22 June 2009


On Friday we handed the key back so that he could get on with the surveys, namely a lead survey and an energy survey.
Our stay in the gite was due to end on Saturday 28th August but M. Duport said that we could stay an extra 3 nights, until the Tuesday morning. The imobilier's office was normally closed on Mondays but Antony arranged to open "exceptionellement" in the afternoon so we could meet and sign the important documents before we left France.


The old town of Descartes

The compromis de vente is the document that seals the deal when buying a house in France. It contains details of the building and the land plus anything else included in the sale. Once signed a 10% deposit has to be paid. At this point the vendor cannot back out or change the price. The buyer can put conditions into the document allowing for him or her to back out of the deal.

In our case we included the condition that we would be able to raise the funds (the most usual condition if a mortgage has to be obtained) and that the repairs for the roof would not cost more than 10,000 euros (about £7,000 at the time). A copy of the document is then sent to the buyer's home address and once it plops through the letterbox, you have 7 days to change your mind. After that you are committed to the sale and would lose the deposit if you backed out.

The autojumble at Le Grand Pressigny

Antony was brilliant and got everything organised in super quick time.  Estate agents' fees are substantial in France and are paid buy the buyer. Hence all the cloak and dagger stuff about properties for sale - many agents will get you to sign a document to say you have seen the house with them so that they get the fees, not one of the other agents who also have it on their books.

We wandered past the cottage on Friday and there was a car parked outside.  Over the course of the weekend various cars came and went. These turned out to belong to the surveyors and then, to Mme Beranger herself. Our neighbour offered to introduce us but we declined. We didn't want to get into any discussion about buying her furniture, largely as our French was not good enough for such a conversation. She was there for the weekend and for the meeting on the Monday.

Over the weekend we entertained ourselves by doing some sightseeing. On Saturday we went to Chinon and treated ourselves to a nice lunch in one of the many smart restaurants there. I think we both needed to see the town one more time before we committed ourselves to buying the cottage in Le Grand Pressigny - Chinon had been after all our first choice for location but we had abandoned it when we couldn't find a suitable house.

On Sunday we went to the vide -grenier at Chaumussay. This was a big event and in a very pretty village. We had a great time weighing up all the stuff that was for sale - there was an awful lot of junk but as always there were some really nice things and, now that we had somewhere to put it, we were very tempted. Somehow we managed to be sensible and resist. The ink wasn't dry on the paper yet.

The village of Chaumussay

By Monday morning we were feeling very nervous. So many people had told us tales of how complicated the buying of a house in France could be but I thought it couldn't be that difficult otherwise nobody would do it. And we already knew personally several people who had done it and lived to tell the tale. To pass the time and take our minds off it a bit, we went to Loches in the morning, had a look around the chateau and a good lunch to put us in the right mood.

Loches from the chateau

We arrived at the office to find Antony, his colleague Phillipe, a local restauranteur who spoke good English and had been asked to come and interpret and last but not least, Mme Beranger the vendor. They were all looking very serious and I thought for a fleeting moment that Nick might make a run for it. But no, we sat down and got straight on with the business.


The bridge at Descartes

All the details were explained to us by Phillipe in French and then the restauranteur in excellent English.  Every page of the huge document, the compromis de vente, had to be signed and annotated by both of us with the words "prix compris" - price understood. Then Mme Beranger had to do the same. This took quite a while and then - it was over. There was lots of hand shaking and then we were out on the pavement in the sunshine. We said goodbye to Antony, congratulated him on doing a fantastic job and headed back to the gite to pack.

So that was it.

Leaving Portsmouth as we set off on this adventure two weeks before, I never thought it would actually happen. Not so soon anyway. We had bought a holiday home in France.


Grande Rue at Le Grand Pressigny

We had discovered a corner of France that we had never noticed before. We had enjoyed staying in a fabulous gite. We had glimpsed peoples' lives as we were shown around their homes. And we had bought a little house of our own and made some new friends.

20 June 2009


On Wednesday 22nd August Antony the Agent, our Angel Number One, phoned us in the afternoon with the news that Mme Beranger, the vendor, would accept 1,000 euros more than the last person had offered. This meant the house could be ours. We were filled with so many different emotions; euphoria, fear, excitement, panic.................


We dashed into Descartes to see him in his office to confirm our offer and talk about the next step. I asked if we could possibly trouble him with a third visit to check a few things out. We came away with the key !!!

We had arranged to meet Barrie and Lucie in the bar to tell them how we had got on. To their absolute amazement, we dangled the key under their noses and off we all sped up the hill to the little cottage to have an unchaperoned look around. It was chucking it down with rain and almost dark but the little house welcomed us in. It was full of huge old French furniture and "brocante" but it felt wonderful to be there within what would soon be our own four walls.

We skipped back down to the bar and celebrated with a few glasses of the PreHisto's best Vouvray.

The next morning, as soon as it was polite to do so, we went back to the house to have a proper look round, armed with tape measure, notebook and camera. The sun was shining again. The one room downstairs had no windows, only three doors; the front door with an old fashioned shutter over it, the french doors to the terrace and the glazed door to the little kitchen extension on the side of the house.   There had been a large window in the room which was still there on the outside but was blocked up and plastered over inside.


They agent had told us that Mme Beranger wanted to know if we would like to buy any of her furniture. He then told us not to offer anything for it as she would probably leave it all anyway!  We sincerely hoped she would NOT just leave it all.  Although some of it could no doubt be useful we didn't want to spend our first few holidays there sorting and disposing of stuff we didn't want.

There was only one item in the whole house that I would have liked: a white china cake stand, shaped like a daisy. When I had mentioned this to Antony, he said "take it, you have bought it with the house". I was horrified - to me that would simply have been stealing. Daft, I know, but it's the way I was brought up - you don't take anything without asking first.

As we came away from the house, the neighbour asked us in to take a "petit thé ou café" with her. It was an interesting half hour as we used our best school French but we managed to tell her that we would be buying the house. 

The next day, Friday, we handed the key back so that various surveys could be done. This is where things things really started to get serious. The process of buying a house in France is slightly different from in the UK and in many ways better, we thought. Once the deal is struck it is difficult for either party to back out. 

15 June 2009


Down by the river at Abilly

Tuesday 21st August 2007 dawned bright and sunny but there were ominous grey clouds around. Armed with our new umbrella we went to Descartes to meet Antony the agent, our Angel Number One. He had organised three viewings for that day.

The first was at La Guerche, a charming little village not far from Le Grand Pressigny, with a medieval château but little in the way of commerces. As you go over the bridge into the village from Le G P, the house we looked at is on the left. You can't miss it. The bridge was built after the house and the road comes half way up the windows.

House number one at La Guerche

Not for us, that one then. Nearly two years later I believe it is still for sale.

The next house was at Abilly, another attractive little village with the river running alongside the road and a few commerces. We already liked Abilly.

The house was right at the top of our budget and was lovely.  There was a reasonable sized garden with a potager, rabbit hutches at the end of the garden and a spectacular view of some distant château. In the cellar, apart from the eau-de-vie still, there were neat rows of bottled fruit, preserves and wine on the shelves.

The store cupboard in the cellar at house number two

Outside, there were not one, or even two, but three cottages that came in with the house. All for "doing up". Antony hinted that there had been some discussion recently that the vendor might separate the sale of the main house from the dépendances but that might take some negotiation. For negotiation read aggravation, time and frustration, I thought.

The three spare cottages that came with house number two.
Note the external access to the bedrooms - a ladder!

Not for us that one, either.

I can't remember where the third house was. I just remember that it was unattractive, with a huge garden and orchard, a hangar with a small forge in it.

House number three. 

We then said to Antony that we would like to go back to Le Grand Pressigny for a second look at the little cottage there. I was trembling with excitement as we drove back to the village. We had seen nothing else that was anywhere near as good and I couldn't wait to see it again.

As soon as Antony unlocked the door and we stepped inside I felt absolutely sure this was the one. The rain clouds had drifted off and sunshine filled the one room downstairs. Standing on the little terrace, with the château just peeping over the top of the house and the view from the garden over the village rooftops I felt completely at home.

The view from the back of the house.

We announced to Antony that we would like to make an offer on the house, could he try to find out what the vendor might accept, as we could not afford the advertised price. Tomorrow was Wednesday and he promised to contact the vendor, who lived in Paris and get back to us as soon as possible. We had until the following Monday to sort this out as then we would be going home.

As we walked away from the cottage the neighbour was pottering about in the courtyard. Antony exchanged a few pleasantries with her and I grinned at her and said, "we are going to buy this house". I thought she looked very pleased.