Finding the perfect house in France

All of us set out to find our dream house when we start our property search in France; the perfect French home, ‘the one’ and we probably have a picture in our head of what this will look like. The problem is that the perfect house does not really exist except in our heads; every house has its compromises. So what should you compromise on and what should you absolutely not?

  1. The view. Nearly everyone wants a view whether it is of rolling hills, bucolic fields of flowers, a pretty market square or snow-capped mountains. 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) and therefore, one area where I suggest you should not compromise.
  2. 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 and it might involve many more compromises on other factors on your wish-list.
  3. A large garden/lots of land. This is a favourite for British buyers (less so for Australians and South Africans who are more realistic about the work involved!) If everything else about the house ticks your boxes but the garden is smaller than you would have ideally liked, it is probably worth compromising.
  4. 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.
  5. A large kitchen/dining room. This is an ever more popular request thanks to the way we live nowadays. Old French houses, however, were not designed to be open plan. Smaller, individual rooms and often a very small galley kitchen are the norm. Nevertheless, do 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.
  6. No renovation work. Horror stories abound about the trials and tribulations of undertaking a renovation in France but plenty of people renovate very 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.
  7. Easy access and within an hour of a major airport. This depends on how you will use the house; for example, if you are going to be commuting or travelling regularly to your home in France you should probably not compromise on this. If it is a holiday house, this is far less important.

In summary, 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 cannot 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.

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