Monday, 30 May 2011

Purchase of 'The House with no Name' - continued

I am still grappling with paperwork and am batting it away whenever it arrives in the inbox or the letterbox by signing, initialling or putting ‘lu et approuve’ (whether I have read or approved it or not). In no particular order, here is the latest update:

1. Mortgage Broker advises that the bank is almost ready to confirm the mortgage offer – but this is subject to the valuation of the property. Am not too concerned about this as we have not asked for a high LTV ratio (Loan to Value) (am so impressed with myself for learning all these new things)!

2. Solicitor – There are 3 (if not more) options for dealing with the legalities of buying a house. The first is for both parties to use the same notaire (who work for the government and are totally impartial), the second is to appoint your own notaire (who then shares the costs with the vendor’s notaire) and the third option is to do either of the first two options but then in addition, use a UK solicitor who is an expert in french law. We are gone for the third option, in that we are ‘sharing’ the notaire recommended by the vendors (as this notaire dealt with the original sale of the house so has all the relevant documents to hand) but also using a UK solicitor (at additional expense) as our intermediary so all the documents & contracts are sent & received via her. Although we understand the language and the purchase system we felt that as this is a major investment we wanted to get all our facts right regarding french inheritance laws, french wills, purchasing ‘en tontine’ etc. When we purchased our appartement in Perpignan four years ago our family Solicitor recommended a colleague who just happened to have lived and worked in France for several years and she helped us by checking through the Contract for us. I rang "Mrs Double-Barrelled" and explained that we were in the process of buying another property and she was delighted to help (and I would be ‘delighted’ too if I could charge fees like that!). It is good to have somebody I can just forward some of the emails/paperwork to without having to worry about it.

3. Rental of our current appartement – As it is a buyer’s market at the moment it is not a good time to sell, so we have decided to rent it out. The agent came round and explained the pros and cons of renting furnished or unfurnished (details available on most websites!) and we have decided to rent it fully-furnished – mainly because our furniture is very modern and I don’t think it will look right in a house in the country, but also because we get a higher rental and the tenancy can be reviewed annually. The agent noticed a crack in some plasterwork on a beam – in fact he couldn’t fail to see it as the beam is currently supported by some bits of rough timber in case the damage gets any worse! I explained that this had happened when the neighbour upstairs had been particularly heavy-handed while laying floor tiles but that I had struggled to find a tradesman to do the job for me (it has actually been like that for 6 months!) He assured me that this was not a problem as his uncle just happened to be an ‘artisan’ and he would get him round to give me a quote! In the meantime he has given me a rental Mandate to fill in – more paperwork, just what I wanted..

4. Accountant – To avoid any comments in the future of ‘why didn’t you do it this way and save yourself unnecessary tax’ (bitter voice of experience here) I decided to just run the whole idea past our UK accountant. While he is the first to admit that he knows nothing about the french way of doing anything, he has coped admirably with finding the right place to put my french income down on my UK tax return. When I explained how the rental of the appartement would fund the mortgage and that everything would run through our French bank account (and therefore we won’t be troubled by vagaries in the exchange rate) he actually couldn’t find anything wrong with the plan! I bet he’s having sleepless nights now trying to find an error!

So, for the moment, that seems to be everything - I can’t believe how many people are involved, how much time it has taken and how much work I have been doing, but I keep looking at the photographs and realise it will be worth the effort.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Give me a mortgage please!

Getting a French mortgage (rather than through a UK bank) for the new French property seemed a sensible option – particularly in view of the fact that while the euro/£1 rate is so bad at the moment, we can keep our eyes on when the rate is more favourable and then perhaps start paying some of it off (when we win the lottery). Having had several discussions with several different mortgage brokers, I had narrowed the choice down to the one who seemed the most patient and understanding of all my questions – so I rang him to confirm that we had found a property, confirmed that we would like to take up ‘Option B’ of the various proposals he had outlined, paid the £200 administration fee and then watched in horror as my inbox filled up with pages and pages of forms to be filled in. I pride myself on my methodical filing system but this was a real challenge and it took an entire weekend (and more) to track down everything they asked for which included: Copies of Passports, Birth Certificates, Wedding Certificate, up-to-date statements of any assets (savings accounts, bonds, stock portfolios etc), current valuation of any properties we own, the last 3 month’s payslips, the last 3 month’s bank statements (to prove that we didn’t have any undisclosed regular debts), a letter from an Employer confirming your status & salary, copies of last tax returns, and, as my husband also has his own business, copies of the last 3 years annual accounts. I was very tempted to send my 10-metre swimming certificate, just in case it might be useful.

The whole thing was a massive task but made me realise why the french banks have not suffered to the same extent as others during the ‘Banking Crisis’ – they do not allow people to get into debt easily.

The feeling of relief was fantastic as I posted/emailed everything and sat back in my by now well-ordered office and waited to see if I had ‘passed the test’. (Sadly not quite as the broker rang back with 3 queries – one was that I needed to photocopy the outside envelope of the payslip (?), another was that a statement said that it was ‘page 1 of 2’ and they needed page 2 (just a list of my loyalty points I believe!) and finally querying a couple of entries on the bank statement). Finally I was assured that all was in place and ready to be sent to France for ‘consideration’. Scary!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Purchase of 'The House with no Name'

I did a little bit of homework before rushing into buying a house in an attempt to have everything vaguely in place – so this week was the time to get everything into action. The first job was to get a surveyor to check out the property for us – the French are always appalled by this idea (as they think that surveyors always find too many things wrong!) but as this house is pretty substantial and has several cracks – not to mention the fact that it relies on a well for water and is not on mains-drainage - we felt that an expert opinion was in order. During the course of my work I had met a very well-qualified bi-lingual surveyor (name available on request) and he agreed to visit the property on our behalf the following week. One problem became apparent when he asked for the address and I realised that the property didn’t have one – no name, no number, just the name of the road, the nearest village, and a postcode which encompassed an entire commune. Luckily our agent agreed to meet the surveyor and guide him to the house on the appointed day, but it made me realise that arranging furniture deliveries, France telecom/EDF visits etc. could prove very difficult in future so we will now have to work out how (and what) to name the property to make life easier for everybody. No doubt it will involve plying the Mayor with drink!

The agent had emailed through copies of all the ‘Expertises’ that had been carried out (like the ill-fated UK Home Information Pack) so I forwarded a copy of these to Mr. M the Surveyor who promptly rang up to make sure that we were talking about the same property – I had originally shown him the website details of the house and he had based his quotation on the amount of rooms listed there, but the ‘Expertises’ mentioned a hallway, bureau, cave, 2 garages and 2 additional attic rooms which, in his opinion, made this a ‘different animal’! We renegotiated the fee and, as it turned out, the poor man ended up spending a solid 8 hours at the property.

The Surveyor’s Report put our minds at rest about several issues – the cracks have been explained, the water & drainage situation appear to be normal (for France!), and even the fact that the Expertises regarding the electrics had, in several rooms, mentioned ‘Danger de Mort’, this was ‘something that they always say’ and is just a question of adding a few earth sockets. So far, so good. And now on to the mortgage....