Looking for advice- where to live!

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petra85
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Looking for advice- where to live!

Post by petra85 » Thu 15 Oct 2015 15:25

Hello!

My partner and I are moving to France and love the Pyrenees Orientales area.

Does anyone have any advice about nice areas to live- I know this can be quite subjective but we are open minded and can see benefits to either living somewhere rural or in a town... I like the idea of being up in the mountains but with two small children I'm not sure if this is perhaps a bit isolating..?

We'd love some advice about buying a property to renovate regarding areas that are more popular/ vibrant/ beautiful etc. We're not sure about long term plans so we'd like the security (if possible) of knowing we'd be able to sell again in the future should we want to...

Also, if anyone knows of a nice estate agent/ contact that would also be helpful.

Any experiences you have to share or advice would be great please!

Thanks,

Petra

PS- We have a small budget! We're looking for something that costs no more than £25,000...

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Santiago
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Post by Santiago » Thu 15 Oct 2015 16:30

There are a number of threads on the forum asking a similar question. Use the search facility to find them.

PS your budget is very restrictive. A mobile home perhaps but then you would have site fees. Otherwise you are looking at a remote ruin with no services like water or electricity. Even a building plot around here would go for around 80 000€.
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Helen
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Post by Helen » Thu 15 Oct 2015 17:13

Hi Petra, welcome to the forum!

As Santiago said, this is a theme which comes up regularly.

This is the most recent thread

http://forum.anglophone-direct.com/ftopic15106.php

This might be useful too:

http://forum.anglophone-direct.com/ftopic14213.php


Also, just to see what is available across the department for the sum you're talking about, why not try searching on this site

http://www.logic-immo.com




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Post by GrahamC » Thu 15 Oct 2015 18:53

Hi Petra,

£25k is a very, very small budget - even for remote areas of France.

The trouble is that while this might get you a semi ruin in the middle of France its unlikely to get you anything that you would enjoy living in.

Isolation with two small kids is no fun at all. You need to be in a vibrant community which has a school which can cater properly for your kids. A remote backwater is unlikely to provide this.

Remote also probably means no or very slow internet thus further isolating you.

Have you thought about renting?

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Post by petra85 » Thu 15 Oct 2015 19:10

Thanks for the advice everyone- I'll look at the threads mentioned and sites.
We've been looking a bit on le bon coin and found some things that would just about work for our budget, admittedly it's tight! I imagine it's impossible to work out exact costs until at least a surveyor has looked at the property and then again there's probably still the possibility of nasty surprises later on. We're hoping, as my partner is a builder, that we'll keep renovation costs to a minimum.
The point about not being too isolated is definitely something for us to bear in mind, especially as the children grow older...

Thanks again for the help- it's really appreciated.

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Post by petra85 » Thu 15 Oct 2015 19:13

Hi Graham, It's something we've considered, renting before we buy, and if we bought a ruin this would be necessary anyway until it was habitable. We've money saved to renovate and want to try and keep money spent 'living' to a minimum as much as possible!

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Post by CPB » Thu 15 Oct 2015 21:39

As an ex pat mum of two young kids too my advice would be :

Try and find somewhere with good links to activities for kids. If your too far away from their school and therefore school friends you will be forever in the car, ferrying them around. Beware of schools; there are some not so great schools in the PO and you don't get to choose your school like the UK.

Beware also that if you are too remote it will take longer for the kids to pick up the language as they will socialise less.

There are some lovely villages / towns in the PO but as for which may be best for you, only you can decide. And whether a town or village or the city would suit you best will depend on A. What sort of background you are from / what you are used to and what you want to be doing in 10 years time.

The more remote you are the harder work will also be.

Selling houses in France isn't often smooth. It's a long process and it's not unusual to hear of a house that's been on the market for 1-2 years and more. Again the more remote you are the harder it will be to sell.

Finally and I sound a bit doom a gloom but it's best to think of these things before you take the plunge : £25k won't get you far here. The PO is not an expensive department but it's not like the limousin either.

All of that said, it's a super place and amazing for kids but do do do, do your homework first :)

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Post by martyn94 » Fri 16 Oct 2015 14:04

Everybody has been positive, and I don't want to be negative. But the idea of buying somewhere for €25000 is absolute fantasy, unless you have about four times that left over to do it up, your builder partner can live without paid work for a year or so, and you're content to live on a building site with 2 young kids.

Even apart from other questions - do you speak/read French; have confidence that you can make a living? There are very cheap dwellings on leboncoin for very good reasons: they are money-pits at the back end of nowhere.

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Post by martyn94 » Fri 16 Oct 2015 16:03

petra85 wrote:Thanks for the advice everyone- I'll look at the threads mentioned and sites.
We've been looking a bit on le bon coin and found some things that would just about work for our budget, admittedly it's tight! I imagine it's impossible to work out exact costs until at least a surveyor has looked at the property and then again there's probably still the possibility of nasty surprises later on. We're hoping, as my partner is a builder, that we'll keep renovation costs to a minimum.
The point about not being too isolated is definitely something for us to bear in mind, especially as the children grow older...

Thanks again for the help- it's really appreciated.
It's troubled me all afternoon that you think you will find "a surveyor" to look at your €25000 prospective purchase. The profession essentially doesn't exist in France (except for a few Brits catering to the expat market - I don't know if there are any round here). But the answer is likely to be "new everything", starting from the roof and working down. And the "wet" trades are in any case relatively cheap: you can get any amount of block work for the cost of a new fuse board, let alone the wiring.

I mean this entirely kindly, but I do think you have an awful lot of homework to do. As CPB has said, better now than later.

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Post by Santiago » Fri 16 Oct 2015 21:00

I once read that the greatest asset you own is the ability to earn money.

I think you should consider that. If your husband is a good builder, he can probably earn enough money here to rent a decent house for you and the 2 kids while you save up some more money.

25,000€ is a decent deposit on a house, but not enough to buy anything outright.

You obviously want to make new start in a foreign country but you are in a vulnerable situation with 2 kids. It would be terrible to end up losing even some of the money that you have managed to save by buying a cheap wreck. If they were good value, big building firms would be buying them and renovating them for profit. They are not.

I do know people who buy rundown property, live in it while renovating, sell and move on to another but they have enough capital to buy the property, fund the renovations and pay the bills.

Apologies if this sounds judgemental and you have already calculated your buying budget based as a percentage of your total reserves.
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petra85
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Post by petra85 » Fri 16 Oct 2015 22:39

Thanks again for advice etc. Please don't think that we won't do our homework/ visit and visit again- this is all part of it and we really don't want to lose our money/ put strain on our family etc. We trying to get a balance between being informed but not so overly cautious that we don't do the things we'd like to try!

To clarify a few things; there shouldn't be a language problem as my partner is French and I've lived in France for a couple of years before- hopefully this will enable to us to better understand some of process of buying a property etc. We also should therefore be able to find work to live off should we need to during the renovaton and of course afterwards.

Re: our budget, we do have access to approx the same again (£25,000) for living off and renovating- still less than most of you are advising we will need however!

I know this is a forum for PO inhabitants but we've noticed that property seems to be less expensive in neighbouring Aude? Perhaps this is more realistic for us. I've spent time in Aude and Ariege and like some areas very much but I could imagine that some of the villages and maybe towns are not too dynamic (a lot of young french people moving to larger towns and cities...). Again any thoughts would be good?

Thanks for letting me pick your brains.

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Post by Ariègeoise » Fri 16 Oct 2015 23:55

I live and work in the Ariège (and have another - small - house in the PO, which is why I'm on here). It's certainly considerably cheaper than the PO, at least in the Couserans - western Ariège - where I am.

But 25K? Sorry. Not a cat in hell's chance. A broken down village house with nothing but four walls and no services would cost 50 or 60K. And a basic renovation even of a simple structure would cost at least twice that, probably more.

Seriously, if your overall budget is 50K then you have some very serious thinking to do. Sorry to pour cold water on your dreams but to my mind it's just not do-able, even without kids ...

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Post by Gus Morris » Sat 17 Oct 2015 04:43

What's going on here?

A quick look at the internet would have shown that this project is totally unrealistic. The days have long gone when you could buy a place, maybe in need of a bit of TLC, for the price of a new car.. So why even ask?

Gus

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Post by Sue » Sat 17 Oct 2015 08:20

Gus why are you always so rude?
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petra85
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Post by petra85 » Sat 17 Oct 2015 08:40

A quick look at the internet suggests to me that the project is possible... however it's because a quick look at the internet isn't really enough to go on that we are researching and asking the opinions of people already living in the area.

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobili ... tm?ca=13_s

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobili ... tm?ca=13_s

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobili ... tm?ca=13_s

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobili ... tm?ca=13_s

Even if the above properites are out of budget once we properly investigate etc I feel it suggests that we're not being totally unrealistic.

We have really appreciated a lot of the advice but to be honest comments about shacks etc are not very helpful or accurate. I think the internet sometimes allows us to communicate much more rudely than we'd ever do so if conversing face to face which can leave someone on the receiving end feeling a bit on the defensive...

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Post by CPB » Sat 17 Oct 2015 09:53

Gus that was totally un called for and you should be repremanded for being so rude.

Petra, those houses are mostly Aude (or close), there you will get more for your money. Aude (in my opinion) is less vibrant than the PO, but it is cheaper and it's a good starting point for sure.

The last house on your list I would be careful that it doesn't have some sort o agricultural tie. Some properties here do and it is horrendous trying to do anything with them (unless you can prove you farm).

When we moved to France we rented first and boy I'm glad we did, we had holidayed in the area and when we rented we found we HATED it! Quite literally couldn't wait for the contract to end (more central France). Then we moved to the PO and again we rented for 8 months, best thing we did because I know we would have bought in the wrong area. We had earmarked where we liked and where we wanted to live here (I won't say where, don't want to offend anyone in the department who has houses in those villages) but having been here for a while we changed our minds and actually ended up buying in a village we wouldn't have initially considered and I'm so pleased we did. Renting allowed us to get under the skin of the place, to find good and bad schools, and decide finally what we did want as our main living part of the PO (I.e. The plain, the sea, the alberes, the mountains, the city...so many options to choose from).

Re your budget, builders are often wanted in this area and with a bilingual
Husband that will help so so much for him. But I would say that with two kids and a building project I would do my sums based on needing 2 years worth of living expenses in the bank, as it often takes longer to get a business properly going than you think. And finally, if it was me, I would want a rainy day fund / nest egg, if you need to go back to the UK or want to but can't sell here for two years ... have you got a back up fund? (You don't have to tell me, it's a question for you).
Last edited by CPB on Sat 17 Oct 2015 10:16, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Sue » Sat 17 Oct 2015 10:06

CPB has made very valid points in her posts. We bought a mobile home on the coast for holidays before buying here and like you searched the internet for properties. We chose 2 in the Touchan area to view and hated them and the area. Like CPB I would say rent first what can look good on the internet can turn out to be miles from civilization and maybe only 20km as the crow flies from a decent town/city but nonetheless take ages to get there because of a narrow winding road. You really need to be close to doctors, hospitals, schools and childrens' friends. Think about where the nearest shop is for that litre of milk or loaf of bread that you realise you haven't got but need.
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Post by martyn94 » Sat 17 Oct 2015 13:09

petra85 wrote:A quick look at the internet suggests to me that the project is possible... however it's because a quick look at the internet isn't really enough to go on that we are researching and asking the opinions of people already living in the area.

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobili ... tm?ca=13_s

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobili ... tm?ca=13_s

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobili ... tm?ca=13_s

http://www.leboncoin.fr/ventes_immobili ... tm?ca=13_s

Even if the above properites are out of budget once we properly investigate etc I feel it suggests that we're not being totally unrealistic.

We have really appreciated a lot of the advice but to be honest comments about shacks etc are not very helpful or accurate. I think the internet sometimes allows us to communicate much more rudely than we'd ever do so if conversing face to face which can leave someone on the receiving end feeling a bit on the defensive...
I have to say my heart sank when I clicked on these links. Not so much for the work and expenses needed to make these houses habitable, as for the dismal quality of family life, year-round, in a place that could have houses this cheap. I could only be bothered to look further at the first, Mas-Cabardès. It has been dying for 50 years: population 1968, 388; population 2008, 201. And that's the whole commune, not just the bourg. In the bourg, perhaps a hundred, mostly "senior citizens". Not that I have anything against senior citizens, but I wouldn't want to bring up my kids there.

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Post by CPB » Sat 17 Oct 2015 15:35

From the list you have:

No1 is an hour from Toulouse but looks quite isolated, although there are some small towns near.

No2 is 30 mins from Limoux...not the hub of the world.

No3 is 30 mins from carassonne - you can get pretty much everything there, lovely area but the old part is a nightmare in the summer. The carcassonne outskirts seem to have quite a few Brits and if your only 1/2 hr from the city you'll find families and kids around to play with but you may be travelling quite a bit too and fro.

No4 it depends what you want but the other side of Prades is Isolated with a capital I. If your happy with that go for it but it's not for everyone ... House also take forever to sell there (I'm not sure how easily any of these will sell on, I wouldn't by hoping to sell quickly).

As for the amount of work required with two kids and living on a building site, it's doable and you aren't going in to it with your eyes shut, your doing your research, so I wouldn't panic about that.

You don't say where you are originally used to living : City, town, village, farm, highlands...I would say I wouldn't jump too far from what you are used to. If your used to cities, a town might be a next step but a remote mountain will probably be a very big culture shock on top of a country change, new place and renovation project. Equally, if your used to living in the middle of nowhere then maybe a village is an option but a city may be harder to transition in to.

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Post by Helen » Sat 17 Oct 2015 19:04

So much depends on the size and kind of community you'd like to live within, but for what it's worth this is what I know about the middle two of the properties you listed....

.
No2 is 30 mins from Limoux...not the hub of the world.
Actually, if you like small towns, Chalabre could be OK. It has a life of its own - I've only been once. It was a Sunday afternoon - but it wasn't dead! There are some great outdoor activities all around. An American author blogged from there, over about 5 years. Worth dipping in!

http://www.randylofficier.com/chalabre01.html
No3 is 30 mins from carassonne - you can get pretty much everything there, lovely area but the old part is a nightmare in the summer. The carcassonne outskirts seem to have quite a few Brits and if your only 1/2 hr from the city you'll find families and kids around to play with but you may be travelling quite a bit too and fro.
Again, it depends what you want.... but Rieux Minervois is a lively little town in its own right. It's certainly not remote, nor dead. There's plenty to do in the near vicinity as well. I've friends who live not far from there and over the years I've come to know more of the area on visits various. I can certainly think of worse areas to live!

But it's all so individual - all you can really do is visit and suss the area out for yourself.

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Post by Santiago » Sun 18 Oct 2015 11:54

I don't think any of the properties you listed, or that could be found for under 50 000€ are habitable before doing several months work on them. I know people who have lived in a tent while doing renovations but they also had family and friends to go and stay with in bad weather/winter, and no kids to care for.

So you would probably need to rent somewhere at the start of the project. Why buy anything so soon? Renovation costs a lot more time and money than building from scratch. Perhaps buying some building land and working on building a house in your spare time is a better solution. Plenty of French families do that and banks would be keener to lend you money for a building plot than a tiny house in bad repair.

Alternatively wait for the next round of Channel 4 reality TV programs and get them to help you fund the project :)
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Post by GrahamC » Sun 18 Oct 2015 17:45

Hi Petra,

There are two small appartments for sale in Amelie Les Bains advertised for 69,000. Might be worth a look?

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Post by petra85 » Tue 20 Oct 2015 00:21

Thanks again for advice and the time you've taken to reply. It's really helpful.
You don't say where you are originally used to living :
At the moment we live in a city but I grew up on quite a remote farm so I seen the positives and negatives to both. While the children are young, however, I think life in a village/ small town would suit us, possibly somewhere more remote but in that case I think we'd want to be somewhere very beautiful to make up for the isolation. It's also considering what other people light want- if three years down the line we want to move but nobody wants to be a remote as we wanted we'd be a bit stuck.
Perhaps buying some building land and working on building a house in your spare time is a better solution. Plenty of French families do that and banks would be keener to lend you money for a building plot than a tiny house in bad repair.
This is a good point but we prefer the idea of renovating for various reasons and are looking for somewhere with the roof and 'gros ouvre' in a good state of repair- I guess our visits will confirm whether those places which are advertised as such are actually structurally sound etc.

And I love the channel 4 idea!
There are two small appartments for sale in Amelie Les Bains advertised for 69,000. Might be worth a look?
We'll definitely take a look around here when we visit, looks lovely.

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Post by CPB » Tue 20 Oct 2015 21:19

Sounds like you have every option available to you then, from the city to rural locations. sounds very positive.
Good luck.

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