All of us set out to find our dream house when we start our property search in France; the perfect French home, ‘the one’. We probably have a picture in our head of what this will look like and what features it will have; the gorgeous view, the blue shutters, the wooden floors, stone fireplaces, lots of original architecture, the French doors to the perfect terrace or garden.
The problem is that the perfect house doesn’t really exist except in our heads; every house has its compromises. So what should you compromise on and what should you absolutely not?
- The view. This is my number one client search request; nearly everyone wants a view whether it is of rolling hills, beautiful gardens, bucolic fields of flowers, a pretty market square or snow-capped mountains. And this is something that a house either has or not (unless it’s possible to cut down some trees to revel a hither-unseen view). This is, therefore, one area where I suggest you should not compromise if it is important to you.
- Walking distance to a café or boulangerie. Another favourite on the list of ‘must-haves’ but more difficult to find than you would probably imagine. I will find it if I can but it might involve many more compromises on other factors on your wish-list.
- A large garden/lots of land. This is a favourite criterion for British buyers (less so for Australians, South Africans and Americans who perhaps are more realistic about the work involved!) I understand the attraction of this and, if it is a permanent home, go for it. If it is a holiday home and everything else about the house ticks your boxes but the garden is smaller than you would have ideally liked, it is worth compromising.
- A swimming pool. Again, often top of the ‘wish-list’ but keep in mind that it is better to buy a house that fulfils most of your search brief but doesn’t have a pool than to buy a house with a pool that is not quite the right house. You can always put in a swimming pool but you cannot easily change the fundamentals of the house.
- A large kitchen/dining room/open plan living space. This is an ever more popular request thanks to the way we live nowadays. However, most clients are looking for a traditional, old French house and these were not designed to be open plan. Smaller, individual rooms and often a very small galley kitchen are the norm. I would, however, tell a client not dismiss a house because it does not tick this box – usually you can open up rooms or take down walls to create exactly the space that suits you.
- No renovation work. Horror stories abound about the trials and tribulations of undertaking a renovation in France but often this is thanks to the power of television; plenty of people renovate very happily and successfully in France. It is not a cheap process but, if you go into it with your eyes open, it is one of the best ways of creating your dream home so don’t rule out this option if the location, position, style, setting, size and price of the house are all right.
- Easy access and within an hour of a major airport (and preferably more than one airport). This is another condition that starts at the top of the ‘wish-list’ but often gets dropped in favour of other ‘must haves’. I would, however, suggest that this is one area in which you should not compromise if you are going to be commuting or travelling regularly to your home in France – an hour is do-able but anything more becomes a serious effort and you cannot change this longer term.
I could go on but, in summary, when deciding where and how to compromise to achieve your ‘perfect house’: If something can be changed such as décor, room layouts, finishes, heating or electric systems, then it is worth compromising. If it is an element which absolutely cannot be changed such as the view, the location, the proximity to services or accessibility, think long and hard about your priorities before compromising. You can’t pick up your perfect house and move it somewhere else but you can find the perfect location and gradually change a ‘compromise’ house into your perfect dream house.