Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Anomalies of French House Insurance ……

We continue to be crossed fingered as we move slowly through the apartment selling and house buying process here in France. …..

Theoretically only 25 days to go as completion is set for Monday 8th April and as the process continues we come to understand in ever more detail the nuances of the French and the differences between life here and in the UK.

House insurance for example! 

We understand that at the point of signing the final ‘Acte’ on completion day we must satisfy the Notaire that we have the appropriate house insurance in place.  Nothing really different there and getting quotations is a relatively straightforward process but some of the considerations and exclusions do puzzle us somewhat.

Buildings and contents insurance is all under one policy which makes life easier I suppose but no value has to be placed on the house – that is not even mentioned in the policy it is just assumed.  Value of contents must be specified however and ‘valuable’ items listed separately;  again no real difference and terms such as ‘new for old’ feature as options here too but how about this….

….. If a house has shutters it must be disclosed and theft claims are not paid if the shutters are not closed for periods of absence longer than 24 hours!

….. Water damage claims from frozen pipes are not paid if water is not turned off at source and systems drained!

….. Fire damage claims from electrical fires will not be paid where installations do not use French materials ……. yet it is not important how old the installation is!

….. Fire damage claims from open fires and wood burners will not be paid if the chimneys are not swept by a professional on an annual basis with appropriate documentation produced.

I suppose that thinking realistically these exclusions are logical and in most circumstances encourage and remind you to protect your property effectively; but one cannot help wondering why houses without shutters are not obliged to fit them and what would happen if a burglar actually stole the shutters or indeed was impolite enough not to close them after stealing your possessions!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Consideration for some of the practicalities of buying property in France……

It’s quite understandable that a great many people who are looking to buy a property in France, particularly if it is to be a vacation home, have had a dream for a long time and in many cases that dream consists of peace, tranquillity, isolation and as much land as their buying euros can get them.

‘We really want a place with land – we feel so hemmed in at home and have always wanted space – perhaps something with an orchard ………  We want to be able to get away to a place that’s quiet and not surrounded by other people – yes we really want to be right out in the country…….!’

We hear this from so many of the clients that we talk to and yes doesn’t it sound wonderful?  But we never want people to make a mistake.  Our job is to work with people to find a property that is a perfect gem for them and so we regularly challenge this dream.  We take our responsibility very seriously and try hard to pass on some of the practicalities of living with this dream and what it will actually mean to our clients.

If it’s right for you land is great and it brings with it some great opportunities.  Properties with large amounts of land are certainly readily available and compared to elsewhere still great value in France.  But if it’s a vacation home, who is going to maintain that land and who is going to keep that garden looking pristine for each time you visit.  It’s certainly possible to employ property and land management companies to do this for you but if you can’t run to that expense do you really want to be spending all of your vacation time, mowing, pruning, trimming, digging and in some cases harvesting orchard fruits in quantities that you probably can’t consume- It’s certainly worth consideration? Would a small manageable garden with a terrace allowing you to sit with a glass of something suitably chilled and enjoy the view be more appropriate and give you more of the lifestyle dream that you have.

Even if the property is for a permanent move – perhaps a retirement, is the land that is manageable now going to be as much of a pleasure in say 5 or 10 year’s time?

Similarly, solitude and isolation have a great attraction particularly if you are surrounded by neighbours at home but consider the practicality of the journey for fresh bread and croissants each morning or the forgotten bottle of milk?  If you can’t walk to even a basic shop do you really want to have to get into the car for these little daily tasks or emergencies?

If you don’t have easy access to a restaurant or a bar, do you really want to get into the car every time you fancy an evening out? And perhaps more importantly, does that mean that the second glass of wine with dinner would not be a good idea?  Again certainly worth serious consideration.

Of course in our job we understand that each client is different and in some cases the practicalities of living with the dream far outweigh any disadvantages but make sure that all the aspects of your new life are considered and whichever way you do decide to go we can certainly help you find the property of your dreams.

And as a PS and certainly an important property tip, just because it’s going to be a holiday home – don’t think that it’s a good place to ‘practice’ you DIY skills.  Even if you think you will never sell on your property, try to get work done to as high a specification as possible.  Buyers want the best value they can get and if work has been done, a finish that is as professional as it can be.  We have seen some DIY horrors in our time and advise our clients that unless they are well skilled and understand French structural nuances to leave work to the professionals either French artisans or expats who have been recommended.  Ensuite bathrooms created in corners of bedrooms from UPVC cladding – I don’t think so………. 

If you do need to do work and want to use French artisans, be prepared for the 4 or 5 different tradesmen it will take to complete a new bathroom for example.  If you can’t be there yourself to oversee the work, don’t just hand over the keys and expect completion – get someone to project manage on your behalf – there are companies out there that will do that for you….