Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Let there be light........

The day to make our next trip to Saint Malo finally dawned and having loaded up our car with what we thought were essentials for our first few nights in the apartment (namely a bed) we headed for the ferry.

We had arranged to meet the agent the following morning as, as is customary in France the purchaser has the opportunity to view what they are buying on the day of completion.  Although we were excited by the prospect of owning our first French home this visit was something that Stephen had certainly been dreading.  We had been told that the apartment would be stripped of its furniture and in the best French way it would be “lightbulbless”, “curtain and curtainpoleless “and “carpetless”.

Stephens’ worst fears were realised and in its bare state, the apartment looked far worse than it had done before.  It was evident that this was going to be far more than just a paint job, it was a particularly low moment but we were committed so we had to bite the bullet and press ahead.

We were due to meet our Notaire in his offices that afternoon.  Our agent accompanied us so that he could go through everything and make sure that we were happy.  I wouldn’t say that happy was the word that Stephen would have used but we said yes anyway!  Our Notaire had prepared a stack of contract papers about 2 inches thick and we knew from past experience that we would be required to initial each page – back and front – and add the now well used words ‘je suis connaisance’ to ensure that we complied with legalities.  Needless to say we were there sometime. 

Because we were using our own Notaire (often in France the Notaire acts for both vendor and purchaser, in effect he or she is really working for the Government), we had to travel to the vendors’ Notaires office to sign the final Acte de Vente.  Our agent had said that he was not returning to Saint Malo so our Notaire kindly offered to drive us and drop us back in Saint Malo - kind indeed until we saw that the vehicle he was driving was an ancient soft top jeep – It was the end of November and of course we had no clue as to where we were going.  We set off….

The Vendors’ Notaires office was in the middle of nowhere and took an age to get to – especially as our Notaire didn’t really know where he was going and had no suitably sophisticated navigation devices in his ‘jeep’.  We eventually arrived, a little shaken up and a tad concerned that it was approaching 5pm and we were not sure how much longer things were going to take.

We were ushered into a tiny office getting the feeling that there was some element of flapping going on with the two Notaires and the vendor.  Much raising of voices and hand waving was evident – we were clearly unaware of what was going on so sat and waited it out.  Twenty minutes later our Notaire came to collect us saying that there was a problem – what now we thought?  It transpired that we had not kept any of the envelopes for the documentation that had been sent to us via registered and recorded post (We now know that these should be kept to comply with timescale regulations in terms of ‘get out clauses’ and ‘cooling off’ periods).  Our Notaire explained that we could not proceed unless we signed several more documents to say that we were content that everything had been done correctly and that we were willing to continue without the dated envelopes.  Of course we were and of course this required several more pages of initialing and ‘je suis connaisance’ ing.

Eventually we were ready and moved into what seemed an even smaller office for the seven people that were required to finalise the completion, the two of us, the vendor and his father, the two Notaires and our agent.  What ensued was basically a reading of the entire contract of sale with a requirement for additional initialing from time to time.  Finally, after an hour and a half had passed and we had mused at some rather comical translations from our Notaire, ‘dirty water cables’ for sewerage pipes for example we were ready to sign the final document.  Keys were passed over and the deed was done!

Much congratulating ensued and after all of this it was just before 7pm before we finally left, got back into the ‘jeep’ and returned to Saint Malo.  A little bemused but happy, despite the state of the apartment.

We picked up our car and drove through the narrow streets to our apartment.  It was decided that as it was so late a minimalist approach to our first night was required so we opened up the apartment, carried a mattress and a box that contained a kettle two mugs and the necessary coffee making equipment up the stairs, set up camp in the bedroom and made very grateful use of the only thing that had been left in the apartment; a very ancient, battered and paint covered desk lamp. 

Let there be light – and there was …………..


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