We recently caught up with Graham & Elaine, who tell us all about their experience in selling their home in the UK and relocating to Brittany to eventually enjoy their well-deserved retirement.
"We bought our house in Brittany during May 2016. Like everyone else, we were daunted by the prospect of getting it wrong and ending up in a situation that we couldn't handle. However, with our family going their own ways we decided to sell our home and search for a property on the South Coast in which we would soon retire, but things soon changed.
By chance, we found some foreign listings on the web and compared prices with ones we had viewed in the UK. There was no comparison. French properties were far better valued than British ones and Brittany was not too far away for staying in touch with the family. We could rent in the UK while owning a home abroad until ready to move in permanently.
Having made the choice, we researched as much as we could before making any commitments. There are a number of ex-pat sites that give very good advice and step by step guidance on the process, what to watch out for, and legal essentials. A visit to A Place in the Sun Live in Birmingham proved to be one of those essentials as we gained a lot of information that reassured us and so we finally found ourselves committed to finding our retirement home in France.
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When you are focussed on where you want to go, you suddenly discover that there are hundreds of properties to choose from almost all affordable, but make sure you refine your choices according to your target requirements. We wanted to be near the coast, not too far from the ferry ports but also with some land as we have a couple of small ponies that are likely to outlive us both!
Have a shortlist no greater than about six and the final choice will be down to the viewing. That way you won't waste time and ferry fees going back and forth searching. Fortunately, we found an estate agent that was English and arranged through her everything that was necessary for a stress-free weekend. They accompanied us throughout the weekend having first advised us of a location for B&B during our stay and helping us with the booking. The owner of the B&B is now a good friend and looks after our house while we are away!
Be aware that house prices advertised often exclude agency fees which are payable by the buyer and not by the seller as in the UK. Ask about this when first searching. It might be too late afterwards.
The first house we viewed was our top choice. This allowed us to see the others first and make comparisons before deciding which to view again. Make sure you have time for a second viewing during the trip as buying after a quick single viewing can result in expensive outlay later.
The next step is to find a Notaire (solicitor) and once again the estate agent proved worthy of her fees by making all the arrangements. In fact, the estate agent also attended the signing and transfer of deeds and has continued to give us helpful advice a year later. Unlike UK estate agents the French system ensures that they give a full service. After all, they are working for the buyer, not the seller and that makes a big difference to the way you are treated as a client.
We have been visiting the property regularly for the last year (not yet retired) and getting to know the location and its services.
"Moving abroad is not just a location change for us. It's giving life a second wind!"
It is important to get to know as many people locally as possible. If you speak French then it is an easy task. Unfortunately, we do not but we are getting by and again with the help of the estate agent, have found some ex-pats that have been able to help us blend in.
Once you have found the local supermarket, fuel station, tabbac, etc then a frequency of use will continue to build confidence. Carry a phrase book to help bridge the language gap and if you use the same local shops and services often enough they will get to recognise you and help you. The owner of our local restaurant didn't speak a word of English but has started learning since we informed her that we would soon be moving into the neighbourhood! She has assured herself of our continued custom and we will be recommending the restaurant to anyone going to the region for a holiday.
The idea of moving to a foreign land was at first scary but having made the leap it is proving to be quite an enjoyable experience that is rewarding, relaxing and something of an adventure and as we get older it is new experiences and adventures that keep us going.
Moving abroad is not just a location change for us. It is giving life a second wind!"