PHOTO, above: I thought it would be fun to show you a sampling of what's for sale at the moment in our area. This country estate , near Mâcon, can be yours for 1.3 million euros.
Since we’ve been talking about the selling of châteaux, it seems a good time to continue our discussion of buying French property. Our first post on the subject dealt with selecting a region, the second with understanding the French real estate agent system, which we think is complètement fou! (absolutely crazy).
When I first went to the offices of the various agents immobilier, I always had my long list of criteria, which was this: une maison de charme et caractère; in or just outside of a village; the village should have commerce, like a boulangerie; gorgeous views; the house should be an old, stone one; a quiet location; a little pigeonnier would be nice, and an outdoor terrace and covered galerie; and a good orientation, of course, preferably south. Oh, and ten minutes from Cluny.
Photo above right: a nicely renovated house in the pretty town of Azé (a wine area), for 335,000 euros. Below: the superb view from the rear of a renovated stone house near Cluny, with garage and wine caves, for 205,000 euros.
Invariably, I would get the same response from the agents: major eye-rolling, and a French shrug. Some were even clairvoyant, finishing my list correctly for me before I even get to the end. As it turned out, all the expats, and French retirees, had almost exactly the same list. "Everyone wants a house like that, and they are few and far between,” they would tell me. “Where are you willing to compromise?”
We learned to add something else to our list: no Fatal Flaws. I can’t begin to count the number of houses we saw that were just perfect, EXCEPT FOR: the electrical pylon looming over the back garden. The TGV that zips by the house every six minutes. The brand new ugly commercial barn, dead center in that nice view. The chicken farm next door. The list goes on. Those pretty photos in the real estate windows? They never show, or mention, those flaws. And sometimes, of course, the Fatal Flaw is the price.
But not for this one: the cute stone house above right is nicely renovated, and only 85,000 euros. Below, this 'craftsman special' needs lots of TLC, but has 4 bedrooms, a quiet location, great views, a raised garden, and an outbuilding with a garage, workshop, and an old bread oven. 134,000 euros.
The moral of the story is, there is no perfect house. Be flexible and open-minded, and prioritize that list (but don’t ignore the Fatal Flaws). Often the first thing to go from the wish list is the village with commerce. Most small villages don’t have any, and ours is no exception. But amazingly, we got most of the other things on our list. And recently, when Nicole told me HER long list for their post-château house, I nearly scoffed. “Hah!” I thought, “they’ll never find all that!” And yet they got lucky too, and found a house that was (nearly) perfect for them—and we are SO happy about that.
Here’s hoping you get lucky too!
( I'm sure our readers would love to hear the experiences of other expats who've bought or looked for houses here in French--please share!)
One last PHOTO: north of us, near Beaune, you can get a house right on the canal, for 190,000 euros.
In the COMMENTS: I was touched by all the lovely comments, many from folks who have stayed at the château. Nicole responded to all with a lengthy comment that (once again!) brought a tear to my eye.
PLEASE NOTE! As of this week we will go into "winter mode" for this blog, which will come out every 2 weeks instead of weekly. Please stay with us!