Thursday, 23 February 2017

When Pets Travel Abroad....

Now that I'm almost two... they are letting me get involved!

At last... I have a legitimate reason for writing a (dog) blog:- one that's more about me and my own needs (and my species) rather than just 'the management' here and what THEY get up to - the uprights!... One of the team that I 'work' with (and I use the term loosely) suggested that we should put out some information about the ins and outs of ferrying (literally in my case) your pets backwards and forwards across the channel to France. It's only fair to tell you how it applies to me and our own travel habits... But I will also provide links (at the bottom of this page) to other places that may be of further help. I've been to and fro between Sussex and the Cotes d'Armor around 8 times in the last 15 months so I think I qualify... n'est-ce pas?

So here goes... Rudy Slade... A House in Brittany Near Loudeac, the Cotes d'Armor...

We almost always travel to France with Brittany Ferries. It's a longer sea trip across the western channel (from Portsmouth to St Malo) rather than the cheaper to travel, narrower straits further east, toward Newhaven and Dover etc., BUT the western channel makes for a shorter car journey on the other side for our house is in Brittany - just 90 minutes drive from the port.
A ticket for a pet costs £40 for the round trip... (other carriers may vary). That's the same whether you have a kennel or leave your cat, dog, ferret, rabbit or gerbil in the car. I travel in the van with all the comforts of home... food, water, treats and toys and that's where I stay for the duration of the voyage. The kennels, by comparison, are open fronted (although under cover) but they have metal sides, are quite noisy and the sound echoes a bit and they don't offer much by way of creature comforts... When the weather is bad they can often be windy as they are open to the air and also sometimes are wet underfoot. So, for me, the van or car is definitely the best option. It's obviously up to the pet owner to choose.

Segregation of pet carrying vehicles. The Dockers who marshall the vehicles as they are driven on-board are supposed to make sure that vehicles carrying pets (you will be given a fluorescent sticker for the windscreen) should not be directly next to each other. We heard a story via our vet in France that two dogs parked in adjacent cars antagonised each other so much that they both, simultaneously tore the inside out of their owners' cars to shreds... upholstery, headlining... the lot! So, if you are placed next to another vehicle with a 'pet on board' sticker you may want to have a word before too many more vehicles arrive on the deck making moving to an alternative position impossible.

Dogs DON'T GO on the Passenger Decks or in the cabins. If dogs are ever allowed on the passenger decks it is likely that they will be Guide Dogs/Help Dogs or sometimes on certain vessels when the kennels are not on the same deck as the vehicles (eg: Pont Aven). Dogs are not allowed on the passenger decks WITHOUT a muzzle.

You CAN visit your pet during the voyage. The ferry company will put out a call over the tannoy on board on departure and ask all pet owners to visit to the Information desk to log-in and find out what time visits will be. It is normal that this will be once on a night crossing and twice during daytime crossings. We almost always cross at night so that my uprights don't (for me) add to the trauma of just being in unfamiliar surroundings - but, if it's night time, then I would normally be asleep anyway and so life goes on pretty much as normal. Conversely a daytime crossing, with me in the van, means I will be banged up all day on the boat and then... as soon as we get home they will go to bed and I'm expected to do the same... just when I'm raring to go. So night time trips suit me best. We are very lucky; our journey on the UK side is only 40 minutes and, as long as I am allowed to go for a wee as soon as we are out of the ferry port then I can relax until we get home. Note:- In St Malo there is a parking area adjacent to the exit road right by the beach where you can park either when getting off the boat OR before getting on... where dogs can have a stretch or a run on the beach. In fact it's OK for Camper Vans to park (free of charge) for the whole night before a morning boat. If that suits your uprights better.

So... you are travelling with your favourite pooch or moggie... but - before you do - your travelling pet must be chipped and have a passport with all details of to-ing and fro-ing recorded... That's probably the easy bit... You just go to your vet and get the chip 'injected' under the skin usually on the left side of the neck - just above the shoulder... No pain... No gain! The vet will issue a form to complete in order for the passport to be issued. There must also be a record on the passport of a Rabies Injection having been administered. Following the date of the jab there will have to be a wait of 21 days before you can travel. This could obviously cause a hindrance if you are in a hurry and you haven't taken the necessary steps but it's a whole lot better than having to put your special friend through quarantine for 6 months in a special designated kennels, maybe even a long way from home - which is the way things used to be ! Eek! Some Gerbils don't even live that long!!

At each embarkation point, whether coming or going... your owner will have to take a chip reader from the person manning the check-in cabin and wave it about over the area where the chip was inserted by your vet. This is not a big deal... although sometimes chips may move around a bit under the skin - and, when owners can't find the chip with the machine it sets them off into a bit of a panic but, to me, it's just a bit of fun... I'm laughing with them not AT them you understand... It cracks me up!

Coming Back to the UK from Europe... Your pet must attend a vet before the return journey between 24 hours and 120 hours prior to embarkation in order to have a Tape Worm tablet administered (perish the thought) and to have his/her passport stamped to declare that they are fit to travel. The cost of this is is between 35 and 45 Euros. I know, I know... it seems like a licence for them to print money. It takes a very short time and the cost of the medication is really minimal. But, most vets will give your pet the once over and may offer some advice on anything that looks like it could be trouble... My upright says it's a bit like 'advisories on an MOT' whatever that is! And the passport stamp is something you can't avoid so why not just chill out and make the most of the experience.

That's just about all I know about the ferry thing really... It may sound a bit long winded and somewhat complicated affair but, as you go through it step by step it's all very logical and straightforward. Obviously if you are traveling by air there are additional pro's and con's but I didn't have a lot to do with that when I first took up this traveling lark - even though I did fly from Athens to Brussels (it doesn't half make your arms ache! arf!!) before I took up with this mob... So you're on your own with that side of things... It's life on the ground and crossing the channel that I'm into these days! Cheers for now... Rudy x

btw... Here's a site we came across which offers some advice about pets traveling by air:-

If you're HERE and you don't have a house THERE... Look for one! -

This was me on my first trip to Brittany... How young do I look here? Amazing!!
Take it from me... it's not a complicated process... I've done it loads of times now... including the time when I first came over to the UK from Greece as a scruffy rescue mutt... and look at me now - Seasoned international traveller!

Take it easy... and Bon Voyage!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Snapshots of A House in Brittany

We've watched  a load of 'Do Up' TV programmes (who, buying 'here' in Brittany hasn't?) but we have never seen that what we have been up to in Brittany is anything like any of these shows - with or without an audience... But, after a few 'mooching' trips we found this little beauty and paid just £12,000 for it. What many people would have regarded as, pretty much a ruin - perhaps,  but rather than being able to compact our work on the house into just a few months in an intensive way... or a year or two, perhaps more realistically, we have chugged our way through 17 years of ownership meandering through bite sized pieces of renovation with a few intense phases that have involved a few other trades along the way. 

In the beginning we were flabbergasted; couldn't believe...that a couple of Brits could, with the greatest luck, just breeze in and pick up an 18th Century farmhouse with three barns a well, a bread oven and the three quarters of an acre of land that were left close around it for such a pittance. Even now I have to pinch myself when we are approaching the house as we do 6 times a year journeys there...

The only reason that a house and land like ours could be offered for the price of a Fiat 500 is if there were ongoing plans for a new housing estate to be built. And, I have seen this happen in Sussex; that a house can be blighted by plans for a nearby development... but, as with many things here in the UK they were still asking far too much for a house in the country which was due to be hemmed in by not very nice neighbouring properties... actually though in France new Lotissement (estate) houses are just awful... and far worse than most things built in the UK tend to turn out. So here's a series of before and after photo's of our own project in Brittany along with a continuation of the blurb about the work which still, after all these years is still on-going!

Yes, we've been slow to renovate our house. Family commitments clipped our wings to some extent and, fairly early on in our ownership of Le Roz... (Ker Leroy as the house was known - in Le Roz the hamlet ) we took an opportunity which presented itself to get involved in a business start-up introducing folk to Brittany property which we run from the UK and which, because we always need to be on our toes, we also update things on the sites whenever we are there, also taking opportunities to meet agents and enjoying a low key...very nice time... It has to be said it's an ideal form of semi-retirement.

Occasionally people have eyed, with mistrust, the role we play in making introductions to property in France.... Our position is one I see as an altruistic one. Place before some punters a bargain and they regard you with the scorn they normally reserve for car dealers or double glazing salesmen. Our motives in starting our business at was not money (heaven knows we could have worked out a dozen other ways of doing that more quickly and in greater amounts) and our passion for Brittany is verging on sycophancy. But we wanted to provide a parting in the long grass; a straightening out of what we found was a quite confusing system to those familiar with buying property in the UK. The system in France was not at all well defined back then- at least not for those coming to it from outside. In our own search in 1999 we identified 3 routes to goal and tried them all over the space of 3 trips.

Firstly via Notaire's - those well respected employees of the state,  entrusted with the transfer of property from seller to buyer - dotting the 'I's and crossing the 'T's... Even if you find your house through any other means the Notaire is an essential link in the process... but they are obviously not the only means of finding the right property. The way I sum up a Notaire's role to the uninitiated UK buyer is to say that he/she is like a solicitor (but with knobs on) and even if you have a linguist's 'grip' don't have to run around after them trying to speed things along and/or agonise over when the process stalls or goes into free-fall because someone fails to get mortgage funds or a buyer dies mid-process. And... you only need one Notaire for each transaction - not one for each side of the deal as here in Blighty.

Secondly there are, of course, Estate Agents in France (Immobilieres) although back in 1999 they were (to my way of thinking) very low key. I'm not demeaning the profession by any means - especially as the rules and regulations governing involvement is much more stringent than in the UK. But national chains were by no means as well established and seemed to hang back in terms of projecting French property to the potential UK market. And, I may upset all those hard working Immos, Marketing (note I used a capital 'M') was not a huge skill on the French side. It's improved in leaps and bounds and now gaining real ground... Thanks, I'm sometimes thinking, to the cross-over of UK buyers in France who have become commercial agents and have seen the rise and demise of the early leaders in the business who offered French property to the UK market - principally with the massive assistance of the internet. Without this it would have been impossible.

Thirdly there are brokers, portal sites and forwarding agents (which is what we have become). And, in a sense this is the way in which we found our own house. When we hit the buffers with the two former methods.... we tried this latter method and, because it went so spectacularly wrong we ended up finding our house from the debris of the failed forwarding agents efforts. So, when an unwitting Chambres d'Hotes owner pointed us in the direction of a neighbour in the valley who had just come back from a property exhibition at Birmingham's NEC we accepted the offer of some late evening hospitality, drank some good wine enjoyed bread and cheese, met new friends and... the following morning... bought a house! Obviously it obviously wasn't that simple - there were plenty of twists and turns and all sorts of messing about - but that's why when a further opportunity presented itself to get involved in offering Brittany property to predominantly the UK market we took it and have been making the introductions now for 15 years.

First bucket of water from the rebuilt well! It's better than the mains!!

Monday, 6 February 2017

In a world of uncertainty a HALF PRICE HOUSE is always of interest... n'est pas?

Our House in Brittany • Summer 2016
It's 17 years now since we stumbled across our house in Brittany. In retrospect it was a gift, of course, at such a seemingly very silly price of just £12,000 plus Notaire's Fees and then a commission to the agent who introduced us to the property. Needless to say we were happy to pay a fee for him opening our eyes to what seemed like such a rare find.
Back in 2000 the system of buying in France was somewhat haphazard and, fortunately, things have formalised to make it as simple as buying in the UK (simpler in fact). Although, the reality that you may be buying in another country, where one might imagine difficulties; where you are unfamiliar with customs that full timers over there take for granted - but for you there may be a language barrier for a start - and unfamiliar procedures and systems etc., it's wise to rely on advice from those who have trodden the path before you and who can help to clear up any potential pitfalls.

Our 'agent', back when we bought, was a builder who had moved over from UK to the Cotes d'Armor. Probably more by good fortune than by a well formed plan - he had begun to buy and develop bargain priced houses - do them up - and sell them on. He realised that he was governed in this by the fact that he could only renovate one or two properties at any one time and so decided to build a portfolio of his favourites from the local market and to offer them to an intrigued UK market which he tapped atoverseas property shows in the UK. Then, we happened along right on his doorstep.

We had kicked the wheels on properties found on websites which were (by comparison to to the sophistication of today's world wide web) very fledgling and some extremely rudimentary. And we had already made two journeys across the channel - very much combining enjoying time finding out that Brittany is very much 'the land that time forgot'; empty roads, sleepy villages, great food and drink and properties that would make your head spin in terms of beauty as well as value for money. Our third trip over was via one of the early and, for a while, largest player in the French property market, where almost every buyer with them became an agent... By default, because of a lack of communication and co-ordination we discovered Hal through the B and B owner we stayed with on the night before we were about come back to UK 'empty handed'. Our host, Richard, when we told him that we had had no luck, suggested we should meet Hal, 'He's just come back from the NEC French Exhibition and he's got a book with about 50 properties in it... Half an hour later we were in the vast kitchen of Hal's mill (he'd bought it for £10,000 with 10 acres of woodland and pasture) and subsequently, when he had done the required amount of work and installed a heated pool etc., he would go on to let it for £1,500 per week during the summer months.... So, yes there is money to be made from letting well prepared gite properties to the widening market out there!

Our first viewing was in March 1999...
These tales of cross channel bargains beg the comment... "OK, but that was a long time ago"... and "Things are changing within Europe, so what does the future offer for those buying from outside Europe?" Which, of course, is what those within the UK will be in a couple of year's time.... outside Europe! And, of course, no one can truly predict the future. It's true our buying experience was a long time ago. I have to promote my own thoughts based on common sense and what's been gleaned from our experiences in dealing in French property.  True, prices have gone up with inflation over these intervening years. But there are still some extreme bargains.

The one below is currently available - a 4 bedroomed detached house on 1,276m2 of land in the Cotes d'Armor... 105,995€ + Notaire's Fees - Have a look by clicking the link below the photo...

A 4 Bedroomed Detached Longere on 1/3 of an acre for under £90,000 (exchange rate as at 8th Feb)
I'm sure most people reading this can plainly see that any rural property but near a thriving town, with four bedrooms and a large garden in southern England (pretty much anywhere in the UK) is going to be double/treble... plus plus plus this price- in spite of dodgy exchange rates... Food for thought eh?!

Prices are lowering because houses have stuck on the shelf due to erratic currency exchange rates and political scares and surprising developments Brexit, Trump, ... and the longer term concerns; what about healthcare provision overseas for ex-pats once we are outside Europe?... Seriously, does anyone expect, after all of the hard work of establishing reciprocal healthcare for our (what will be) previous European partners, that these common sense agreements will come to an end? Surely not! And, when it comes to being out of Europe, as a major purchaser of French/Spanish/Italian properties, then prices of already seemingly bargain properties... will fall still further in order to maintain an attraction for buyers from the UK. Right now there are houses for sale within Brittany and Normandy at what might very realistically be regarded as half price.... and lower than like for like in, say, Southern England and even lower than those further north or in Wales.

I suppose it's wise to say, fortunately, that things have changed a lot in the way that properties in France are marketed, although back in the day there was always a job satisfaction element of the 'pioneer' about taking the car ferry and travelling around checking out locations and calling in at Notaire's offices or estate agencies for details of local properties on their books. But these days the quest often starts with searching the web for what lights your lamp... But nothing lights your lamp like a bargain and there are some radical bargains just now... True there are some  political and economical elements that maybe dull the get up and go....but there's nothing like a half price house to sharpen the ambition!!

Chris and Micki Slade have run the property finder sites and since 2002 • 01903 202272

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...