All Things Considered… Pt. 1
I am fully aware that moving one’s life to another country is no easy feat. There are so many aspects of this endeavor to investigate and flesh out before you embark on this journey.
So, what things should you consider first? Let’s start with housing…
First and foremost for us, we needed to find out how viable it would be to buy a house in France and pay for it in full from the sale of our own home so we could eliminate our biggest expense, our mortgage. Unlike many people at our stage of life, we don’t live in a house that we’ve owned forever and is almost paid for. We are, however, in a good position to sell our home, recuperate our initial investment which was substantial, and even possibly make a few dollars. This would give us the means to invest in a new home upon retiring, but where exactly do we want to live?
Like any country, housing prices in France vary depending on the the area and there are 21 very diverse regions in France. I started by looking at property per square meter comparisons for various regions which I found on Expatica.com. We live in a 1400 sq. ft. (130 sq. m.) townhouse, small by American standards though quite spacious for the two of us, but large by French and even most European standards for that matter. Based on the current market value of our home and its square footage, it’s worth about $4,000 per square meter. Whereas, prices in Aquitaine where we are interested in living run about $2700 per square meter. This led us to the conclusion that we could easily afford to pay cash for a house of similar caliber in France though we may have to downsize a bit. Fortunately, it is more important to us to live in a place where we enjoy the cultural opportunities, weather, and our surroundings than to have a large house so that will be easy for us… we’ve done it before.
Next, I set off in search of some reliable French real estate sites that would give me an idea of the quantity and quality of available properties. There are many to choose from such as France Property Shop, Allez Français, and French Property Links. Of course, I will have to sort these out later in the game, but a fairly thorough cross-reference search revealed plenty of homes available in the condition, size, and price range that would work for us. I even contacted one real estate agent (agent immobilier) to make sure a particular house I was interested in actually existed and was still for sale. He was kind enough to respond and confirm that is was, but did not take our relationship any further once he realized we were not immediately ready to buy which was understandable.
The major advantage for us in attempting to buy property in France is that we will be able to pay cash. Currently, France is suffering its own economic challenges and mortgages are almost impossible to obtain. For example, one amazing property where we will be staying next summer, La Manoir La Betoulle, includes a 5,000 sq. ft. manor house, two gîtes (cottages), a large swimming pool, tennis courts, much land, and other amenities. The British couple who has been running it very successfully as a B & B for the past ten years has had it up for sale for the last two years. They have received several offers but no one has been able to get a loan. The asking price… €795,000 (about $1 million) — a steal from our point of view in the Silicon Valley and there are plenty of people here who could write a check for that amount. Of course, we’re not looking for anything like that, but the same is true for smaller properties. Sellers need to find buyers who have cash and, since that is the plan for our next purchase, this situation will totally benefit us. We understand that purchasing a home in France is a much different experience and process than it is here in the U.S. We’ll be educating ourselves on that and I’ll be writing more about that later. I have found a variety of really good resources on this topic. You might want to check out a couple for yourself… France Buying Guide and Expatica.com. And, if you’d like a little further reading about the home buying experience in France, read Diane’s enlightening and humorous post on her blog, Oui in France.
As one French proverb goes… A chaque oiseau, son nid est beau — To every bird, its own nest is beautiful. We are looking forward to finding our own special nest in France.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “All Things Considered”.