Steve forwarded the first of many links regarding France to Phill – French Entrée – which to our delight was a vast repository of information regarding moving to France – no need to re-invent the wheel! Phill located a link for the French Buying Guide, who also provide assistance to people who wish to move to France. They were very helpful and after a couple of conversations we realised that a move later this year was feasible. They put us in touch with a foreign exchange company called Smart Currency Exchange. They have a system by which you can place an order for foreign exchange at a particular exchange rate and as soon as the rate hits the required value an exchange is performed.
It was at this point we made the decision to open a French bank account. We contacted another organisation called Britline, which is an English speaking branch of Crédit Agricole Normandie. They were very helpful and the Euro account was opened in a matter of days and we started transferring funds into the account.
Via French Entrée we received an invitation to visit the French Show at Earl’s Court taking place over the weekend of 17-19 January. Whilst there we met Fleur from French Entrée who was looking after the stand providing information as to where properties could be purchased in France, based on specific requirements submitted by potential purchasers. She was very helpful and took down the details of our initial requirements to forward on to Neale Roberts, a registered French Entrée Property Finder who not only lives in France, but is very familiar with the Languedoc-Roussillon (Carcassonne, Beziers & Narbonne) area.
Neale Roberts from French Entrée contacted us and stated that it is very much a buyers’ market in the Languedoc Region of France. Some of the people who had bought in the region in the past had got themselves into difficulty with repaying loans and other people, who had inherited family property, but lived in a city, wanted to sell rather then move to the region. Apparently estate agents have only recently realised this fact and prices are dropping, just so people can get the cash out of the property; which was good news for us! Once we had supplied Neale with our property specifications (that which we initially thought we needed, along with a “wish list”), he started the process of looking for suitable properties. The good thing for us was that, not only did have Neale looking, but also his wife and also his father, who lives in the village next to theirs – a three for one package deal.
French Entrée put us touch with International Private Finance who specialise in obtaining overseas mortgages. Phill contacted them and spoke to Alex, who was extremely helpful in this regard. A mortgage can be pre-approved based on Phill’s last three years turnover only – therefore ensuring we can be effectively be cash buyers and make an offer on a property once one is found.
After stumping up the property finder registration fee, Neale informed us that we would be receiving an email with details of suitable properties approximately two weeks before our trip to the South of France on 19 May. The best bit is that Neale if going to use us as guinea pigs by providing videos of each property as well – pictures are one thing, but videos are another.
Within two weeks of submitting our mortgage application to BNP Paribas, we received notification from Alex that the mortgage had been approved – which will make the purchase process that much simpler. So much information was requested by the bank for the mortgage application, that we went out and bought a combo-printer, photocopier, scanner and fax. The only thing not asked for was how regular our stool movements were!
On 31 March Steve completed 12.5 years of full-time employment with the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Not working full-time will allow him to be able to concentrate on getting things ready for the move to France and research all that is necessary for the grand opening of the Guest House in 2015.
From 16-30 April we were on holiday in Cape Town at the Cactus House, we enjoyed the delights of fine weather, food and wine, catching up with friends and just relaxing.
We stayed at the Graton in Johannesburg 30 April-5 May. We had a fun 2 day safari and a tour of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Contrary to popular opinion, it is safe to walk around in parts of Johannesburg.
The hectic pace goes into the French property hunting stage when we return.