high spots in their quote and get those reduced and we agreed a good deal.
We’ve since stuck with the same merchant and get a lot of discounts.
Not everything is always the very cheapest and I let them know just to help them stay honest :slight_smile:


Not here in Burgundy.

We were on site in our gite while our main house was restored and being on site was invaluable because it meant we dealt with issues there and then. One of the cultural challenges we found was that we were rarely offered advice or suggestions. They worked to an original spec and their “devis” and built accordingly, even though on a couple of occasions they must have been thinking “mad English!” and their advice would have been invaluable.
Don’t assume that a “builder” is the same animal here in France as in the UK. Each part of our build was dealt with by a different artisan. The nearest we had to a general purpose builder was the guy who had a team who did the ground works and knocked down walls and rebuild them and inserted a couple of bog standard windows. Carpentry / fine woodwork / plastering / plumbing and electrics / tiling all done by a different person.
Our French wasn’t up to managing a team like this so we employed a “maitre d’oeuvre”. He was worth every penny because he got three quotes for everything (we didn’t always go with the cheapest and in one instance he could see we weren’t happy and had someone out by 6pm and a new artisan by 9pm). Also, he was local and the artisans knew and trusted him more than us and so were prepared to quote and do the job. We were incomers and foreigners to boot and prior to employing him we’d been trying to get quotes for work and it just wasn’t happening. Also, we reviewed progress with him on a weekly basis and made changes where needed to stay within budget.
All the artisans were local because they wanted to be able to go home for lunch. I think the maximum distance was a 20 min drive. Anyone further away wasn’t interested in quoting.
Not every builder buys his materials because they have to pay social on their gross earnings, so some of the smaller artisans preferred us to buy their materials for them. We also had an account with a local builders merchants and they would just put it on the account and we paid monthly. The builders merchants we found gave us excellent service and stuff would be delivered ASAP.


Our experience too Sue.
The other aspect worth mentioning was security… we paid the merchants for the materials and thus were able to keep tabs on what was being consumed in the build. Not that I’m suggesting any of the builders we used were in any way dishonest of course… just that we controlled the project and were on-site every day to resolve any issues.

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Why not post a picture?

I live in the Charente Maritime so depending on where the house is I could recommend an architect and various artisans.

Hi Timothy, the house is close to Matha. Any references welcome!

I live fairly close to Matha, what’s the name of the commune?

Nor in mine. Because we were doing a big renovation we managed to open a trade account with local builders merchant.

We also got our main maçon to project manage in terms of organising the different trades. But we kept overall project management - which was essential as some of the builders liked to do things their way. One or other of us was here for most of the time (including when roof was off in middle of January with no heating) and I’m not sure I’d have liked the result if we hadn’t been! You would have to have a project manager you totally trust.

We used local people for everything, which has paid off as they continue to be helpful and earned us a good reputation.

Too far. You need to be in daily contact with your crew. Preferrably in the same room, from time to time, as the person doing the work.

One of my crew told our client that he was going to leave and not return until I relayed to him the client’s assurance that his wife would not be standing behind my pal every time he looked round.

But a constant presence is really essential, in my experience. To quote Manzanera and Gilmour, “A momentary lapse of reason and down a hole we fall. It seemed to take no time at all”

If only I had been on site when Sparks put the bathroom light switch A] Inside the bathroom b] Behind the intended swing of the door. It was easier to have the door swing outwards from the other side than dig out all the cabling. But inconvenient to this day.

I demonstrated to Sparks the height above the w/top of power sockets. With splash-back tile in hand, I drew a line along its top edge on the sockets to the left of the hob. Those socket went in as per. The other pair, the other side of the hob, were 15mm below the top edge of where the tiles would run. :confounded:

Not a big deal to correct but still …

You may have to invest in a caravan.

Bl00dy good idea

It’s “one slip and down the hole we fall”

Quite right.

Tho’ in the context, my version has some merit. Because putting a light switch behind the swing of a door is a moment of madness, esp as I asked for it to be either put outside the bathroom or be a pull switch.

But I wasn’t there when he did it … One can’t be everywhere at all times but one must try to be there most of the time.

Thank you for sharing your experience! Caravan soundS good, I am afraid the real problem lies in the fact that hubby and I both work full-time, have children going to school and just dont have that many vacation days… we are trying to figure out the feasibility as we also dont want to wait till we are retired… finding a job around the area will be quite challenging.

Are you pretty fluent in French? As that’s also quite important for a successful project, especially if you are not there.

A house for you with kids might be a very different thing that a house for you after the kids have left home. Have you thought of buying yourself a value for money turn-key type house for the moment that is very easily saleable so you can move on in years to come?