House hunting

Signing the Compromis De Vent

P- After our blue sky living day on Monday and seeing our new home in the brilliant sunshine for the first time (and wow it looked and felt so amazing under a deep blue sky) we awoke to grey skies, rain washed streets and a fresh new day, an exciting day as we were off to sign the compromis de vent.

We have stayed twice now in a beautiful guest house in Gaillac called Combettes run by Madame Piñon, a waif in the mould of Edith Piaf, far more friendly but alas without song. On entering, it’s like you have been transported back in time, I’m sure nothing much has changed in this vast building apart from the introduction of electric and a few modern home comforts in the bathrooms. Now it sounds like I don’t like this place, but nothing could be further from the truth. It has an old style charm and the history oozes out of every antique in the place.
It’s in a superb location, a few moments walk from the Tarn river and across the road from the Abbey. It’s only 60 euros for a huge double room with breakfast. We would highly recommend staying here if you find yourself in or near Gaillac (before a certain group of luxury gites are available!)



Our signing wasn’t until 11am so we had plenty of time for an amble around the cobbled streets of Gaillac, not that this took long as it’s only a small town but with lots of charm and beautifully renovated public areas complete with many mood lighting features (viewed last night over a delicious dinner in the main square).

On we rambled commenting how well the shops were kept and the fact that many of the shopkeepers have exterior planting which softens the streetscape.


We finally found our destination – the notaires office – and very grand it looked, imposing wrought iron railings and gates, with lots of brass plaques displaying the names of all the notaries within.
We arrived 15 minutes early (I hate being late for anything) and waited, and wandered, and waited a bit more and tried to figure out how to gain entry to this place, and then my visual eye noticed a small out-of-place acrylic sign with horrible purple writing on it. After thinking to myself “why would someone put such an ugly sign on this lovely building?” I read the words on it and asked Kev if the word “Transferèe” mean “Transfer” ? To which he replied “yes” and “why” because I said “I think we are in the wrong place….” Oops, yes oops as it was now 10.55 and our appointment was at 11am. A frantic phone call to our agent Laurette did indeed confirm that we were in the wrong place and the correct office was a 5 minute drive away, which was fine. Other than our car was parked a 10 minute walk away. A small dust trail run later we were in the car speedily but safely (mmmm) driving to the correct address. Laurette greeted us in a vision of purple, arms waving from the side of the road, indicating where to park.
All was well as our notaire had only just turned up and the sellers’ notaire wasn’t ready anyway. So a big sigh of relief and a quick moment of calming down and we were ushered in to be greeted by the family Barthez, all 6 of them. It’s the last thing we were expecting, but bonjours abounded and broad smiles were fixed on our faces as we waited for the proceedings to begin.

K – The stress levels created by our mistaken address (and the fact that Laurette had tried to explain precisely the day before where the office was before I’d dismissed her: I have the internet. Surely, I can’t go wrong with THE INTERNET. No. I didn’t shout at her), meeting our notaire for the first time, and being faced with a bunch of French inheritors, whom I was convinced regarded us as money-grabbing English charlatans (we’re not English!) soon dissipated (the stress-levels: I know it’s a long sentence). I will be honest, our experience buying in Nice in 2005 helped enormously here. However, whereas in 2005 I had two notaires basically bickering for 2 hours, today could be regarded as light-hearted and fun. Maitre Mons was charming, and Maitre Fassino-Simon (our notaire) was demure and petite, but, both Phill and I agreed, shrewd. And not averse to using her petite-ness and demure-ness to her advantage. Thank-goodness she’s on our side.

Where we place quite a lot of trust in our British conveyancers to spot potential problems and send us a quick email, French notaires have to sit and read through (in summary, thank-goodness) the entire sales contract to all parties of the transaction. I can imagine that some who like the sound of their own voice could waffle on forever. Thankfully, Maitre Mons was leading the meeting and was concise. Maitre Fassino-Simon meekly (or so she would have us think!) translated the really important parts, and trusty Laurette was there in the background guarding our corner.

This is what is being sold. This is how much you’re paying. This is how much the notaire, government, and estate agent are getting. This is how the money is being split. There’s a bit of asbestos. There’s a bit of lead. There are no termites. The electrics and the septic tank are useless. But you’re buying as you find it. One of the sisters enquired about whether we wanted the kitchen wood-burning stove. Trigger images: antique iron valuable. STOP! That’s what we told Maitre Fassino-Simon as she tried to negotiate its staying. If they want it, take it. Major favour to us. Picture: half the size of a Smart car. White metal sheeting. Weighs the same as 3 cows.

Once the official bits were done, and Maitres Mons and Fassino-Simon went off to “speak to their respective assistants to duplicate and fill in some forms” (was it wrong of me to notice how they lingered over their initial cheek-kisses, how she was just leaning a little bit more towards him during the meeting, how they laughed more at each other’s jokes than any of the other French speakers. We all had a bit of time to relax and get to know each other. One of these sibling inheritors is going to be our next door neighbour. One told us how he used to make wine for a local co-operative. One told us she knew a neighbour close by to us who was English and commuted to London to work (I did double-check he/she wasn’t a pilot before I finally signed). Then there were signatures, lunch, a drive to the airport, then home. My God…. have we done all that today?????????

My one major screw-up is that we intended to take Laurette for lunch, but in the excitement, we forgot to ask her. We were all the way into the centre of Gaillac before we realised. And I feel majorly guilty. Hopefully we will get the chance to rectify our faux pas.

P- So, now that we’ve signed for our house on the hill, we have to wait. I’m never sure why we wait so long; what happens while we wait? It’s an unknown – I would love to follow the whole process closely to see what actually happen. My guess is nothing much, but I may be wrong. We are anticipating completion and getting the keys early July, with luck and a strong wind.

Anyway keep an eye on our posts, you’ll be the first to know.

A song popped itself onto Radio Two recently and maybe one day we will be known as these people…..

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Our last viewing

By the time you’re reading this we will be on our way to the notarie’s office to sign the agreement to buy our new home in Fayssac.

Yesterday we flew into Toulouse and were greeted by a stunning blue sky and warm breeze, bliss.

We were to meet our agent and a builder at the house at 6pm so had some time to burn. We headed to an amazing DIY store called Leroy Merlin – think B and Q on steroids. Two hours later we left, spent of energy but feeling elated, just think of all the glorious hours that we will spend in that store yesssss.

Off we sped to Fayssac to see what the house would look like in the sunshine and boy oh boy we weren’t disappointed. The drive through the countryside and vineyards was stunning, the undulating hills, roads with plane trees all standing to attention filled our hearts with a warm feeling and the sense that we belong here. We stopped on the opposite side of the hill near vineyards to see what our village will look like from the other side.

As we reached the house we realised someone was there cutting the meadow that was calling itself our garden.

We stopped and peaked through the fence and sighed, so near yet so far away


Off we sped to take a look at the surrounding villages and we weren’t disappointed. Our nearest big-ish village is called Cahuzac sur Vere. It was next on our path our nearest village with amenities, small but with all that we need, bank, post office, village shop and a few bars, oh yes and two hunky police men stopping every other car for spot checks, mmm except ours hmmmmm.

Then off to Cordes sur ciel, the village in the clouds, absolutely stunning and a very steep climb to the heart of the village, but well worth it, we will be back to explore.

Then back to Fayssac for our meeting with our agent and the builder.
I let Kev walk the builder around and busied myself with taking photos of our house and land.
Here are a few


The view from the back of the house


This area gets the last rays of the day and will have a large table under the tree for dinners and for working in the shade.


By now we have signed our life away and have seven days to pull out, but will we…. What do you think?

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Surveys in…..

The survey’s in…

P –

Deep breath and hold… and open the email from the surveyor…..

Do we dare look? We have to, obviously. We scan, read and breath, and sigh, and whoooo it’s ok. Well sort of, and its only a top line heads up summary report.

It doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know just by walking around the house, prodding and poking beams and floor boards.

Then wait, wait , wait and argh deep breath again and hold… and open the actual report from the surveyor….

This time its the whole report – all 50 pages…. all colour coded red, amber and greens. Arghh mostly reds and ambers….. no wait theres a green oh and another one, wow we have greens on our report yehhhh.

So what are all the reds, I hear you screaming at your computer –  mostly basic things like you need a new kitchen and you need to replace the bidet.

But there are a few big fat juicy tomato coloured reds, the main one is the roof which we sort of knew would need work, the good news is that the roof over the main house is fine, s few slipped tiles here and there which is easy to fix. but he’s recommending that the whole roof over the old barns should be stripped and have a protective liner put on then the tiles put back but also with new under tiles to give extra protection. Oh and two corners of the house need tying together as they have slipped . Hmmm what next oh yes and theres beetles eh in the beams, lots of beetles in the beams some dead yehh and some alive buggers.

Now by this time we were both knackered from elation and depression and up and down and shaken all about.

His last words were its a good house in a lovely place, so that’s positive, isn’t it?

Argh what to do, we love this house, its the right one we know it is, arghh what to do, ok keep calm. Let’s phone the surveyor and have a proper chat to him as we know that surveyors always err on the side of caution and cover themselves.

Kev made the call and had a good chat to the surveyor, ill let him explain

K- Why is every aspect of this process stressful and rushed? There is never enough time!! The report was promised to us on Tuesday, and on that basis we agreed to meet to sign the compromis the following Tuesday. Of course, it wasn’t that easy. The report finally turned up Friday lunchtime, threw up the issues it did, without any suggested costs. Fortunately, a quick service station stop on our way up to Manchester (we were visiting friends for the weekend) provided the opportunity for a phone chat with the surveyor in France. He put my mind at ease regarding the very common furniture beetles (these can be dealt with ourselves), and the cost of the new roof – it’s basically going to take up most of the contingency we’d put aside to start the gites (a bit dependant on exchange rates), but we can incorporate the installation of velux windows into the roof refurbishment, which will save us money down the line.

Just to be sure, we’re having a quick meeting on Monday night at the house with a builder – again leaving the important decisions till the very last minute.

All of this made me remember a film from the 80’s


P – I’m not Shelly Long, my hairs not curly enough…….


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Survey and Clear Out

Sorry we have been a little quite on the blog front this week, its been a busy week for both of us.

We have been in a bit of a no mans land this week, as we are having a survey done on the French house, it was actually done on Friday but we have to wait for the report on Tuesday so feel a bit apprehensive and nervous.

As I mentioned in earlier posts they don’t really do surveys in France, they check for Termites, Asbestos and a few other things but thats about it. There attitude is if the house has been around for a long time and its still standing then its ok. But being british we have to do things by the book old chap. Hmmm I think I’m with the French, I did give the house a once over and prodded and poked a few things and all seemed to be fine; the odd damp patch and a few crumbling floor boards, but then it it over 100 years old.

We shall see i may be proved wrong and the survey may show up lots of bad things…. god i hope not.

We have also started to pack the house up, working through all the stuff we don’t use, a lot of people have said to us dosnt it feel sad and unsettling. I think it did for about 30 seconds but then I just felt excitement, as much as i love all my nick nacks there i also love a good clear out. The whole process is very liberating and i love rediscovering things i haven’t seen for ages and deciding if they will stay with us or be sent to another home.

Just thinking of all the new things waiting to be discovered in all those fabulous French markets make me go all quivery yehhhh.

Kevs in the shed clearing out all the clutter and relishing all the organising he’s doing, I’m in the office flicking through cards, labels & nick nacks heaven.

Right must dash the boys are coming over for drinks, a takeaway and a slushy movie so must dish up some nibbles.

Heres something for the weekend

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Let the Games begin!!

K: The prologue to our new book (so much bigger than a chapter, this) began this afternoon with our agent, Laurette’s sparkling words “I am thrilled to be able to tell you….”

After an excruciating week, the selling brothers and sisters finally accepted our second offer, which coincidentally was our maximum offer. We are soon to be the extraordinarily proud, excited and terrified owners of a former wine maker’s farm in Fayssac, in the south west of France.


I want to start off by giving a massive apology to several people around me (most of all my poor suffering mother) for being a major grumpy pain in the back side. I think I reached a new low this week, and it’s not somewhere I want to go again. The lack of direction and control was too much for me and I let a darkness win. I hope you’ll all be happy to know that it dispersed, and mum managed to snap me back in line with a well-deserved telling off email this morning.

It also looks like we’ve managed to sort out our temporary London accommodation problem. To the dog-hating agent at Conrad Fox, dog-owners can rent when they have a network of supportive friends (who know they’ll benefit from a week or two by a pool in the sunshine eventually!) Emily & Ed (of the distinguished building and decorating company are moving to north London in July & will rent their south London pad out – initially to us. And luckily, they love Barnaby!

We need a little bit of help now… What do we call our new home & enterprise? We are putting it out to all our lovely friends and readers – please send us some suggestions. Something French preferably, fitting, and elegant. Thinking caps on please! A week in one of our gites (when they’re done in 5 years!) for the winner.

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The Waiting Game

K: This week has been pretty stressful. We’ve been back and forth with offers and counter offers for our favourite house in Fayssac. We managed to get the sellers to show their hand and let us know what their minimum price would be, but the gulf between their minimum and our maximum was pretty huge at €14,000. The agents have also kindly reduced their fee in an attempt to try to get the house sold. Our final offer was our maximum, and I’ve not heard anything for a few days. I’m not holding out much hope – the sellers are a group of brothers and sisters and they all have to agree. The mayor in the house next door is one of the brothers, and he seems not to relish his role as a middle-man – he replied with a lovely message to my note introducing myself at the beginning of the week.

Add to that the slow progress of having to find temporary accommodation in London. On Wednesday I could have cried when one agent point blank told me that I’d never find a place, with a dog. She actually said “dog owners don’t rent!”

So, in 6 weeks, we’ll be homeless with nowhere to look forward to. What a fun game!

P: He’s so dramatic and I’m the thespian in the relationship hmm. I grant you it has been a frustrating week, they say that good things come to those who are prepared to wait. So lets wait and see what happens, I’m a great believer in fate I’ve lived my life by that and I’m not going to change now. So if we are meant to have this house it will be and if not then I’m sure there is another one just as fabulous out there, trouble is trying to find it.

So to keep our spirits up I’m posting a happy little ditty by one of the greats.


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The week after house hunting began.

Saturday 13th April

Hello all and a happy weekend to you.

I’m writing this blog while making dinner – tonight’s culinary delight is good old bangers and mash; a winter dinner I hear you think. Ye, because it’s still winter outside, pouring in fact but slightly warmer than the sub zero temperatures we have endured of late.

I am feeling slightly jealous as i have just checked the temperatures in Fayssac where we are hoping to move to and it’s 23 degrees and sunny today and will climb to 27 by mid week. Which is one of the reasons we want to pack our house on on our backs and fly south.

Now I also hear you say “what the hell have you two been up to all week after leaving us high and dry with your last post telling us you have found your dream home” or maybe just “whats happening?”

Well we haven’t been sitting around feeling all rosy and chuffed at finding the house. We, well Kev actually, has been very busy trying to work out what budget we have to do all the necessary renovations and what offer we should put in to make the dream come true.

In fact his workings out started at the airport whilst waiting for our delayed flight home. We sat in departures squeezing the last bit of life out of my iPad looking at guttering, fencing and boilers; very glamorous NOT, all i wanted to look at was swimming pools and paint colours.

Ooh sorry have to dash the oven buzzer is going so have to get dinner ready.

Sunday 14th April

Morning all, it’s so windy out there today but at least it’s a bit warmer.

My bangers and mash turned out to be one of the best I’ve made, if I may say so myself. Our Saturday evening consisted of probably the last roaring log fire we will have in this house, lots of red wine and copious amounts of a really lovely port our Rach brought with her which accompanied some rather stunning cheeses we bought up in the village. For our teleplay visual delights we had a double bill of Scott and Bailey with a Britain’s Got Talent intermission.

Anyhoo enough of our indulgences, back to the French house.

We have also decided that if an offer is accepted, we’ll get a survey done as this is going to be a long term project and we want to make sure the house is in good nick and find out what, if any, nasty surprises lay in store. In France they don’t have surveys done, they work on the principle that if the building has been standing for all these years it must be ok. Kev has managed to find two English surveyors who have sent in quotes and one will be lined up ready to go.

So the big question now is what offer do we make on the place, it’s on the market for 318,000 Euros but the French always inflate the prices on houses. We already know that a previous offer of 260,000 Euros was turned down, but they weren’t cash buyers like we will be. Our agents have said we are in a excellent position as cash buyers and that if we put an offer in they will strongly recommend the sellers accept it. Here’s another difference between buying and selling in the UK: the agents work for the buyer not the seller and the seller can have their house on the market with multiple agents.

Lots to think about this weekend and then hopefully we will make an offer early this coming week.
We will keep you posted.

Now just in case the sun does decide to honour us with an appearance this Sunday here is a little ditty to celebrate.

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Day Seven

So today we had a well earned day off, didn’t even wake until way after 10am bliss.
The weather was pleasantly nice today and the sun made an appearance late afternoon and to celebrate we partook of a bottle of rosé sat in the Place Wilson watching the world go by and soaking up a few warm rays.
But before that Kev took us on a walking tour of Toulouse city centre and I have to say it’s a really lovely city, lots to see and explore I got particularly excited when we found a huge Brocante market and quickly found a few bargains. Lunch was taken sat on plastic chairs in a rough and ready barbecue stall but I have to say the food was amazing all cooked to order and very fresh yummy.
After our rosé/people-watching hour we retired for a well earned siesta and then went for even more food and drink and found a fabulous restaurant only steps away from the hotel Le Bon Vivre
The decor was up cycled French Brocante, the atmosphere was bustling, all French people we are the only British and the food was fantastic, I highly recommend it.
Now we are sat in a very comfy bed with a bottle of the local red, I’m writing the blog and Kev is busy looking for a Mr Bricolage near to Fayssac as he wants to buy a tape measure before we view the house again in the morning.
We are heading off early for Fayssac in order to measure up as in France they do not provide plans, and work out roughly what we would like to do to the place in order to work out how much we think we will have to spend on renovations.
Once this is done we can decide what offer we would like to put in for the house.
The system in France is quite a bit different from the UK, the agent works for you not the seller,so we have a huge list of questions for her to ask the owners.
We have decided to take the 6pm flight home so we have more time at Fayssac but its full so will hope for jump seats or we will have to stay over and get the first flight out on Tuesday, luckily I’m working near Heathrow on Tuesday so can go straight to work from there if need be.
Right off to count Zzzs now we are both very tired very contented and excited.
Argh The Good Life

Night night all sleep well.

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Tarn – The Tuscany of France

This is the department of France we will hopefully be living in. Fingers crossed and all that.

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Day Six

K – I just want to reiterate how amazing last night’s guest house was. The village it sits in is the type of place we would love to end up. We had the choice of driving into Moissac for a meal (where we’ve eaten before) or to go to the “rustic” restaurant opposite, called “Le Cadillac”! We opted not to drive, and ended up meeting some super-friendly people and eating some stunning food. I felt slightly humble about criticising the name – it turns out that a guy from the village travelled in the 18th Century to the US as one of the initial immigrants and founded the town which was later to become Detroit!

So, after a very delightful breakfast (we’d paid less than the night before in a vile Ibis in Carcassonne, by the way) we went off to meet our lovely Jenny, the host for 3 of the day’s second-viewing properties.

For those of you who have had to suffer the interminable “Gayraud” fascination since January, this was the first time we’d been back. This is reference 12 on our map. And it didn’t disappoint. Mum, who had been slightly sceptical when she saw the website, was bowled over, and even more so when she fell in love with the adjoining property, also for sale. If only we had another 50% in our slush fund.

We visited the next two on our short list, neither of which were contenders, then had a lovely lunch in Roquecor. The chef used to work in Quaglino’s in London and the place is owned by a French/Australian couple who were very welcoming. On our way up to the next appointment, mum, clearly unaware of the global outreach of our Swedish candle supplier, suggested it might be an idea to hire a van to be able to transport any Ikea furniture we might want to buy from London.

We then visited a contender followed by a non-contender and finished finally at 4pm (I had to have a snooze in the car at 3.15 – it is unbelievable how tiring this has all been).

We got to Toulouse at about 5.30. I dropped the team off at the hotel in the Toulouse equivalent of Oxford Street, taxis beeping me as the luggage was unloaded, then sought out the world’s worst car park. Please, at all costs, avoid the Parking Victor Hugo. It was so bad, I paid my €1.20 to leave and find somewhere else.

The Novotel in Toulouse is very special – new, inexpensive and reallllllly nice. And, for those BA people reading, we get a discount – ask me (thanks, Bertrand).

After an hour’s nap for me, and an hour’s underwear shopping for Phill, we cracked open a pink Cremant (inexpensive sparkling wine from areas other than Champagne, but made in a similar way, and usually just as good. The Cremant de Bourgogne is made just down the road, and is usually a really safe bet for about €5-€8) and started an elimination process. We all independently agreed on the same top 3 (refs 12, 23, 32) and same bottom 3. It didn’t take very long till we actually all agreed on the chosen one.

I have to say, it was definitely a momentous and exciting occasion. A bit emotional too, because I did get my way. We’ve opted for ref 32 in Fayssac, just north of Gaillac. It is really difficult at the moment to show you all in either photos or words what made us decide this. But, physically being there has made 4 of us come to the same final decision. Please, all have faith. The link to the agent’s site is here.

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