Back in December 2019 NGE and I started working towards the purchase of a little old stone maison in France. When I say old, I mean old, very old . . . about 350 years! The walls are thick, real thick. I love the old architecture of these places many with their worn & weathered render on the outside. From the pictures I’ve seen I assume the concrete look render covers stone. I’ve read where many people set about removing the old render to reveal the original old stone. Not something we’ll be doing in the near future.
It’s a terrace house one could say, not free standing, quite common in many villages & cities of France where the houses are joined. This one, as I understand it – & I’ll do more research when I get there including talking to the old people & the local historian who, I am told, resides in the town – goes back a long way. It has real utilitarian roots as it was originally a large & long stone barn or factory later re-purposed & divided into various sized maisons via thick stone walls.
While the earlier architectural styles of houses in France & Australia are not at all alike, one only has to drive around the inner city areas of Adelaide & closer urban suburbs to see the earlier colonial style terrace houses, some single story, double & some triple story. Of course they were purpose built as terrace houses & remain that way & are not conversions as is our petite maison in France. Many of these early Adelaide homes have now been revitalised & modernised inside.
And, it seems, the regions of France can contrast a lot in their building & architectural styles. Of course what would I know as I haven’t set foot in France yet. But I talk, ask questions, research & read.
Our little cottage is 3 stories with the basement at ground level & two main living areas on the first & second floor. One enters the house through the entry hallway in the basement. The basement is currently used as a workshop, for storage of bicycles, even a small car if one wants & is the place where the washer & dryer & other necessities are situated. It could easily be converted into a garage or an additional living area.
The house is located in a hamlet de la Haute-Vienne or the Haute-Vienne department in the Limousin. It’s not far from the Charente & Dordone in the Nouvelle-Aquitane SW Region. It’s nearer the north-west edge of the Parc Naturel Regional du Perigord or the Perigord-Limousin Natural Regional Park. Limoges is about 50 minutes away. Basically it’s northeast of Bordeaux which is in the Gironde. And here’s another link to a map view of Haute Vienne region.
France is different from Australia in that it allows foreigners to purchase existing property very easily. Australia has various restrictions & requirements for foreign ownership of residential property. Just not as easy for a foreigner to buy in Australia as it is in France.
Find more at Instagram @lapetitemaisondesavocats as well as some updates at my Insta @mypowderedwigfelloff I also post intermittently to my FB page La Petite Maison des Avocats but it’s not up to date & is basically re-posts.
So, a lot is happening for us as we embark on this new venture in 2020.
While I’m no expert on buying/selling properties here in Australia, let alone France, there are some interesting differences. Buying a property in France involves the Notariat. The notaire is a lawyer, a public officer who prepares & authenticates contracts. The Notaires do more transactional work & are free to act for both parties in a transaction. They are not avocats working in the court rooms. Buying a house in France is quite a different process from that in Australia 🇦🇺 where lawyers are not normally involved in the buying & selling of a house. In Australia, we have non lawyer Real Estate Agents.
Back to notre maison: The Diagnostics have been done so the Contract documents are moving along. Australia does not have a mandatory requirement, like the French Dossier Technique Immobilier, for buying/selling property. The person performing the inspection of the house is a qualified certified, inspector as evidence by the Assurances:
In Australia, the buyer has the option of independently hiring a qualified building inspector to thoroughly check out & report on the structure, pest infestation, wiring, plumbing, drainage, asbestos, lead paint etc. It’s not mandatory as it is in France. Of course a large proportion of these older homes in France are centuries old. Of course, in Australia, we have protective laws & causes of action in place such as Breach of Contract, Negligence, Fraud, Misrepresentation et al to protect a purchaser.
We have been very lucky in our purchase as the sellers are an Australian couple from here in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. How good is that. We have bought it based on their knowledge, advice & experience. They have owned the little old house for 10 years & been staying there regularly for 3 months at a time, immersing themselves in the local community & culture. They loved it there. “Changed our lives” they said.
So, yes, we are so looking forward to enjoying this ancient & historic country & all it has to offer whether landscape, wine, food & haute cuisine, culture, people, language, study, history, politics, the law . . .
Can I speak French yet?
Is it parles-tu Français or parlez-vous Français?
No I can’t speak French yet. Je ne parle pas Francois.
Well, let’s just say I can communicate at an elementary level. Not good enough & I intend to do start studying this ancient tongue in depth.
I look forward to being with the French in their land to hear them speak day to day, to pick up the accents & nuances so necessary in understanding every day speak. Books, recordings & short classes are a fabulous start but one needs to immerse oneself in the French culture to really ‘hear’ the language.
And being a lawyer grounded in the common law adversary system I plan to attend various Courts in session, visit lawyers/avocats, to see how the French investigatory/civil legal system works & how the profession operates. And, yes, there are Law schools to visit & so much more. You can see why I need to acquire a level of adeptness in French.
And just to complete the picture: The owners are selling because they have purchased another house about 50 kms away in the adjacent Charente region. Like us, their main home is here in South Australia. They live in the capital Adelaide, while we live in the Barossa Valley wine country north of Adelaide.