Buying a house is all about compromises, maybe not so much if you have a huge budget (which we hadn’t). First, a carefully laid plan … a month of viewing houses in February (“if we like it in midwinter, we’re sure to love it in summer”), the south-west of France, (“hot summers but cheaper and less busy than Provence”) a rental booked for the month (sadly, it was ghastly, damp and cold), estate agents contacted and visits booked. Our criteria included …. old character dwelling, quiet private location, views, pool or room for one, large gardens. We were all set!
The first house we were taken to was modern, overlooked, small garden, no pool. But beautifully decorated. In the month we saw so many houses that they were all referenced in some way to distinguish them. This beautifully decorated house became “Madame de Pompadour’s house”! We later had Music Man’s House, Dutch Chef’s, Dirty Pool, Mice Droppings Barn… you get the picture. We were lucky if anything met even one or two of our criteria. It was a lesson in managing our expectations.
We began to realise that many of the exceptionally pretty villages were like ghost towns in winter,(perhaps too many holiday homes), so finding a village with year round commerce within walking distance was important too. And we would not compromise on position.
Each outing was always an entertainment, well, perhaps on reflection later. Front door keys which didn’t fit, rats scurrying across living rooms, windowledges inches deep in dead flies, eager owners in totally inappropriate houses, massive cracks in house walls, broken paving, steps and bannisters…. we gracefully sailed through them all. Each evening we would revue the day over a bottle of wine (in our depressing gîte). But the dream lived on … where is that French house waiting for us?
Of course, we suspected that estate agents were perhaps eager to show us the houses that were overpriced, the ones they couldn’t shift. Then in an agent’s office in the pretty village of Lauzun, my husband leafed through the many thick binders of house details.
“What about this one? You haven’t shown us this.”
“What, you mean the stripy one?”
The Stripey House. The house we eventually bought.
More on that in my next post ….