It’s a big decision, choosing a home in France. A Place in the Sun readers recently revealed their top tips for getting it right.
The French are famous for regretting “rien”, but A Place in the Sun magazine has revealed 10 regrets of its readers who bought abroad and then had a better idea. Don’t worry, they were all very happy to have bought a place abroad, but realise that with a bit more thought they might have made better decisions. The good news is that when buying a holiday home or moving abroad, you can normally correct any early mistakes.
1. Choose your mortgage broker carefully
Your mortgage broker holds your dreams of a new life abroad in their hands – as well as a lot of your personal information – so be careful who you trust. If going via personal recommendation from a friend or contact, are your own circumstances the same as your friend’s? The key words for any mortgage broker are professionalism, knowledge and accessibility.
2. Do you need that extra room and the pool?
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re looking at beautiful French homes, especially if they seem cheap compared to the UK. But sometimes, having too much house can be expensive and hard work and will you really want to clean out that private pool when you get there after a long drive? Have a good long think about how you will use the property before you buy.
3. Don’t wait half your life before doing it!
Apparently 50 is the new 30 and 70 the new 50, but that doesn’t mean you should put everything off. Buying when younger not only means many more happy years in your French home, but you might have more energy to do it all up when you’re younger. On the other hand, you’re never too old, either!
4. Choose your location carefully
Moving abroad is the chance to try something completely different. A townie can try the sticks, a city slicker the suburbs and a country bumpkin the seaside. Maybe, though, where you live says more about you than you realise. So be adventurous if you fancy it, but what are you really like? The good thing about a second home or emigration, you can more easily uproot yourself and try again if it doesn’t work out.
5. Think about street noise
Different countries have different cultures, and in the south of France the evenings are long and balmy. If you like an early night, don’t choose a bedroom overlooking a street café. The good news is that France is relatively quiet compared to the raucous Spanish costas.
6. Sell the car before you leave
However much you love your car, it might be time to say goodbye. A Place in the Sun readers say that the hassle and taxes of getting it registered abroad just weren’t worth it.
7. Don’t begrudge the cost of a lettings agent
We all want to save money, but is your economising a lot of hassle for a false economy? An A Place in the Sun reader in the South of France reckoned that giving the job of organising holiday lettings to a dedicated company was the best thing they ever did.
8. How remote can you take the kids?
Do you want to get away from it all, to get some peace and quiet in the French countryside “loin de la foule déchaînée”, as they say in France (far from the madding crowd)? That’s nice for you, but what about your kids? Unless you want to be a taxi service, consider how they’re going to get around and make friends.
9. Check your mortgage before looking
In the rush of enthusiasm when you decide that, “yes, dammit, after years of thinking about it we are going to jolly well buy that home in France”, you might well rush off to do some viewings before actually getting the mortgage in place. Don’t assume that everything is the same as in Britain, especially when it comes to who can get a mortgage.
10. Don’t rush the layout of a restoration
Buying our primary residence, most of us get the home we can afford and make the best of it. Buying a renovation project in France, or even building your own, is a wonderful opportunity to design how you will live. That’s worth considering over a long period, according to a reader who bought a home in south-west France. Don’t just go with what you know, or what your architect is used to!
A Place in the Sun Live is at London Olympia, 6-8 May 2016. Get your free tickets here.