31st January 2005
In August, France is mostly shut down for the holidays, so it was in early September 2004 that we found, via the internet, a list of builders of individual houses. We visited several, asking for brochures, getting responses varying from rude to enthusiastic, so we chose two whose literature and attitude tempted and reassured us. We asked them both for a quote, based on their existing designs but with a few of our own ideas added. One came out to our plot to survey it; this not only saved time but showed they were serious about the viability on our sloping ground. The eagerly awaited personalised plans and quotes gave us a difficult decision. Here's where you go with your gut-feeling! Both were, of course more costly than first thought, but, hey, it's only money.
We spent an exciting afternoon at Maison Provinciale's showhouse, choosing the colours of exterior walls, shutters, floor-tiles, bathroom fittings and wall-tiles.
Next step? Maison Provinciale listened to our requests, e.g. another garage-sized room for use as a music room, and an extra French door from the bedroom to the great outdoors, for early morning coffee on the terrace...
They went away and drew it all up, and submitted it for planning permission on our behalf, even arranged for electricity and water supplies. All we had to do was sign everything and trust them....!
Living and Building a home in the heart of France
We considered getting a French mortgage to make it easier to make the stage payments when required, tempted by the low French interest rates - around 2.5% - while leaving our funds in sterling in offshore accounts offering 5% interest... but in reality with compulsory insurance, having to deposit a hunk of Euros and various charges, it just wasn't worth it. So leaving most of our cash growing in sterling, we changed just enough into Euros to pay for the house, and to live for the next year.
Planning Permission - the Permis de Construire - takes about 2 months for a new build house. Ours was submitted on 15th November 04 and came back approved on 11 January 05. Maybe introducing ourselves and our plans to the Maire, plus that small chocolatey gift to the Mairie at Christmas helped...!
The standard model named Margeride
So, what's happened in the six months so far? How does someone actually get a house built in France? And do they have to speak French to achieve it? To answer the last, no but it helps! Ours is fairly good and improving rapidly, thanks to Laurent's excellent weekly French lessons. It also helps that we self-built a house in the UK in 1995.
This is the one we chose