Thursday, 13 August 2015

We got an Upgrade!!

So... it's 'hats off' to Brittany Ferries!!

We have been sailing happily to and from Portsmouth/St Malo to and from our house in Brittany for around 16 years now.
Happily? Well largely, yes. But I've often banged on about "Two hundred crossings and never an upgrade... This would never happen on Virgin" and the usual 'my glass is half empty' moans. I always thought that nobody was listening or at least 'passing on the message'... After all Brittany Ferries and we (at A House in Brittany Ltd.) - well, we sing from the same hymn sheet. For us Brittany is one of the most perfect areas on the planet and... in a bunch, we like nothing more than to pass on the good news... "Selling the Sizzle"

Back in March our trip was booked for the 2nd and, as we almost always did, we dropped by the nursing home where my mother in law, Sue, 99, was always pleased to know just what we were up to and always sat through my slideshows on the day after our return from Brittany... (usually making all the right comments of someone impressed and interested in loft insulation, garden mowing, next door's dog rolling and tumbling with their goats, local Breton festivals and spectacles, our prowess as wall builders, floor tiling and general renovations the like of which is much of what of our photo's would include). On March 2nd I had spent much of the day up until our normal leaving time strapping one half of a Chesterfield settee to the back of our truck and packing around it all manner of essentials to complete the load.

As I breezed through the door into Sue's room at the Beeches Nursing Home I realised things weren't as they should be. Instead of her sitting in her chair tackling the crossword in the daily paper and with 'Escape to the Country' on TV... she was in bed... curtains half drawn and without the television to accompany her day... I did a stage whisper over my shoulder to Micki as she followed me into the room... "I don't think we're going anywhere!"...

To cut quite a long story short... Sue was not at all well and Micki suggested very quickly that I should go back to our house phone Brittany Ferries and postpone our crossing on that night's boat for at least a week or so later... I did (and I even had to unload the - expletive deleted - Chesterfield again)...The team member who answered the phone at Brittany Ferries head office was very helpful; extremely understanding. Unfortunately that wasn't the only time I needed to rearrange the trip, so after four weeks I decided to move this booking back to July 29th meaning that our return for that booking would be August 12th. There were though two other trips before that - but they were only after my lovely mum in law passed away on April 8th... Her funeral was one of both sadness for a life ended but, yet joy, for one fulfilled with 99 (and a half) years well run.

Imagine our surprise after all our ups and downs and heartaches when we printed out our ticket for the July crossing and we saw that our return trip's daytime cabin was to be one in Commodore class. We thought initially it was a mistake - but decided not to 'complain', else it should be withdrawn. There had been two or three phone calls to postpone or move bookings and so a charge for that crept in too and quite understandable that should be so - maybe even our understanding that the upgrade might have cost us extra. But, better to wait and address the problem as and when it would undoubtedly arise at Check In either at Portsmouth or St Malo. At Portsmouth's Check In cabin on July 29th the clerk said, as he handed over passports boarding card and cabin keys and Voyage magazine... "You know you have a cabin upgrade on your return trip don't you?'...


I'm not sure whether it had been my sneery mentions in previous blogs about never having had an upgrade... A marketing department initiative to introduce the likes of us in 'steerage' to what life could be like if we weren't so tight with our money....Could it be those very nice people at Brittany Ferries HQ who had spotted our reasons for the 'tourettes like' postponement of successive tickets and Sue's sad demise OR a little bit of divine intervention from our dear one departed...

But, however it really came about - a big 'heads up' and thank you to the team at Brittany Ferries... They were all great. We even got a basket of fruit and a box of Macaroons! We've subsequently checked the list of what you get when you book a Commodore Cabin intentionally... and you don't get either of those!!!
We were even supplied with a welcoming party in Portsmouth Harbour - a flotilla family of swans right outside the window!

Whatever was the spark that started this 'Commodore Experience' thanks a million! It's an all round wonderful way to cross the Western Channel!...and... We'll be back!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The 'Book' of the House...

A photo we took before I climbed in the window for the impromptu 'viewing'.
When the plot was first hatched for us to buy a house in Brittany it was inspired by friends who had done just that. The subject cropped up on two occasions... firstly when we attended a Freelancers' Christmas Bash... (like a firm's Christmas Party but without the 'firm') where it seemed to interweave the conversation... Well, I do remember being very interested and wanting to know more... And then, at their Boxing Day "Let's eat all the leftovers" get together... another brilliant idea - when everybody takes a plate of something made up from some of yesterday's ingredients (preferably not turkey) and I think plenty of people went the extra mile because I remember the food being great and very un-christmassy.
It wasn't long before the roof came off... and a dormer window was added to open up the loft space
 Anyway, at this event you know most of the attendees and at this time 'the book' of the house was doing the rounds. I can remember being fascinated at seeing it on the other side of the room and was engrossed when it arrived where I could crane over someone else's shoulder as they flicked through... The area map... the cadastral plan (this shows the house on its footprint in relation to the neighbouring properties and plots)...

This was the part of the garden that had been 'looked after'
Quite naturally, whether you intend to have one or not... you do find yourself compiling stuff that needs to go somewhere - so, of course a book does evolve... Those first photo's of the project as you remove years... sometimes centuries... of detritus and other people's ideas of what will do as their future surroundings...

At our own place it soon became obvious that Madame LeRoy had a family friend (or was he really a saboteur?) who masqueraded as the local 'dab hand' at removing the old and ushering in the new... such as the taking out or bricking up of original Breton fireplaces... flatting off stone walls with a flat plaster finish. A spiral staircase had even been removed and replaced with a straight up and down job which finished too close to the back of the house to provide an adequate landing space.

We've all seen Victorian houses where those lovely old cast iron examples were replaced by what I've always called 'Reginald Dixon' tiled jobs that always remind me of the organ that rises out of the floor at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. More recent purchasers of the same property have promptly got stuck in and put in retro copies of the old stuff and set a trend for reversing the process. And so it goes...

In our own case, sadly, some of the very first photo's that should have been taken, the 'befores', were omitted... but you will never know and I will only regret it for a little while... Suffice to say that we have been beavering away intermittently in bite sized, 2 week chunks for over 15 years... And, whilst the end is in sight... so is the beginning... of the second time round! Anyway - the first time was never designed to be permanent and... there are other elements to the place...two barns and a bread oven for starters that are just begging to be given so much time and attention.


Plans?... Initially just finishing the top loft - We have topped out the spiral staircase, insulated the ceilings. We've had two new Velux windows fitted in the roof and it's all going well...
Still to do? Plasterboarding the ceilings and then we're eager to tackle the kitchen - 'for real' this time as opposed to just creating somewhere to cook and wash-up - done in the flurry that was the first month or so of a time when everywhere you turned there was a nightmare scenario.... which fire to put out first!

The last loft to convert
The important thing is - that we're still enjoying every single minute we spend there... In fact the plan is to be in Brittany less often but for a month at a stretch instead of two weeks 6 times each year. Taking a longer run at the next stages of the game. Creating a floor and laying pavers in the bread oven... adding the timber work to sit the roof on, then - making a window (and  door) and, of course knocking up the first loaf!... Can't wait!

There is a proper old style 'Book of the House'... It takes up 3 Volumes contains about 200 photo's... and so transferring it to any short form on here is right out of the question... But there will also be a proper book... I'm just going out to the shed to get stuck in to the next chapter! Cheers - CS

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Animals Around the House

Resident Vole

They think they own the place! And often spend longer around the house than we do. Some of them even make it inside and don't want to leave... I'm talking about animals at our place in Brittany... We've had most species come to stay... Obviously there are cats and dogs. That's a given. Several generations of feral cats have been born in the barns... When the kittens have ventured out for the first time I have seen birds of prey doing a reccy swoop through the courtyard so they have been ushered back to their mum's safe keeping. Too dumb to know - too young to die! And next door's dogs treat our place like an extension of their own 'manor'...but there are also Barn Owls, Pheasants, Buzzards, Sparrow Hawks...

Photo: Graham Hale
Regarding the sparrow breakfast one morning, Graham, a guest and something of a twitcher, spluttered into his cereal when he saw one swoop in and settle on one of the roof bars of the truck... He rushed off to get his camera before the bird should fly away again and, by the time he got back - there were two! And, of course, there have been a host of the usual suspects covered by the term 'garden birds'... There's also that pigeon - the one from central casting that always seems to be in shot, right on cue and crosses just about every vista... also a trio of doves that turned up for a week and have not been seen again. Mice (no rats, so far, that would be worrying)... a vole. The vole episode was brilliant. It was after supper one evening... just the two of us and we were washing up, admittedly the lighting was a bit subdued - I must fix the downlighters in the kitchen - they cut in and out as the temperature rises in the boxed in space above them. So, I'm drying and Micki is washing and, as she swings with a glass across me and on toward the drying rack, some water splashed on to the floor. I took little notice of it until I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and there on the tiles, lapping water from the 'pool' that has been splashed there... I thought initially it was a mouse, is the sweetest little thing. I carefully did the 'spider' glass and card routine without it even noticing... letting me ease the glass over and down and slide a coaster underneath it. It even shuffled its feet gently and stepped up as the card closed across the mouth of the glass. I set it down on the table whilst I finished the drying up and it sat there quite happily gazing around squinting toward the lamp above. Like an idiot I went to all the trouble of taking the glass, vole and pub drip-mat ensemble out into the garden in semi darkeness by now and let it go without taking a commemorative photo. Arghhhhh! What luck then that the following morning he/she should still be hanging around long enough to pose. Unbelievable! Snakes:- grass snakes and once or twice an adder have all made appearances - but the mower does tend to make a mess of them; they don't seem to hear or, if they do - they don't think it poses a threat to them!


A Pigeon... in a hole... So that must make it a pigeon hole!
Rabbits, usually very early in the morning (there's a warren in the trees behind the trap barn)... a horse OK, so it belongs to the neighbours, but they're not big on fencing and, for 'Flamenco', the grass is definitely greener on our side of the fence... Sheep and goats - that's the lack of fencing again...

There was one particular late summer evening when Micki, who had been working particularly hard in the garden, was beating the bounds with a glass of wine in her hand after our evening meal... checking that all had been left shipshape...Rounding the corner behind the trap barn she was startled, confronted by a total of 12 sheep and goats all feeding voraciously on whatever they could munch through before the 'lady who works in the garden' (nudge, nudge) might turn up and spoil their fun. She was apoplectic, suddenly letting out a shriek and throwing her by then empty glass toward a bush for a soft landing and began a run toward the collective flock arms outstretched hurling well turned expletives which worked a treat on the animals.... as well as on our neighbour and her eldest boy who were studying the onion crop in their vegetable garden. Laurence, realising there was trouble brewing approached smiling a little awkwardly and crossed the broken down fence and went through the kissing routine that is obligatory in Brittany - 3 times on each cheek I think on occasions of extreme concern... and all the time effusing about how nice it was to see us because I'm there by now having heard the commotion - how are the family etc., The sheep and goats trotted back across the threshold into their own compound and the conversation ended more or less amicably but avoiding the obvious. The next time we had aperatifs together on a subsequent visit the goats/sheep had been replaced by Flamenco the pony, an all together different potential animal problem... More about that another day maybe . But it has been said that our neighbours have a preference for friendly neighbours over runaway goats and sheep. But then, just a decent fence would probably have done!  The only reason that cows haven't been in, around or through our place is because there is always a piece of blue plastic twine strung across our drive whenever a herd passes by on their way up the lane to their pasture after milking. A doe Fallow Deer careered through the courtyard once closely followed by two scraggy looking hunting dogs who somehow found it more difficult to get through the undergrowth on the way out than the deer did. I love it when the underdog scores. The following morning a bloke dressed in what goes for hunters' apparel... parka, forage cap and a wine bottle in each coat pocket, turned up looking for his dogs. Did you know... that a hunter's dogs are 'allowed' to cross your plot...but the hunters are not.

Although there are proper, organised hunts, in the forests it's not all hunting pink round our way - and anyway, from what I've seen, the standard colour for the posh lot, at least in Brittany, is green. It cheers me up to think that the deer that I only caught a glimpse of, ahead of the dogs, probably got away.

 One winter's morning, just after Christmas, we were out for a walk on the hour long 'hairpin walk' along the Rigole, up the valley and back and, as we were descending the hill that links the rigole to the lane beside the mighty River Oust (but more of a stream as it passes our place)... hunting horn blasts that had been very distant when we started out sounded again, but this time very close by, and as the echo died away a fox leapt from cover to our left and stood stock still looking terrified in our path. We must have seemed more of a threat than the fella with the bugle and, confused, because it ignored the open field to our right, it dodged back the way it had come. Thirty seconds later there was a volley of shotgun blasts and, by the time we got back to the house we saw one of the hunters wearing its body round his shoulders. Later still, on walk number two of the day, we passed Jean Noel's pig bin - and there was the fox's body minus its brush! Trophy or proof of death for a bounty from the Mairie, I don't know - but with all the intensive (indoor) farming that goes on in the area, they have a hard life... and an even harder death!

When posed too long for a photo... they made a break for it!

There have also been two old ladies who, when we got back from a sortie to the bank, LeClerc and the dechetterie, were sitting on the magic bench... They were obviously quite embarrassed and asked us if the lady who they knew had lived there, an old friend, was still at the house. They must have been really close as she had passed away at least 15 years earlier! They said that they were just out for a walk and had got tired, so thought they would look up an old friend! We offered them tea but they declined and I then asked if they would like a lift back to the village but, possibly embarrassed at being caught on the premises, they said 'non merci' to that too and wandered off. Shame. I wish I had photographed them too - that would have been brilliant.


Of humankind we have also been visited by a man in a big van full of chairs (not the usual door-to-door commodity)... "Do you need any chairs?... he asked, as casually as if he were a milkman offering a couple of pints. We didn't! "See you in a couple of years then he said as he climbed back on board. We haven't seen him since - but we still don't need any...
Earlier during our ownership of Le Roz two 'Peruvian' ladies wearing ponchos and bowler hats (that was the clue) turned up wishing to know if we had any old car batteries. Now that struck me as a cover for something a bit more sinister. I think if we hadn't been there they would have moved in and we would have found them in residence with the rest of their extended family when next arriving from St Malo.

There is no doubt that Le Roz is a charmed environment... spookily charming! I could go on...
More another day...

If it wasn't for the blue twine... we would...honest!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Our House in Brittany...The Simplest of Pleasures...

In the UK we have a town centre house on the Sussex coast. Life around us is what you you might expect from our position... articulated trucks make TK Maxx, Sports Direct and McDonald's deliveries at unsocial hours, revellers walking home after late licence bars fold in the early hours... We've even had inebriated folk nestling down in the corner of our garden to sleep it off. This is probably one of the aspects that makes our house in Brittany such an oasis by comparison. There you can hear a pin drop during the day in lulls between bouts of birdsong or watching the circling Buzzards, the murmurations of Starlings - I think that's October... and, of course the 2 or 3 tractors a day which seem to be far more plentiful than cars. I even saw Peregrine Falcon parents teaching their offspring how to hunt, plummeting down at 100mph and then pulling out to ascend and do it again... then their kids having a go... A magical day. All are a welcome alternative to the domestic UK entertainment of rolling 24 hour (bad) news... back to back programmes about folk trying to decide whether to move to Australia or not. Others regretting their tattoos and body piercings and others wanting to display their own embarrassing bodies - all very graphically played out. Lovely! We don't have TV of any description in Brittany... French or English. Well, actually we do take a Humax recording box and have an old telly to watch stored programmes on... So that might be watching The Commitments for the 100th time or documentaries about Squeeze... Steve Winwood, Clapton, Hendrix or Springsteen...
As the antidote to all of the annoyances of home, our house in Brittany, was a rare find indeed, at a price that meant we just couldn't walk away without going into overdrive during the last few hours of a 3 day viewing trip...The last of three. So, possibly 15 or twenty properties were viewed before happening upon this one. Even getting the opportunity to view it had taken us by surprise. We got back to our digs to return a large scale map we had borrowed and to bid farewell before making a dash for the channel port and home. It was back in the days when the French system for UK residents making expeditionary sorties to buy property there hadn't really been catered for properly by an emerging agency infrastructure... Of course, 16 years down the line, things have changed radically.

At the end of what we thought was a well planned trip that had gone ragged toward the end, we had found our house more by chance than by design. The house had been lived in 3 years earlier by a lone elderly lady, Madame LeRoy, unable to tend to the three quarter acre garden for perhaps another 7 years before moving to a nursing home, so it was massively overgrown.  A barn, just 25 metres from the house, was completely invisible, overgrown with Ivy, its roof slate covering punctured by Elder saplings. It was very much more akin to a day in the undergrowth with Davy Crockett or Jacques Cartier than viewing a property via Right Move or Zoopla.  So Rick (our B and B host) asked, when he opened his door to us for the last time... "Well? What was it like?" - "Brilliant" I said... we had both agreed as we drove back to his place... We had 'buzzed' about the prospect of maybe buying something with so much potential. "There was a window open to what we now know as the kitchen, so we climbed in and had a look round"...
"Amazing! What are you going to do then?" What we actually did was attach our video camera to Rick and Lynne's TV and watch our antics as we viewed and as we overcame the undergrowth and trotted in blind panic through the house which, to all intents and purposes, could have been occupied by someone with a shotgun and an intent to use it! We had already had a similar experience further south during an earlier trip...more later probably. It looked very much like a Marie Celeste situation where, in the dining room, there was a card table canted over on one corner where a leg had given in to woodworm - a chess board and playing pieces scattered on the floor. The camera careered up a rickety barn style staircase to the first floor - into a room sectioned into two. The communicating door creaked as `I pushed it open - camera in hand - to reveal two single mattresses on bare wooden floorboards... a hurricane lamp between them and crocheted woollen blankets cast aside by the last occupants. Who, we wondered, had been here? Squatters? Maybe, but it looked too tidy for that... although the window was open. Grandkids of the last owner enjoying an end of exams break at "Gran's old house"? More than likely, "yes", but there was none of the teenage detritus, beer cans, food packaging... no evidence of anyone skinning up. The rapid and rickety tour scuttled on through a door and up a spiral staircase to a loft where oak boards roughly laid looked anything but of weight bearing capacity... Thus the video camera zoomed shakily and speedily around the house and garden into and out of the barns suggesting quite definitely a feeling that we felt we shouldn't have been there at all. And it clunked to black and clipped to silence to leave just the rapid breath, beating chest and scuffling at our car door out in the lane. The video at an end, Rick said... "Well that's it then! You can send the Notaire a fax (ahh those were the days) and offer the asking price and... It'll be yours!"

And so it has become. And since that time, 16 years ago, we have enjoyed snatches of very special quality time at Le Roz, relaxing (well sometimes) renovating, gardening, walking, cycling, rambling, foraging for wood for the woodburners, sight-seeing... exploring, visiting agents... finding new ones...sampling restaurants, running our websites and very much enjoying life!

Chris Slade
Drone Photography: Benn Slade

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

A Quick Look at the French Property Buying System...

What's in store if you find a house you want to buy...
There are a number of ways you can house hunt in France...

•  Visiting Notaire's offices in whatever region, town or city you are drawn towards.

•  Visiting Immobiliers whose websites you may have found....

•  Driving through areas of the country that have an appeal and calling into
   Immobillieres or Notaire's offices on spec.

•  Surfing the internet and browsing property portals and websites. It is so very convenient... 
But it's good to know who you may be dealing with and a little (if not more) of how the system works.

You've happened upon this article because you're looking for a house using the latter method. That's great. Naturally we think we offer a comprehensive and well informed way of viewing... allowing you to scan through a thousand or so properties across Normandy and Brittany from the comfort of your computer, laptop, tablet or smart-phone. We work with around 20 agents across both regions and have done so since 2002... after we found out for ourselves in 1999 how ad hoc and 'full of holes' the system at the time was. All the agents we work with are fully registered and operating legally under French law (it's good to check this kind of thing). Our agents are English speaking and all can help you through what may seem initially a complicated system. It isn't. It's just what the French have been up to for the last five hundred years and it works very well. We place a contracted agent's properties on our sites as well as it appearing on those of the agents with whom we work...and, when clients make contact with us we make appointments for them to view in the most sensible order without crowding too many into a tight schedule. Let's have a look at a typical client situation... Let's assume you have travelled to view and fallen hook line and sinker for a house that looked worthy of viewing when you saw it on a website and can now be sure that it's what you want... because it isn't surrounded by intensive chicken farming sheds or on the edge of an industrial estate...

ALL PROPERTY TRANSFER IN FRANCE IS HANDLED BY A NOTAIRE. The Notaire is an employee of the state and it is he/she who must oversee the transfer of property between Vendor and Purchaser. It's similar, but not identical, to what goes on in the UK - except you don't have to panic yourself witless about how slowly things appear to be happening because in France - it happens when it happens! But there may seem to be a 'maƱana' element about things. In the UK you may get on to your solicitor to see if you can hasten the process. In France you should and will, quite naturally, direct enquiries through the agent/Immobiliere. In France the Notaire acts for both parties. That's always a surprise for buyers from the UK. Our own experience was very straightforward - without any reason to be concerned about this or anything else. We have seen problems occur when purchasers have involved their own solicitor back in the UK or having insisted that a second Notaire acts for them whilst the Vendor too has their own Notaire. The phrase "when in Rome... rings true for a smooth transfer." Merely make sure that the agent is fully aware of all your needs and wishes (in writing if you wish) and then listen out for these wishes to be brought up at the main points of signing the documentation. The Notaire also deals with all of the searches. Incidentally - in the event of two Notaire's working on a property transfer then they split/share the charges and so the cost is no greater than just one Notaire being involved

THE OFFER to BUY So... you have seen something that looks just right for you and you have expressed your interest to proceed to the person who has shown you the house. Maybe you've even made an offer of a price lower than the one advertised. Be careful here because it is only an offer of the full asking price that secures the house irrevocably as yours... In France, strictly speaking, if you make an offer to buy in the presence of the vendor and they accept - then that constitutes a contract... So be a little reserved and show your enthusiasm to the agent when you are back in the car or at their office. In some instances the buyer may be asked to sign a pre-printed form known as an offre d'achat (offer to buy)... This establishes your interest... and signals the need to proceed to...

THE COMPROMIS de VENTE Legal documentation is drawn up by the Notaire...And the first document in the buying process is The Compromis de Vente. You will no doubt have heard this term before. This is the document which must carry the Vendor's agreement to sell at the stated price, what is included buildings and land etc., and any exclusions... special stipulations regarding the compromis being signed subject to funds being forthcoming from a lender (the law always assumes that a mortgage will be being sought). It's an agreement also on behalf of the Purchaser to pay the price as stated... So, it's a contract between both parties to proceed at the figures agreed. There is a 7 day Cooling off Period.(for the Vendor the Compromis is binding and there is no going back). But the signing of the Compromis is the time when the deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) will be required - and if the cooling period elapses and there has been no formal withdrawal in writing then that deposit will be forfeited. The Compromis can be sent to the purchaser (back to their current home address) for signature and returned for the process to continue to the Acte Finale...

STRUCTURAL SURVEYS For many years there did not appear to be a parallel profession in France to that of the UK's Structural Surveyor within the buying process... The rule seemed to be... "you like the house... you go ahead"... but things have changed... the buying process has now legally to include a survey which will establish the state of the property in terms of the presence of termites, the presence of asbestos, and the energy efficiency of the building if it has a system of heating. Electrical wiring is also a concern - any new installations must be passed by EDF... The Septic Tank (fosse septique) must also have passed a survey and it must be what is known as 'all water'. Here's an instance of the reluctance of French property owners to observe the deadlines for conforming to new regulations... Let's just say that the winning post keeps on being moved further away from the 'start'. An all-water fosse is what you want and it is the seller's responsibility to see that it has been done. We can supply contact information regarding Surveyors (usually ex-pats themselves) who have set up in business on the French side.... where more and more buyers are arriving from Great Britain too - so it's a system that works for all parties. Some feel more comfortable doing it this way. Also there are many builders (and ancient buildings are a lot easier to 'survey') who are prepared to offer their advice and guidance and follow on building services. We know a few of these too.

THE ACTE FINALE Between the signing of the Compromis and the more formal Acte Finale (on average this can take between 8 and 14 weeks)... our own signing was 4 months after the Compromis because 7 brothers and sisters, who by then were in all corners of not just France but, the world, had to agree the principle as well as the figures and sign and return the documentation. By and large the searches in France take a similar time as they would in the UK.

NOTAIRE'S FEES These are regulated by the French Government and vary according to the price of the property (a sliding scale which reduces in percentage as the value increases). Also - even though the fees are referred to as Notaire's Fees, in fact the fees that the Notaire finally receives are around 1%. The remainder covers stamp duty, registration taxes and disbursements.
  • Older Property - The total fees and taxes payable for the purchase of an existing property are between 7% and 10% of the purchase price, excluding estate agency fees, although for very low priced transactions it may be higher.
  • New Property - You will pay around 2% in fees and registration taxes, plus VAT at the rate of 20.0% (remember that's on New Property not old) on the purchase price (except for sales between private individuals), excluding estate agency fees.
Are you still with me?...It's worth saying here, because the process sounds complex (as does any when you begin to study the legislation in detail) that you should not feel nervous, confused or vulnerable.

In fact as I have understood it over the years it is the French government's taxation differential between new property against old (it's the age which has the greater appeal to Brits)...newer property is more attractive from a final price point of view and that has resulted in so much 'ancient' housing stock (shunned by many French)... the older, dearer by comparison, still very attractive from our side of the channel...being very attractive... in other words - their loss is our gain. See also the section below... headed Making a French Will.

The Acte Finale itself has, in the past, always been a meeting held at the Notaire's office where the document is read through in full and, at the end of each section/sub section all parties must initial to indicate that they have seen and understood the clause concerned and then, on the final page, to sign and date their approval of the whole document... (a lot like a police statement... But I swear I can't remember how I know that...officer!) After that there will be a trip to the nearest bar to seal the deal with a drink. Actually that last bit isn't strictly adhered to anymore. Traditionally both parties - buyer and seller, would both be present... In our case and that of many - especially in the case of an executor's sale - the vendor might nominate a proxy to sign - sometimes an employee of the Notaire may sign on behalf of the vendor and often, in some cases the agent or another proxy, may sign on behalf of the purchaser...All of these eventualities, of course have to be covered by letters of authority to cover the deputisation element of things.

INHERITANCE: Making a French Will. This is a good idea for the simple reason that your property in France (if you live there) will be part of your world wide assets. If you live elsewhere but own property in France then French Inheritance law affects the house you have there

1. If you are a resident in France these rules will apply to all of your worldwide assets, except for property held abroad - somewhere else other than France; if you are not a French resident, then it will apply to all real estate you own in France

2. The inheritance laws discussed below are those that apply in an intestate inheritance or, in the absence of prior inheritance planning measures being taken

3. Only that element of the estate belonging to the deceased is subject to inheritance laws. In the case of a married couple, it will normally be 50% of their shared/joint wealth.

If you were  to die leaving your  spouse as survivor and two children, the spouse will receive 1/4 of your estate and the children 2/3 of your estate, with the remaining 1/12th freely disposable, e.g. to your surviving spouse.

These rules apply in the absence of any inheritance planning steps having been taken, such as a French marriage contract, purchase en tontine, a will or gifts etc.
If you were to die leaving no spouse but two children, the children will automatically be entitled to two thirds of your estate, and you are free to dispose as you wish of 1/3 of your estate.

Accordingly, it is possible to increase the rights of the surviving spouse, but this requires that some prior inheritance planning steps are taken to bring it about..

The watchword probably should be... best advice is a French will to act as an adjunct to any arrangements may be necessary. 

NB:- My notes above on these matters are by no means comprehensive... they are a quick guide to the salient points. There are nuances which may have to be addressed in specific cases which differ from the norm and any specific elements or peculiarities should be addressed to the agent with whom you view the property and/or with whom you sign the initial offer.

Our Service is Free of Charge to the purchaser (and vendor as it happens)... Our service of introduction to the agent responsible, on whose books the properties you have seen on our websites - which you may have elected to view are covered by a commission only payable after the signing of the Acte Finale.

Chris Slade - A House in Brittany Limited (February 2015)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Is it any Wonder That Brittany is Such a Passion?

For seventeen years now we have been to-ing and fro-ing between Worthing in Sussex and our house in Brittany. It's fair to say that we've had our money's worth. And, since it cost us £12,000 just 10 weeks after we first saw it, then each visit has cost us just £125. Brilliant! Mind you the cost of the ferry crossings would buy the house twice over and on the way to a third! Eek! And then there's Cost of the renovations...

Well I don't suppose we have spent more than a total of £75,000 including the purchase price. And the joy we get from each trip is immeasurable... from simple walks along the towpath of the Rigole to the Son et Lumiere at The Abbey of Bon Repos (it's an annual must to see if I can improve on the previous year's photographs). Even in December we have eaten lunch in the garden...on the magic bench ... Evenings having had dinner or barbecuing fresh sardines under the tenty thing in the courtyard and probably having just a little too much to drink is always a very pleasant way to spend an evening (can't wait for May or June - for being outdoors I mean) well it's been great.

Poking about under the chestnut trees in October or November, looking for the pick of the crop to roast on the wood-stove. Which reminds me... we go for a walk along the Rigole after nights when the wind has been more noticeable. It brings down the dead and dying branches; ideal for burning without the need for two years drying in the barn. If the wind's been particularly punishing we don't even bother to walk, but go out in the truck, because we know we will find enough to fill the pick-up back without walking too far along the towpath. I have been designing, in my mind, as we rummage, a transom, barrow or trailer that we can easily pull, push or trail behind the bike(s) to make the job more interesting and leisurely. But then there is the Wheelhorse! That's got a tow-ball... I bought this mini tractor with it's mowing bed, from a couple who were selling up and returning to UK. It was spluttering a bit when we first saw it - needs a bit of a carburettor service - but I have that in hand and, I must say - it was 200 Euros well spent. I would feel a tad conspicuous on this though. It does make a bit of a clatter and, as round our way you can usually hear a pin drop even during the day, it might just attract more attention than you would want it to when what you're really after is peace and quiet...


There are so many latent projects around this house and its land... At the lane end of the courtyard is a building we call the Baby Barn (Micki made a stained glass window for this little gem very soon after we took over tenure) and, attached to the rear of it, but with only exterior access, is a bread oven (above) ...   Its roof is long gone and its chimney, badly in need of repair at the top - just a couple of the many elements  that need sorting out. Merely keeping the domed brick roof above it free of weeds is an arduous and thankless task... the weeds, it seems, have a special ability to reappear fully during the periods we spend back in the UK. I have rescued some terracotta Victorian pavers from outside the back door of our place in Worthing and some 250 year old slates from the time13 years ago when the back of the house was re-roofed and these are the materials that will give the bread oven new life... hopefully! Rest assured I will be boring the crap out of those who stumble across this blog-space when the first loaves, rolls and pizzas are served at the Chez Slade 'Bread Oven Cook-Out'. Micki said she wants to fire it up on our next trip but I'm thinking that the only fitting time to do so is when the whole thing is back to the way it was in 1765 or so - with an al fresco dining experience to match the cuisine of the day the oven was used for the first time... so pizza is definitely out - but maybe a touch of hog-roast will go down well. The drink of choice in those days would have been cider to wash it down but, for me, the amber and dark beers originally brewed for the coal miners of the Pas de Calais is the only ale worth drinking... Thank heavens these days it's imported into Brittany.

When we first saw the place...


...You'll notice that the garden was a wee bit neglected... Madam LeRoy was unable to handle the quarter acre behind the barns after her husband died... and, in the years since she stopped keeping the courtyard under control, nature was beginning to move back in with a vengeance. In fact there is a barn in the photo above right that, at the time, only really needed re-roofing in order to begin the claw back to become a cottage. Sadly it didn't make it and, once the roof timbers collapsed, the plan had to change and now we want to have it as a sheltered vegetable patch. There is a cart in there which because it hasn't moved in 30 years or more has had a tree grow round its wheels and spokes. I still  haven't removed it. But the garden is a delight and you can bet, even before we unlock the front door on our arrival from the docks at St Malo, that Micki will be dead-heading and weeding as the unloading of the truck is in progress and before the water is switched on and the first cup of tea is made! And then, of course, if it hasn't recently been done she will mow the grass!


 Is it any wonder that Brittany is such a passion?

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