Neale Roberts from French Entrée contacted us and stated that it is very much a buyers’ market in the Languedoc Region of France. Some of the people who had bought in the region in the past had got themselves into difficulty with repaying loans and other people, who had inherited family property, but lived in a city, wanted to sell rather then move to the region. Apparently estate agents have only recently realised this fact and prices are dropping, just so people can get the cash out of the property; which was good news for us! Once we had supplied Neale with our property specifications (that which we initially thought we needed, along with a “wish list”), he started the process of looking for suitable properties. The good thing for us was that, not only did have Neale looking, but also his wife and also his father, who lives in the village next to theirs – a three for one package deal.
French Entrée put us touch with International Private Finance who specialise in obtaining overseas mortgages. Phill contacted them and spoke to Alex, who was extremely helpful in this regard. A mortgage can be pre-approved based on Phill’s last three years turnover only – therefore ensuring we can be effectively be cash buyers and make an offer on a property once one is found.
In April 2012, Steve forwarded the first of many links regarding France to Phill – French Entrée – which to our delight was a vast repository of information regarding moving to France – no need to re-invent the wheel! In January this year Phill located a link for the French Buying Guide, who also provide assistance to people who wish to move to France. They were very helpful and after a couple of conversations we realised that a move later this year was feasible. They put us in touch with a foreign exchange company called Smart Currency Exchange. They have a system by which you can place an order for foreign exchange at a particular exchange rate and as soon as the rate hits the required value an exchange is performed.
It was at this point we made the decision to open a French bank account. We contacted another organisation called Britline, which is an English speaking branch of Crédit Agricole Normandie. They were very helpful and the Euro account was opened in a matter of day and We started transferring funds into the account.
Via French Entrée we received an invitation to visit the French Show at Earl’s Court taking place over the weekend of 17-19 January. Whilst there we met Fleur from French Entrée who was looking after the stand providing information as to where properties could be purchased in France, based on specific requirements submitted by potential purchasers. She was very helpful and took down the details of our initial requirements to forward on to Neale Roberts, a registered French Entrée Property Finder who not only lives in France, but is very familiar with the Languedoc-Roussillon (Carcassonne, Beziers & Narbonne) area.
From 23 January-3 April, Phill took one-to-one French lessons with Berlitz. His French was rusty, but his teacher, Arlette, kept pushing him and now he is now an intermediate-level French speaker. He intends to resume lessons in June.
The usual painful purchase process was under-way and we were now looking for a flat in the same area where we were currently living (Clapham). We had always fancied living in Clapham Old Town, which has a number of very good restaurants and is handy to the Tube and bus routes. We found a garden flat to rent just 400m (8 minutes) from the existing flat. As we were moving from a two bedroom flat to a one bedroom flat, we had to downsize somewhat – giving items away to friends, various items to charities etc. It was a cathartic experience. With a three week lead in time before completion of the sale, we did the move in two stages, larger items first, then smaller items second. We moved on Sunday, 16 June.
On 13 May Phill has reached the grand age of 55 and on 21 June Steve turned 50, so 105 year birthday celebrations were held on Saturday, 22 June, initially with drinks at the new pad, then on to Trinity restaurant for a slap up meal for 12 (the last supper perhaps!).
Phill then promptly fled the next day to Delhi, India on business for two weeks, leaving the balance of the move to moi! Trust me when I say that when we move next time, everything will be shifted or stored at the same time.
The sale of the London flat was completed on Friday, 12 July. We immediately settled any debt we had and cancelled all but one of the credit cards. We were in the fortunate position of being debt free with cash in the bank! The inner peace that developed was very enlightening.
Phill had been having many thoughts about the process to move to France and had “decided” that selling the London flat and buying a place in France at the same time would be a nightmare, so over a lunch at the local Thai restaurant on Saturday, 23 March, he floated the idea of selling the London flat sooner rather than later. Steve briefly clutched his pearls again and after much discussion it was decided to dip our toes in the property market – jut to see what could happen. We engaged a local estate agent Marsh & Parsons, received a valuation which was somewhat higher than we thought we could get and the flat was on the market – it was sold within two weeks for just under the asking price! Shit, now we have find a place to move to and pack up up 12 years of stuff…
Around the same time we had decided that we needed to look further along the Mediterranean coast as, not only are prices there more reasonable the further west you go, but also to see if Agde really deserved to be at the top of the list. So, back to Paris and then starting with Perpignan, we moved our way back towards Agde. The western area near to Spain was a little too remote for our liking, so we refocused on the Agde area, specifically Le Grau d’Agde and Cap d’Agde.
After looking at Google Maps we decided to return to the region to have a further look and found a gay guest house situated in Le Grau d’Agde called Villa Littoral and decided to stay there for a week. So, back to Paris and then on the TGV to the town of Agde, picked up by Jean and taken to the Villa. This was more our cup of tea – once again, relaxed atmosphere and run efficiency (the clothing optional situation around the pool did make Steve initially clasp his pearls – a residue of his mother’s upbringing!) But by day five he did take his swimming trunks off and the “Great White” (sleeveless top) did make an appearance. The most important thing was that it was within walking distance to a very long sandy beach and many lovely restaurants, particularly on the bank of the River Hérault. When we returned to London, we got excited about going back and exploring more of this area. Had we found our place in the sun?