Okay, we started the house hunt, thinking it would take us a year or two to decide on an area, then a house.
We’ve rented this lovely house here in the southwest Dordogne and we love it. We’ve been day-tripping out to other areas to experience the vibe of the different towns and geography and when we get back here, it already feels like ‘home.’
We know we want to be in southwest France for its slower pace of life, absence of traffic and population density, great weather, low housing prices, good food, and local wine. We have decided we want to be close to a town, but be on a big enough lot to feel like we’re in the country. With privacy and quiet, but with amenities very close by.
And so we took our ‘short list’ to the local English speaking realtor here in town. One thing about house hunting in Europe—there is no such thing as a multiple listing service. Each realty firm has their own listings. Hell, sellers even list their house with several realtors, but there is not one clearinghouse where you can see everything that’s on the market. And so you must peruse dozens of websites and visit every office you see to really get a feel for availability and pricing.
The first house we viewed in the immediate area was practically right across the valley from our rental house. We understand that the last owner went to the hospital and was given a medication that he didn’t know he was allergic to, and it killed him. Tragic, to say the least. And that was over four years ago. Due to the drastic inheritance laws in France, the children’s interest was minuscule, so they didn’t care about maintaining the house. To complicate matters, there were ex-wives and girlfriends who didn’t have the resources or the interest in keeping up the property either. And so it sat: the grass grew, errant sapling trees took root, the ivy climbed, the mint spread, the bamboo forest swallowed huge trees, the spiders spun their webs, and the property lost it’s identity. And it called to us to bring it back to it’s former glory.
Of course, we’ve looked at tons of other amazing houses that desperately needed our design vision and money to be thrown at them, but none that spoke to us like this one. It was love. It is exactly what we were hoping to find:
• Three separate buildings (one main house, one garage/studio, one guest house).
• Breathtaking garden of 2.5 acres, with amazing huge trees (including fruit and nut trees).
• Character out the wazoo! Perigordine stone construction with an ancient Pigeonnier.
• 5 minutes from Lalinde, with all amenities. Walkable/bikeable.
• Main house is single level for aging in place.
• Large pool and patio.
• Office off large open-plan living/dining room.
• Tons of large, wonderful windows and French doors.
• Tall ceilings with beautiful wood finishes.
• Separate studio for Cindy.
• Amazing garage and workspace/man cave barn for Theo.
• Independent guest house (purported to be over 300 years old).
• 30 minutes to Bergerac Airport.
• A shed already perfect for chickens.
• Private well. (The house is coined Le Coudeau (the original well keeper for the area).
• And the nicest neighbors anyone could hope for (more on that later).
At first, we questioned how we could make a decision this quickly without having viewed dozens of other candidates. But when you know it’s right, it’s right. And Theo and I agreed many years ago that if we weren’t 51%/51% agreed, then it was a ‘no-go.’ And we were united in the decision that this was the property, and the town, and the area, for us to live happily ever after.
And so it begins. Here is a tour of our little love shack! Bear in mind that these photos are the realtor’s and were taken 4 years ago. I will try to get to the property again and take comparison shots as it is now. We hope you join us on our journey of transforming this property into our own…
And now the waiting begins. There is a lengthy process in France to close on a home. Once the initial offer is accepted, the diagnostic home inspections are ordered, and nobody rushes to either get to the house or write up the report. After the diagnostics have been presented, you set the initial meeting with the Notaire to start the recording procedures, which involves a down-payment. Title searches are done, tax records are checked, the city government needs to release their right to purchase the property. Then there is a two-month period in which the local famer’s union has the right of first refusal. This entire procedure takes from 3-1/2 to 4 months, so we’ve requested the date of January 4 to close.