Anti-social distancing

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog; nearly two years; so I’ve a lot to catch up on. Some of the reasons you can probably guess… though I can’t really use a worldwide pandemic as an excuse as being furlough from work gave me ample opportunities. Mostly it was an overwhelming sense of frustration, at the consequences of Brexit for anyone in our position, at the glacial pace of English conveyancing and, predictably, the challenges of selling an old house. But… here we are, living in France, only three years after the idea first occurred to us on that fateful holiday in 2018.

Most of the latter part of 2019 and the first half of 2020 were spent re-decorating our house in Yorkshire; in the case of the bathroom twice, as neither of us liked the turquoise colour I initially painted it and ended up repainting it in its original Sage Green. The house went on the market in early July 2020; the furlough scheme giving me plenty of time to get on with it without the disruption of work. Within a week we’d agreed a sale at pretty near the asking price and thought we were all set to be in France well before the 31st December deadline. Alas it was not to be.

Optimistically thinking the sale would be fairly straightforward we’d attempted to save money by using a conveyancer, rather than an experienced conveyancing solicitor, and when our buyers quite reasonably came up with some queries about a number of issues they were not properly responded to. As a result, our buyers lost patience and, in mid-September, pulled out of the sale. This was depressing news as it meant putting the house back on the market with just three months to get it sold and move to France before the Withdrawal Agreement came into force.

Side note… for those who have not been living the consequences of Brexit for those wishing to move to an EU country under the terms of the Brexit WA, we needed to be legally resident in France before the end of 2020 to enjoy the benefits that had been afforded to UK citizens already living here i.e., the right to live, work and join the health system. It’s not that it would have been impossible to move but it would have been a whole lot more difficult.

We duly re-advertised the house and, again, agreed a sale within the first week. This time we engaged an experienced solicitor but this time came up against a brick wall on the other side. Despite our best efforts, and those of our solicitor, the buyer’s representative proved to be uncommunicative, and things dragged on once again. By November it became clear that we weren’t going to complete before Christmas and were faced with a dilemma. Did we wait until the sale went through and then take our chances with a visitor’s visa or go for it and move anyway and hope the sale went through in 2021?

In the end we decided to go for it! Having found a house in France to rent, on 5th December I packed up the car and set off for France and the unknown. Staying overnight in Sussex, as hotels in Kent were closed due to the pandemic, I crossed the Channel into France on the morning of the 6th and began the seven hour drive to the Haute-Vienne, just north of Limoges. Arriving after dark, I was met by our new landlords who’d thoughtfully lit the wood-burning stove and gave me a warm welcome. A week later the dog and two cats arrived and, on 18th December, my wife joined me for our first Christmas in France.

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