Retiring to the Charente Maritime ...or not

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Ropley's dream of a blissful retirement to France turned into a nightmare as the couple struggled to get even simple things done such as getting the water and phone connected...

What made you move to France and how long have you lived here?
Hoping for a relaxed life in retirement. We originally intended to move here permanently but now our house is essentially a holiday home because of the reasons below although we have no other property.

Charente MaritimeWhich part of France do you live in, and what's it like to live there?
The Charente Maritime. Good area but boring in the winter.

Open quote. Interviewee gives their moving to France tips When you think you have calculated how much you are going to spend on restoration - double it! Close quote

What is your age?
I'm 76.

Where were you born?
In Liverpool.

What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
Buying without checking the agents words to see there really was a new fosse and there really was electricity and water directly connected and that the telephone points in the house just needed re-commissioning.

Your best tip or advice to other people considering moving to France?

Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
No - speaking French is a good start.

What's the best thing about living in France?
The climate

And the worst?
Things you should know about retiring to France - it is difficult to find factual cases of problems people have when deciding to live in France because most of the publications or news sites make their living because there are people in France to read them! If you send in an article that is critical of what is on offer it is unlikely to ever get published. Maybe after reading this article it could save someone from making a costly mistake. Nearly half those who move to France return to the UK according to recent polls – with a bit of luck we will be joining them as soon as we can sell our house.

About five years ago, having spent many happy holidays in various parts of France we decided to look for a holiday home to which we could eventually retire. The first area we looked in was the Tarn. The scenery here is lovely, unfortunately the estate agents photographs and descriptions were somewhat misleading, and, the sad thing was, having travelled many miles to view, we were disillusioned.

An area we had always liked was the Royan area, but property prices here were just too high, so we tried the Corbiere hills area between Carcasonne and the coast. Once again the scenery was lovely and, after finding several properties which were of interest we decided to buy a large empty house in a small hillside hamlet. Lovely views, lots of potential and we agreed to the vendors price.

We spent several days taking photographs and measurements but had to return to England before the notaire was available for us to sign the sales contract (compris de vende). So, we made a date for the following Friday. Having booked and paid for our flights back to France we were rather upset to get a telephone call on the Thursday from our English speaking agent, to say the vendor had sold to someone else.

This was our first indication that when you are told something in France it does not mean, in any way, that it is going to happen – read on !
After a few months we decided to look again, and began our search on the internet. We found what looked like a lovely house set in a large tree filled garden about 9 miles inland from the Gironde estuary, just south of Royan, so, full of enthusiasm decided to have a look.

The web-site was run by an English estate agent working within a French agency which made the language situation easier. He showed us several houses but we liked the one we had seen the photographs of and encouraged by his comments that the Charente Maritime had its own ‘micro-climate’, was the second sunniest part of France, and that there really was no winter; it just went from autumn to spring.

Well, when you have set your heart on something you will believe anything – we should have remembered this was a French estate agent speaking !
The vendor offered to include the commercial garage next door at an adjusted price, and as this gave us about 2 acres we agreed a deal, and, after about four months it was ours.

Lots of land may look very attractive, especially when the grass is short and the trees are in bloom, but it can look less attractive when you return to your holiday home and find a 2 acre jungle of waist high grass!

So, after some consideration we decided to sell off the commercial building next door and about half the land with it. This was the easiest property sale we have ever done. A handwritten notice in front of the garage and we had three offers within a week. The first one was the usual time-waster you find everywhere but the second guys were genuine and we sold which gave us money for continuing our development.

So now it looked like we were all set, and all we needed to do was get the services re-routed as they went to our house via the garage building. In the UK this would not present a problem, and when, in late 2005 the water board asked us for over 1000 Euros, to put in a new meter and all we would then have to do was to get a registered plumber to connect to the house (50 metres), we agreed and paid up.

Our cheque was cashed and after several calls to SAUR, the water authority we were told the work was imminent. The service was eventually provided two years later, in December 2007.

So, it was December 2007 and, as I had retired we decided to sell our UK house and move to France for a year to see how things went. This we did, and were fortunate to get quite a quick sale on the UK house before the dreaded ‘credit crunch’ played havoc with the market.

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Retiring to the Charente Maritime ...or not
Page 1 of 3 Ropley's dream of a blissful retirement to France turned into a nightmare as the couple struggled to get even simple things done such as getting the water and phone...

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