In search of a Normandy gem... (part 3)
by Peter Clayton
The story so far... After having discovered a potential Normandy Gem in the Village of St. Maurice-Bocage on the Cherbourg peninsula, Peter Clayton viewed the property with the notaire in charge of its disposal. Undaunted - and perhaps even encouraged - by what he saw, Peter decided to get the house professionally vetted by a builder before going any further.
Back in the UK and armed with a list of email addresses of Normandy’s great and good in artisan circles, I set to work on my computer.
I sent the same message to three email addresses, asking if the recipients would be prepared to visit the property to advise on work needed. All three eventually responded with vastly different degrees of enthusiasm. But within an hour I received a charming reply from a couple, originally from Manchester, who had set up a family building and renovation business in Normandy. I telephoned them immediately and it was obvious from the start that we were going to hit it off.
Because they lived just two miles from the village and actually knew the property in question, I was delighted when they offered to contact the notaire directly to make arrangements to visit the house on our behalf.
Two days later I received a phone call from our new friends - telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. A bit of wet rot caused by an historic leak in the bathroom; a new kitchen required (no surprise there!); new electrics throughout; and the replacement of some upstairs floorboards where a family of woodworm had taken up residence (“don’t worry,” said our new friend, “woodworm is almost obligatory in all French houses!”)
Nothing he had seen should scare us off and around £12,000 should cover everything, including internal and external decoration. This was music to my ears as in a fit of pessimism I had mentally allocated nearer to £18,000 for the work.
We had been told by the notaire that the fosse septique (our own private sewage plant) was in good repair. Our friend was not impressed with this information and said he would check it out anyway and “bung another one in” if required. Buying a French property was a huge step for us - and a major investment. So finding someone like this who oozed common sense and confidence, gave us the encouragement to carry on.
We agonised for a couple of days before finally plucking up the courage to send an email to the notaire with a low offer, expecting it to be rejected out of hand, or at best, to set a starting point for a round or two of vicious bartering.
The silence from north west France was deafening. After three days and still no response, we assumed our offer had insulted the vendors and resigned ourselves to start our search for the Normandy Gem all over again. On the morning of the fifth day an email appeared on my computer screen from the notaire... “The vendor finally accept to sell at the price you offer...”
We had almost achieved our dream. And little did the vendor know, but we would probably have paid a figure much nearer to the original “non-flexible” asking price had he been more insistent.
We confirmed our willingness to go ahead with the purchase and arrangements were made to visit the notaire’s office to sign the initial legally-binding document, the compromis de vente...
Pictures courtesy: http://www.suzanneinfrance.com/