13 May 2009


A pretty courtyard in Chinon

On the Thursday morning of our first week of house-hunting, we were up bright and early to make the trip to Chinon to meet another (our third) estate agent. The route from the gite took us through the village (Le Grand Pressigny) each time and on this lovely morning the market was in full swing. There were people everywhere with baskets of this and that. The whole scene was very jolly.

We arrived at the agent's office at the appointed hour but the agent was late. He eventually turned up, rummaged through his old briefcase and pulled out the details of the four properties we were to view that day. We climbed into his ancient and battered old Renault and off we went ......... in the opposite direction to what we expected.

After a few miles, the agent noticed that his petrol warning light had come on. He asked us if we knew where there was a petrol station. We exchanged knowing glances and suggested he looked for a supermarket as they usually have petrol stations.

The town of Langeais

Then we stopped at Langeais. Not because we were looking at a property near Langeais but because he'd forgotten to pick up the keys to the first house from the office there. Once fully equipped with petrol and the right keys, we set off back again to find the first house. 

After quite some time we stopped outside a modern bungalow with a hand-written for sale sign on the gate. We thought this was odd as we didn't think we were looking for such a modern house. The English owner came out to see what we wanted and by talking to him in English, obviously, we managed to work out that this wasn't the house we were supposed to be looking at althought it was for sale. The agent was, apparently, lost and had no idea how to find the first house. 

He had no map with him but we did so with a bit of furtive consultation (after all, we weren't supposed to know where we were going), off we set again. We stopped outside a really attractive, renovated house, with painted shutters and pretty planters all around. It was somewhat isolated but we started to get excited - it was so lovely that we might be prepared to compromise on our requirement for the house to be in or near a village. In fact I could hardly believe we could get something so nice for the price being asked. That was because it was the wrong house again. 

The agent made a joke about the fact that he had only been doing the job for one month and as soon as he'd made his first sale he would buy himself a Tom-Tom. We had our doubts that he would last that long!


An attractive fireplace for sure

After another half hour or so of touring the flat and uninteresting countryside, we finally arrived at the "hamlet" we were looking for and the house. The one picture in the information sheet showed a smart tuffeau fireplace, giving the impression of a nicely renovated house. As per normal the reality was completely different. The "salon" was a huge, almost windowless room of enormous proportions and completely unfinished. The fireplace was the only nice bit in the whole house. It was not cheap and the cost of all the work that needed doing would put it way over our budget. It also had a substantial garden but within moments of us arriving, the neighbour appeared and offered to sell us his orchard as well!


At least it had walls

Not for us, that one, then.

The Troglodyte house

We had always fancied seeing inside a Troglodyte house - one where the back is a cave and some kind of dwelling is built on the front of it. This agent has several on his books and we thought it might be fun to own one as a holiday home. When we arrived on the doorstep it looked quite sweet. 

As soon as the agent unlocked the door and we stepped in, the smell of the damp almost knocked us over. Inside, the house was very chilly even thought it was hot outside. And literally every room had a cave at the back of it, even the bedrooms and the kitchen. The downstairs hall/corridor was a cave. There were curious hooks and brackets sticking out of the walls and ceiling in the salon. It was very spooky.

The hallway downstairs

The kitchen had mould all over the walls (so did the bathroom). I really didn't fancy scrubbing that off every few weeks so we decided against that one too.

Plenty of elbow grease needed to tackle this kitchen

Next we went to see a house that the agent was really excited about, near Bourgueil. It was another large, 4 bedroomed house on a busy road, with little garden and the usual spare cottage in the back yard to do up. It was in very poor condition and not cheap.

We thought it rather curious that the cottage "to do up" had a better roof than the house.

But the water supply was not so good.

By now it was late in the afternoon and we had truly had enough. The agent didn't mention the fourth house we were supposed to be looking at and neither did we. When we got back to the comfort and tranquility of our gite in Le Grand-Pressigny we phoned the agent we were supposed to meet the next day and cancelled. 

We needed to do some serious rethinking for surely we were doing something completely wrong here. We were certain that there must be plenty of houses suitable for us out there but we had no idea how to get these agents to understand what we wanted. All they did was show us totally unsuitable properties in poor condition and poor locations. Either that or they were in the middle of a farmyard or miles from nowhere. Maybe that's what the British usually go for. 

 An older couple in our French language class were selling up and hoping to retire to France. They had looked at 50 properties so far and not found one they liked. We thought that was unbelievable at the time but now we could see exactly how it could happen.

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