If all goes according to plan, this time next year we’ll be less than a month away from moving to France. My retirement date is pencilled for my 57th birthday in late August whilst La Reine’s current contract comes to an end at around the same time. If we’re very lucky we’ll have sold our house in Yorkshire and have money in the bank, a date set for the Acte de Vente on our dream French house and a removal company ready to collect our belongings on the appointed date.
Of course, there are many factors outside of our control that could scupper our plans… a ‘No Deal’ Brexit that causes house prices to crash or devalues the pound so much that we can no longer afford a suitable property or causes the French government to take a hardline approach to immigration from the UK. We might find that it takes ages to find someone who loves our current house as much as we do, or something happens to one of us or our families that makes moving impossible.
However, the great thing about them being outside our control is that it’s pointless to worry about them. So, setting all doubts aside for the time being, we press on with our plans. We think we’ve narrowed down our search to a particular region: Poitou-Charentes. This is for several reasons, not least the warm but not too hot climate but also, we like the area, it is reasonably well served by airports and isn’t too far south to make driving impossible.
Talking of climate, France currently swelters in 100o temperatures and looking at weather records things only seem to be getting warmer. Whilst initially we were thinking of the southern parts of the region, we’re now wondering whether Deux Sèvres (79) and Vienne (86) might be a better bet, being a little cooler on average and perhaps offering better value for money in the property market. Certainly, anything suitable near the sea in Charente-Maritime (17) will be outside our budget.
So, what are we looking for?
- Either a large five or more-bedroom house to turn into a chambre d’hôtes (B&B), ideally with a couple of gîtes as well; or a smaller house with at least two existing four or more-bedroom gîtes.
- The house must have a big enough garden so that we can create a peaceful space for adults and a large play area for children complete with in-ground trampoline, climbing frames and slides.
- At least five acres of fenced land, ideally meadow or pasture, so that we can keep three or four alpacas. A stable and an enclosed garden for the dogs wouldn’t go amiss either.
- A swimming pool or, depending on the price of the house, space to add one as well as landscaping, pool house and fencing to comply with French safety rules.
- The one essential characteristic is that the house must be visually interesting to appeal to potential guests browsing the internet and it must have a view.
- It is unlikely that a modern house would appeal to us – our current home is a circa 1700 former inn, but we don’t really want to have to replace all the plumbing and electrics… again.
- We don’t want to undertake major structural work but happy to redecorate and furnish. If someone has started refurbishing or converting a property and has had enough let us know!
- The house should be close enough to civilisation so that guests can walk to the local bars and restaurants but not so close that we are overlooked.
- Within 20 minutes’ drive of at least one large supermarket and smaller shops for bread, meat and other everyday essentials. We’ll be offering table d’hôtes using local produce.
- Within 90 minutes’ drive of a significant regional airport and ideally within reach of a TGV station so that people can choose the train.
We know it’s a lot to ask and that we’ll have to compromise somewhere but at least it helps us narrow down the possibilities. Are you looking forward to coming to stay?