Friday, 30 January 2015

Canals, Redundant Railways and the 'Greenways' of Brittany - The Voies Vertes...

The French had their own version of the UK's Doctor Beeching. In fact I think our much maligned doctor's French counterpart was probably his inspiration. For, in the early part of the 20th Century (rather than the 60s) when it became obvious that road transport was supplanting railways as the better means of shipping goods and travelling deep into the hinterland Railways were rationalised and roads began to take their place... Knowing the French and their striving toward maximum efficiency they probably combined it with reparation of the roads after World War 2 too (but that's another blog)... So, there was a great pruning of branch lines which quickly gave way to the redundancy of many lines and, of course stations. Stations became houses or town and village museums, business premises and the like and the lines were stripped of their hardware to become leisure facilities. It's a process that, although almost complete, is still going on and being improved.  Of course Green Ways (Voies Vertes) takes in not just ex railway lines but also the towpaths of canals and river banks and coastal paths. With true efficiency the French have numbered them all and mapped them and describe them in minute detail as well as keeping a close eye on their maintenance.

We get a great deal of enjoyment from our own local section of the Rigole d'Hilvern (V8) which runs from Lorient on the south coast to St Brieuc on the north side. Given that we still spend short stints in Brittany that route will do just fine for a few kilometres each day or so. But, when we have the planned camper van and a bike rack and maybe even stay in France for longer than just two weeks at a stretch... Well, look out Jules Verne (he was born in Nantes)... It'll be 'Around the Bretagne Peninsula in 80 days'!

Give us a wave! And Bon Voyage if you get out there too... (btw I got the book detailed below, out of the library recently... well worth buying if you move to Brittany and love to cycle).


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

For those over here (UK)... having a look over there (Brittany & Normandy)... Take your marks!

I'm sure most parties out there, interested in picking up a second property etc., know all about the state of economies and stuff and why therefore you can pick up extreme bargains in Northern France (other parts of France are available). But, just in case...we are at the confluence of some pretty important triggers right now. The UK economy is taking a few people by surprise and really looking up. Those at the top of government will say that they knew it would work this way - to the disbelief and annoyance of those in opposition. It makes the General Election harder to win when unemployment goes down and exports go up and the currency is performing well on the world stage. Things get even better when those across the water are experiencing their worst performance figures, biggest unemployment and their worst currency performance (against sterling) for more than a decade... You also have to set this off against the downward trend of property prices and only the slow likelihood of a recovery and you have the best reason to buy a property in France or Spain. So why Brittany or Normandy then? Well, for a start...for those in the UK it's a very short hop to the nearest foreign shore... the closest proper 'abroad'. There's no 8 hour drive to the Dordogne or twelve stretch to Northern Spain. You're still close enough to the UK in Brittany and Normandy to get back to see grandkids and the family can visit you without much hassle. The property prices in Northwest France have always been very attractive and getting better for the reasons above. Old houses of all architectural types abound especially farmhouses, corps de ferme, cottages... anything that would have been associated with agriculture. Brittany is still very much a bread basket for France leading the way in fishing, shellfish, pork production, raising vegetables... Oh yeh, and potato chips... Brett's factory is on the road to Pontivy! Its scent pervades the air and you can smell it before you see it! So, the agricultural revolution threw up loads of housing stock which because of unfavourable inheritance laws were often left to languish toward disuse... leaving a door open for those lucky enough to spot the bargains which needed to be saved from ruin... Our own house is typical in that regard... owned as it was by seven siblings who couldn't for years make up their collective minds to sell or to keep.

Whether you're downsizing after the kids have left home and are buying yourself that pied a'terre you've always promised yourself for your retirement OR are working and maybe, like us, by dint of the world wide web and other good things, you can work anywhere... then I'm saying Brittany and/or Normandy are ideal... In my book they don't even feel... well...French. My neighbour, when I first encountered him, on the 'three tractors a day lane' that passes our house... "What do you think about an English family buying the house next door to you (there are just the two houses in our hamlet)... He said... "Well it could be worse... you could be French!" This stems from the strong Breton feeling that they would actually be better off governing themselves. In fact my take on it is that over the years the 'ownership' of Brittany has passed from France to Britain, Britain to France and back again several times and there is a bond stronger between the Bretons and the British than there is between the Bretons and the French. My own grasp of the French language is not actually such that my neighbour and I can have fireside chats about the why and the wherefore of this... but a nod's as good as a wink.

The big news of course is... The Sterling to Euro rate is (as of Jan 27th) the best that it's been since 2003 and, with the Euroland economies not performing particularly well, property values are, at the moment, stagnant and many prices have been dropped already and will no doubt fall further in the months to come. Hopefully, for a wile at least, the exchange rate will remain in favour of those buying in France...

Without being hysterical about it... Buy... buy... BUY...BUY!

Check out the Currency Exchange Specialists we work with... Currency Rates...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

So... you've seen the Ideal House in Brittany or Normandy...

Searching for a house in another country, especially such an accessible one as France where the bargains in Normandy and Brittany are abundant (other French regions are available) is probably the most invigorating non-Olympic event you can get involved in! But, whilst enjoying the undoubted excitement of the viewing and choosing process, you may be forgiven for not having given excess thought on what until that point could be regarded as the 'boring' bits... The Funding (mortgage etc., - if required)  and the essential Foreign Currency Exchange process. Admittedly it's something best considered BEFORE you have been seriously smitten and before the agent has seen the whites of your eyes... but these elements form an essential part of the buying process and it would be wise to have your financial ducks in a row before committing to probably one of the most important decisions in your adult life....

Don't do a 'Dave'!
David B (the names have been changed to protect the hapless and the 'innocent') exchanged his funds for purchasing his house in France using his High Street bank. Only after his purchase did he realise that doing so had cost him £9,000 more than was necessary. He was incandescent (well you would be) - But it was too late. He even considered suing them - but that would have just been throwing good money after bad. It's a story that is told and re-told everywhere in our business... One that Dave will certainly never forget a very sobering thought. It all comes under the heading of 'Caveat Emptor' (let the buyer beware).
A dedicated Foreign Currency Exchange specialist could have offered a better informed (and much more economic) choice...and save you (and Dave) between £3,000 & £4,000 on every £100,000k!!

Have a look at our Currency Exchange page to see those we think can best guide you through the maze that is currency exchange...

Currency Exchange you can hang your hat on!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Year...New Blog project...

New Year? It gives you that feeling...what I used to describe as 'best handwriting first day of term! Stride out and realise the ambition that you feel you've been neglecting...too long.

Well, the first thing that strikes me about the beginning of 2015 is that the Exchange rate - Pound to Euro - is the best that it has been for six years! That in itself is amazing. I always find it hard to appreciate quite what celestial elements have to align to bring these changes about but, off the cuff, I get the drift that when the UK property market is up and the domestic market in France is down... the UK economy is doing well and the French economy is in the doldrums... employment figures are rosier in the UK and at the worst they have ever been in France... Then that means that there has never been a better time to buy something in France (not a used car salesman's ploy... honest).

Politicians are always taking a pasting from their electorate, it goes with the territory. And Francois Holland's popularity rating ranks with raw sewage in the flood water, cockroach infestation and Gary Glitter (Eee-ough). And yet - the good ship Blighty seems to be going in the right direction to be able to allow our target market (that's entrepreneurs, lively retirees, builder developers and the 'knit your own yoghurt' brigade - you know who you are) to react well to a fresh new sunrise (cue the bouncy music and the dancing girls) .... It puts me in mind of the early days, just after we started our business... Well priced properties were flying off the shelves and we thought we had struck gold! Recession and investment concerns that began with Northern Rock and 'Fred the Shred' etc., gave the nation good reason to hold their spending horses, served to lock up financial speculation and put it in a deposit account with no interest!. Things plateaued for a good few years and many agents gave up or went to the wall. But now it's 'come on in the water's lovely' and getting warmer by the month.

Francois is looking around for positive steps to stem the tide on his side of the channel and about to undo a career best gaffe by abolishing France's wealth tax which has been one of the sticking points for their economy... discouraging entrepreneurism, stemming ambition and expansion by small to medium sized businesses... The smart money is now on that this will thaw their economy and property prices will begin to rise again. So the window, which currently has a great view, is closing and those who feel it in their bones should not ignore the signs... There's bargains to be had and you know how the Brits like the January Sales!

A House in Brittany

A House in Normandy

Watch out... There's a Banker About!!

Buy a House in Brittany or Normandy - Definitely! But... Don’t do a Dave! Buying Abroad?  Got a minute? Read this... It could sa...