Today was real estate tour Friday again. We had some super yummy pastries for breakfast and then drove to meet Tony, our Aussie realtor. We saw 4 great properties today.
Real estate is funny here in France. There are no exclusive listings, so a house may be listed with numerous different agents and listed at different prices. The first house on our list was listed with another agent, so she joined us for the tour, but first we had to sign an agreement that we would not go around her and go direct to the owners of the estate ( as if we could find them to begin with… And then talk business…. In French) , but whatever. We signed the document and we were on our way. According to Tony, many people will try to cut out the agent and go direct to the seller to cut costs. ,approximately 50% of all home sales in France are made directly by the owner without an agent. Hence the paranoia from the other agent! we arrived at the property and looked at the exterior buildings while the realtor sat in her car on the phone for around 15 minutes. When she finally got off the phone, she realized that she had left her keys at the office, so we walked the property and went into the 3 exterior properties/barns while she went to get the key to the house. The property sat on 2 hectares, which is approximately 4,5 acres, in the French countryside. It was very secluded with beautiful views. There’s was a parking barn and two really large brick barns that could be converted into awesome entertaining spaces. There were wild rose bushes growing all over that smelled wonderful. The house itself was enormous. It looked more like an old Abbey than a house; it had a tower and everything.
It was built in the 1700′s. When the other realtor returned with the key we went inside. The house, listed at 230,000 euros, would require a lot of work to restore, maybe another $250,000 euros, but it had potential in every way imaginable. The were 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, living room and a gigantic attic. And that was just the main house. The exterior buildings/barns could easily accommodate an additional 6 bedrooms, and 3 bathrooms, with a full renovation. Like with last week’s real estate four, we envisioned one entire barn being converted into a wine cellar, movie theater, and home bar for entertaining guests. Just the thought of it makes me excited. I am beginning to think that bats and spiders are to be expected in every abandoned French estate. This house was no except. The bats had made a few rooms their home, and darted past me unexpectedly a few times. They caught me off guard. I screamed, slipped ( which looked more like a Michael Jackson dance move than a slip) and cursed… Again. The realtors thought that this was hilarious. Actually, I did as well. I was your typical girlie girl at that moment which is so uncharacteristic for me. This house, like many other abandoned estates in France is in is run down state because the owner died and the three cousins that now own the , just want to be rid of it. This happens often. An estate is inherited by multiple family members, they do not have the capital to renovate the house, so they sell….. If they can agree on a price, but that is a whole other story. I find it curious to see the items that people leave I. Their home when they abandon it or clear it out to list it for sale. In This house, I saw old family pictures, some beautiful old pieces of very solid wood furniture, not like the stuff that is made these days. There were also the random pieces of clothing laying in odd places, a cross, some tea cups in the sink, a few candle holders, two nice chandeliers, books, and an old baby carriage. So many memories just left behind.
The second property on our list was a fully renovated small house listed at 265,000 euros. The house was on a small lot in a tiny village overlooking a field and a beautiful little church. It had a kitchen, dining room, 1 bathroom ( as is pretty typical in many old homes) 2 bedrooms and a very small study. The yard as a decent size and had a beautiful rose garden. The garage/barn was clean on the first level, but you couldn’t walk on the second level because the flooring was not stable. Although the house was acute little quaint home, it was not for us. It was too small and we would prefer something with more space and more land. We also think that the renovation of e property, although it will double the cost, will be a really fun project to undertake.
The third house that we saw today was completely different from the first two. It was another large home, but it had a completely enclosed exterior courtyard, similar to the old colonial homes that we saw in Antigua or Granada. It had a unique charm to it that we liked right away. Listed at 289,000 euros, it was similarly priced ( a little higher) to the other two that we had seen today, but like the first one, this would require at least another 200,000 euros to make a home out of it. This house sat on 1 hectare of orchard land at the edge of a sleepy village.
This one was on the market due to a divorce and all of the belongings were left in the house, as if they went to work and would return that evening. Even the ironing board coffee pot and mugs were left out. There was even a wall of colorful horse racing awards displayed. The kitchen was as if they left in the middle of a meal. There were half empty wine bottles, open spice jars, and dishes still in the sink. In the US, I am used to the realtor giving you a LONG list of all of the cleaning, enhancements , and staging that you need to make to the home in order to get it listing ready. Here, that is not the case . People seem to leave the homes in whatever condition it is in , slap a price on it, and leave hoping that it sells. It is no wonder many of the beautiful homes here remain on the market for years in some cases. Many people need to see a house in perfect condition to be able to picture themselves making it a home.
If you are one of them, old French restoration projects may not be tour cup of tea. Sometimes it can be difficult to see through a strangers clutter, and envision yourself making a house a home. This house had a living room, dining room, kitchen, basement, huge attic, 2 very small bathrooms, and 5 bedrooms. It also had 2 large connected barns that could be converted into livable space. When we were in the attic, I had a bat fly directly at my head as I was crouching down to look into a dark space. I nearly fell over. After the bat attack, I explored a little more and again was intrigued by the things that you see in someone’s home. In their attic, they had old wine barrels, a bike, an antique baby carriage, and a full size horse buggy, like something from an old black and white film. I had to look twice when I first saw it in the dimly lit attic. Out on the patio you could see the mountains in the distance. I was enjoying the scenic view when a few doves flew out of their hiding in the ceiling and startled me. Asses, the perks of old abandoned homes. Bats, birds , spiders, oh my.
After this house, we took an ice cream break to discuss our thoughts with Tony and decide on our next property to see. We decided that we only want to see restoration projects, and not remodeled homes. We think you get more for your money, can build value, and that the project will be an interesting experience. We also decided we want to be closer to the outskirts of a larger city vs in the rural country, but that we still wanted the land and the privacy of a country home, and a stellar view. Although we made the search more specific, as to not waste time, we definitely eliminated many options. There was one option that Tony mentioned that still has me intrigued, but he does not want to show us because he said that nothing will hold up after seeing this estate.
Apparently it is Vogue magazine worthy, like something old of a storybook. It is an old , completely restored water mill, that is absolutely divine. The landscaping, the architecture, the interior design, the works. it is currently listed at 550,000 euros and is the cream of the crop. The couple that owns it and restored it, is from Paris and just want to sell it and look for another project. I am intrigued, but we passed and stuck to our plans to only view restoration projects and not fully renovate homes, even if they are divine.
Our final house of the day was by far the best one. It was listed at 265,000 euros and would require another 250,000 euros to restore, but it had a caveat. Part of the house was habitable, so we could immediately make a few renovations just to live for now, while we work on the overall project. The house sat on 3 hectares of land overlooking the mountains, the valley and even a wine vineyard from the upper portion of the property.
On the flip side, although it was secluded, it was near a larger city. This house was also like an old colonial home. It had a grand entrance door that looked as if you were entering a castle.
The outside of the house had wild rose bushes growing up the side of the wall and hydrangeas everywhere. There was even an old out house. I laughed so hard when i saw it, all surrounded by beautiful flower bushes. Once you walked through the grand entrance door, the house had a completely enclosed beautiful courtyard, where we envisioned putting a pool and an outdoor haven. One side of the home was occupied by an old lady that passed away 3 years ago. Now the home belongs to her heirs. This is the more habitable portion of the home. It consists of a living room, kitchen, bedroom , bathroom, and a rather large attic , and a basement where we could create our wine cellar.
It even had a new roof. In this portion of the house there remains a beautiful old armoire, kitchen table and bench, an old vanity, washer, dryer, and a few odd end items. The other side of the estate has a completely separate entrance and would be a complete renovation. There were bats flying out of the walls, unsteady flooring, the roof needs to be replaced, but with the most beautiful views off the mountains. This side of the house contained 3 bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, a large basement, and an attic. This side of the estate, although in complete disarray, was left fully furnished, all the way down to the bedding remaining on the old beds. There were a few scattered toys, old collectors’ items of Japanese comic figurines and random figurines still left in the original packaging, dozens of old books, pictures on the walls, and candlesticks on the old mantle of the fire place, where bats were flying in and out of the house. outside there were two rather large stone barns, one still contained a car and an old tractor, along with a few bicycles. The main barn opened up to the back side of the property that wound up a hill to overlook two separate wine vineyards on either side. One side with the vineyard and the mountains in the distance. Now this was the money view. There was no structure up on this portion of the property, just empty land. It would have been perfect if the home sat on this piece of the property or if only the house faced South to capitalize on the house being in the warmth of the sun throughout the majority of the day, this would have been a perfect home.
Today we continued to learn a great deal about not only the old French style architecture, but also the pros and cons that come along with the style. I am excited to see what we have on the list for our explorations for next Friday!