Updated: Oct 23, 2019
It’s a little over a year since our family first viewed our new home in France. It’s been a fantastic journey, with a few bumps in the road. I just wanted to share our experience in the hope that it may help others...
Viewing: It took about 10 x direct messages via Greenacres to reach the agent selling our home. Foolishly, we were emailing in August. Once we got through, it took another 10 emails to get a viewing. Ask for a cadastral when you view also. Just a layout of where the property is. Agents are reluctant to send you the address. Which is understandable. But a simple outline of a property can save time and hassle. We didn’t a couple of times. Only to arrive at viewing and realise that the neighbours were attached. Which wasn’t what we wanted. A cadastral is usually available.
When emailing agents (or even messaging on Greenacres or another site) always translate your messages via Deepl. It really helps in getting a response. Be patient: things are a little slower in France. Emails take a while to appear. Meetings take a while to arrange. Nothing happens between 12-2pm. But that is fine. That is why we love France. Just stay calm. It will happen.
Research: we visited the areas we wanted to settle in 4 times. Twice in spring, once in the middle of Summer and again in Autumn. I would recommend the same. Visiting an area in the high season vs. low season helps to understand what the ‘vibe’ is like.
Join LOTS of Facebook groups. There are lots of friendly ones: New life in France, Living in France. Look for ones in your local area. There are lots of helpful people within them.
Learn French: we are. And it’s a struggle. And we wished we'd learned more before moving. Do it, it’s worth it. Do it simply for the fact that you will meet many lovely people, and you’ll just want to chat with them. For the official stuff. You’ll often find that the French have a far better handle on English than we do in French. Try and learn, just for the pleasure of talking to people. Because you will meet some wonderful people on this journey.
Get your home on the market: ideally before you view it. We didn’t. And we wished we had. Even though we lived in a property ‘hot spot’ in the UK. It took longer to sell than we would have liked. And delayed everything. The French purchase system can zip along at a pace when everything is in order.
Settling kids into France: we have two little boys, and they have handled the move far better than we could have hoped. Trust in the resilience of kids. Keep talking to them about what is happening. Pulling up maps and even taking a flight back to the UK, has helped us to point out the difference in where we have moved to. They are learning French and love their school. Research the schools by the way. It really helps. Pop into the Mairie’s office and ask for advice and a tour if possible.
Trust in your Mairie: introduce yourself. Ours is lovely and is helping with our future plans. And has put up with our terrible French. (His English is superb).
Making the decision: we started out wanting a grand Chateau. (Who wouldn’t) But over time, and after lots of viewings, we drew up a hard list of what we wanted vs. what we didn’t. There will be things you add on to that list which will surprise you. I would recommend doing it. And getting out there to view somewhere.
Meet the owner: we got lucky. The previous owner showed us around our home. And she has now become a firm friend. If you can, meet with the owners. Get to know them. And stay in touch. The previous owner has helped to guide us through buying her home and settling in. It’s been a blessing.
Good luck in your search. Bonne courage. You can do it! And thank you for everyone that helped in our questions, along the way. There is never a silly question. If you need to know something, just ask.