French Real Estate Tour – Valley d’Aspe, Bearn France

This morning we got up with the sunrise, had a quick breakfast and drove approximately one hour to the mountains for our first French real estate tour. We started the morning in a small village nestled in the mountain out in the country. The first house we saw we were unimpressed with and a little turned off because the images from the web that led us to choose this house to visit were misleading . The house was super close to a main road, right next to a hydro-electric plant, and no where near as cute as it appeared in the pictures. To make matters worse, the bank had recently foreclosed on the property, so the key we had was no longer of use for us to get into the house to view it. That was ok by us though, because as soon as we pulled up, we knew that we were not interested in the house, bur since we were there, we were going to view it anyway. Priced at 150,000 Euros this house appeared to be astral in the pictures, but was a dud in reality.

Valley d'Aspe Village in Pyrenees of Bearn and South West France

Pyrenees Village in Bearn, South West France

The next house on the list was not one that we had selected. The realtor thought that we may like it, so he suggested that we see I. We were glad we did. It was in a super small hamlet on the top of the mountain overlooking other mountains and a valley . The hamlet was completely picturesque , like something from a postcard. For those of you that don’t know what a hamlet is ( don’t worry, we were clueless as well ); it is a village that is so small that there is not even a single shop in it. Not a bakery, or a gas station, or even a corner market. Nothing! But it was such a pretty and quaint little village that you just want to visit it. The man that gave us the keys to view the home , said that there are 6 houses with a burning fire in the winter, that is how they measure how many people live in the hamlet. Otherwise, it is more of a mountain Summer vacation spot where French tourists come to rent a Maison in the French countryside, hike and relax.

Window view - direction of the village

Window view – direction of the village

The home was for sale by three brothers who really would just like to get the property off of their hands, so at $157,000 euros, it was a steal. The property was huge. It was a true old character home, from 1812. Although the main level was habitable, the house would require quite a bit of work to make it something that we would want to live in, but the possibilities with this place were endless. On the main level there were 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and a laundry room. Each bedroom offering a better view than the one before it. They each had a view of the mountains, the valley, or the picturesque hamlet. Up in the attic there was so much space, with super high ceilings and charming exposed brick, that you could create an excellent loft to entertain guests in, relax, or simply use as an additional bedroom or two.

Real Estate in South West France - Character home for restoration

Character home for restoration, Basement with stone where animals used to live below the house

The basement of the house, where the animals were kept in the old days, was completely uninhabitable, but it had so much potential. The space was massive. We envisioned building a wine cellar, a movie theater, an entertainment area, and a home bar in the basement area. Maybe even an additional bedroom or two. There was so much space to utilize underneath the house . It was actually two separate houses in the basement. I think that there was actually more square footage under the house than there was on the main floor. The land that the property sat on was not that big, but the canvas we would have to ok with would allow us to create a masterpiece. We would need to invest at least an additional 150,000+ Euros in the home to make it what we would want, but it would be a fun project.

Valley d'Aspe, Bearn, France Home for restoration

Valley d’Aspe, Bearn, France Home for restoration

The final house we visited today was an old stone farm house from the 1600s, that was now maintained by a convent . The view was spectacular. The farm was secluded from the hamlet, yet so close at the same time. It had its own private drive and was not connected to the village water system, but we could get our water from a well. The old farm house sat down in the valley completely surrounded by the mountains. The view was beautiful. This house, however would be a completely different kind of project. One that requires both a lot of time, patience , and money. The farm house was priced at 190,000 euros but would easily require at least another 200,000 Euros to make something livable out of it. As of now the place is completely uninhabitable. But again, the potential and the opportunity is definitely there. However, this would be far more than a renovation, this would require a complete gutting of the entire place, tearing out all of the walls, the floors, the works. Only leaving the old characteristic stone shell. Although the farm sat on a decent amount of land , we would not be able to expand the property because there is a clause in place that protects the land as farm land. As soon as reopened the old, almost chamber like, entrance door to the place we saw a little bat hanging from the ceiling staring at us.

Don't mind the little bats on your real estate tours of renovation projects in Bearn, France

Don’t mind the little bats on your real estate tours of renovation projects in Bearn, France


The realtor said “I hope you don’t mind bats because you are likely to see a few in here”. A few was an understatement. There was bat poo everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. The main floor was small, but had a really cute, quaint feel to it. As we cautiously headed up the stairs, afraid that they may cave in at any given moment, 4 bats flew out of one of the rooms at the top of the stairs and they flew directly at me. I screamed, swore a little, and then I was fine, although the realtor was probably thinking , that this was not a good sign :) the bats were coming out of the walls, literally. The middle floor had two small rooms, also filled with bat droppings. Next we headed up to the attic. Admittedly, I was a little scared of what we would see. The attic was actually really cool. It was huge, spacious, and all stone, and I didn’t see a single bat. As we left the house, the same little bat was still hanging at the front door, staring at us, completely un-phased by our presence. As I mentioned, this farm house would need to be completely gutted to start fresh with a clean slate. Although it would be a fun project, I think this one would be biting off more than we could chew.

To end our real estate tour, the gentleman who let us into the house in the hamlet invited us in to have an espresso and to take a look at his recently renovated home. it was beautiful. He went with a completely modern interior with the beautiful characteristic old French stone exterior. He even had the actual side of the mountain protruding into the architecture of his home. It was awesome. As a side note, if we were to buy the village home, it is a good thing that this gentleman was very nice and that we liked him, because he had us surrounded. He owned the house directly across from the village home, and right next to it as well :)

Today was a great learning day for us. We saw a restoration project, a complete redo project and an fully renovated home. It was great to be able to envision what we would like to accomplish and see what others have done. We also learned that going forward, we only want to look at renovation projects and not complete redos. Although they would be fun, and we could really build value, it would be a lot for this marketing girl and this finance guy to take on. Especially since we have zero experience in homebuilding and renovations!

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