We had made the decision whilst in Newcastle that we needed to resume the hunt for a suitable property to create our perfect guest-house and we were going to do this the week we got back. Then an opportunity to go and work in Nürnberg for five days appeared before Phill’s eyes. This put a hold on looking for and visiting properties as Phill had to write the outline of the course he was going to teach. We headed to Nürnberg via Strasbourg on Sunday, 8 February.
We got back to Monty on Sunday, 15 February and we started looking online for property – we had updated our search criteria and away we went. On Wednesday, 18 February Steve sent a link to Phill for a property listed with an estate agent we met in May 2014, when we had spent a week looking at property with the consultant we hired.
So, our local excursion to Marseillan Plage to look at a property that seemed to have potential was very well executed. Let’s get one way tickets as we don’t know when we would like to return to Monty – we can always get tickets at the train station – they will have machines (they all do, don’t they?).
We get to Marseillan Plage, get off the train, only to discover that there is actually no proper station and no ticket machines to be seen. Oh well, we can get tickets from the Visitors Centre just up the road, after we have a bite to eat and a look around the area and the house that we considered to have potential.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch, walked around the main town area, where pretty much everything was closed for the winter period. Walked back to the Visitors Centre – closed. Oh well, let’s look at the property whilst we are here and figure out how to get back to Monty after that. Phill was rather keen as it was house and land covering \(2000m^2\). Main problem – it is right up against the main railway line. Phill – “not many trains go by, maybe one an hour”. Whilst we were there up to five trains in 10 minutes flew by – loudly. Forget that property!
So, how to get back to Monty – no car, no taxi’s, no buses; but we do have legs. Which way to go? Sète is heading towards Monty and it does have a train station, but is three and a half hours walking distance – no. Agde is away from Monty, but it does have a train station and is only one hour and forty-five minutes away; and there are two Real Estate offices which have interesting potential properties for sale. And away we go – 10 kilometres and one hour and forty-five minutes later – civilisation appears before our eyes.
We find the first Estate office Bourse de l’Immobilier and whilst looking at the properties in the window, Hélène, who remembered us, pops out to give us her card. She recognised invited us in to discuss our current requirements – a very honest and trustworthy individual that we both know will not do us wrong. We showed her the property details we had found online. She called her colleague in Marseillan and arrange a viewing for next Tuesday. So, the following Tuesday we had a potentially suitable property to view, along with other she may find after doing a search against our criteria. We went to the second office, but the person we met last year was not in, but they did have a number of properties which could be of interest – we emailed her and expected to hear back at some point, but never did.
We got to the railway station at 1815 hrs and there was a train heading to Monty at 1838. Ticket machines are a wonderful thing – punch a few buttons, make the payment and there you have a ticket ready to use – yay.
It is only half an hour from Agde to Monty by train. All we wanted to do was get back to the flat, but no, we found a rather good Thai restaurant just across the road from the railway station and stopped for a delicious dinner.
So, in conclusion, even though our day ended up being rather more complicated than we anticipated, a number of positives came out of it – puts a smile on ones face, even if one could not move from the sofa.
We took the train to Agde and had lunch. We walked to Bourse. Hélène arrived in her car. We got into the car and we drove to Marseillan. We met her colleague Philippe and his colleagues at the Marseillan branch. We signed the Bonne de Visite. We got into Philippe’s car and drove to the property. It is in a quiet part of the town. It is a villa in the middle of \(1600m^2\) of land. The place is quiet and enclosed by trees. We were expecting a small cottage but in fact it is quite large. It has a small salle d’eau, but there is a large bedroom and a garage which could easily be turned into two guest rooms with on suites. The place had a nice feel. The only real concern is that it is about 2km out of town. It has a forage and a lot of scope. We went back to Bourse. The property has been on the market since October and there have been two low offers. The asking price wss €307,000 and the highest offer has been €285,000. Hélène told us that we should be able to get it for €295,000. Hélène drove us to Agde station and we got the train back to Montpellier. We both like the house and we asked to visit again tomorrow.
After our initial visit to the property yesterday (Tuesday); we revisited the property again after writing down loads of questions the night before – which, thank goodness, were all answered to our complete satisfaction. We made an offer to the owner at the reduced price recommended by Hélène and were informed that we hear back quite quickly as the other two offers made had been quite low. We were then contacted later by Hélène that the owner had to consult his sisters, as it is a jointly owned family property.
On Thursday morning we received and email from Hélène with the good news that our offer had been accepted unconditionally. Now the ball starts rolling quite quickly! It is well within our budget, has \(1640m^2\) of land that can be built on and the house only needs minor alterations to make it into a home. The total area of the maison and garage is \(107m^2\) – which is double the size of our flat that we sold in London in 2013. We would need to get some sort of transportation to get about, as it is in a semi-rural area, but it is so handy to all the various places that we like in this area. There is a winery is just down the road! Bikes will be one of the first things to get before we investigate electric scooters/cars – which, apparently, you can drive without a licence in France.
It is very surprising that many British ex-patriates living in France don’t speak French. We really don’t know how they manage. Although there are English speaking Web call centres for some of the utilities, it is inevitable that it becomes necessary to communicate with somebody in French.
Phill took French lessons while still in London and got to an intermediate level. Since moving to France we have spent a lot of time in the UK on business and there has been little reason to speak French other than to waiters and shop assistants. In May, while living in Montpellier, we wanted to go to our favourite Thai restaurant called Art Mango which closes for several months during Winter when the owner goes to Thailand to buy furniture. We went there and it still wasn’t open so we went to the restaurant next door called Il Mercato. It was a Tuesday evening and we discovered an organisation called Go Lingo. They do English and French evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a Spanish and French evening on Wednesdays. The idea is that you register for an evening on their Web site. You register with them between 1900 and 1930 and get a voucher for a free drink. The evening starts at 1930 where each native English speaker is paired with a native French speaker. We speak in one language for 8 minutes and then a gong is sounded and we switch to the other language. After a further 8 minutes the organiser switches all of the partners. Typically you speak to 5 people in an evening.
Phill signed up to Go Lingo and went 9 times during May and June. It was fantastic! His confidence in speaking French improved a lot. He learned a lot from the people he spoke to. It is also a great way of improving vocabulary. If you don’t know the word for something you just ask! It is a good idea to arrive early at 1900. That way you get to speak to people before the event starts.
Having moved into our property in Marseillan, we decided to go to Montpellier a night out. We booked a cheap hotel so that we could stay the night. Steve went to Go Lingo for the first time on 25 June 2015. Although he doesn’t speak much French he had a good evening and met some interesting people. Phill had a really useful conversation with a guy about French electricity regulations. We finished the evening with a lovely Thai meal at Art Mango.