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  1. Well done it getting the sale at your full price - exceptional!

    Could I add a few thoughts on negotiating, for others' benefit, although you clearly don't need them. I spent a good few years as a contract negotiator (IT projects, not property!):

    • the reason the buyer will want to negotiate the price before the visit is exactly why you don't want to - he's testing you and looking for a "free" reduction, and will usually come back later to ask for more, especially if you reduce now.
    • it's usually best not to trade money for money, but trade a reduction for something helpful to you - for example, "a small reduction may be possible if you (the buyer) have no house to sell, don't need a mortgage, can sign a compromis within four weeks . . . " This positions you as working with the buyer for mutual benefit, rather than banging heads.
    • Is there any other way the buyer can work to your benefit? For example, we ended up selling many heavy items of furniture to our buyer, and even my French car, which I would have had to dispose of anyway. It was all at quite low prices, but saved him a lot of initial expense and gave me 15,000 euros cash in hand with no hassle. 

    • we even did the deal with the bulk of the payment in sterling, saving each of us 1% or so in conversion costs and bank charges. The Notaire had to approve it, but he was quite happy.
    • Finally, don't rush to reduce. I sold another home many years ago to a family with young children. Their parents brought them round to choose their bedrooms, and then wanted to discuss the price . . .! Let the buyer build some emotional commitment first (and especially the buyer's wife, excuse the sexism s.v.p!)  
    Hope this helps others in the future!

  2. I hope that you will be able to arrange satisfactory care in France, but

    surely it would be much easier for them to re-integrate in the UK?

    After we

    moved back (admittedly to the Isle of Man, but still NHS), we were

    signed up for NHS doctors and dentists within a couple of weeks (and we

    arrived just before New Year). We haven't needed any of the social care

    services, but my mother (now 92) uses them in England and they have never

    questioned her background or residence (she has lived in UK all her life). Everyone else seems to get the services without question. However, it has been quite difficult to explain what services she needs and to arrange for them to be provided - it would be a nightmare having to do it in French, and I'm reasonably fluent after 15 years there!

    Provided that they have current UK passports (with right of abode, which presumably they have to live in France), I don't think there is anything to stop them moving to the UK and asking for support immediately after arrival.


    can quite see that they may not want to live squeezed in with family,

    but maybe you should get them to consider what happens when one of them

    dies - not a happy prospect, but inevitable and, sadly, probable before long. Can the sisters in Medway not provide any support?

    Would it be worth researching the employment of a live-in carer, if you can find suitable accommodation? Probably East European, these days - I don't know how you would go about it, and clearly it would depend on what financial resources you have available.

    Good luck - it sounds as if you will need it!

  3. I suggest that you make careful note of any potential buyers introduced to you, by whom and when - ideally confirmed in writing to the agency (say, as a "thank you" note after the visit). Then, if a second agency tries to introduce the same people, say at once that you are already in contact.

    I can't see that you would lose out, no buyer is going to make a higher offer for the same property through a second agent. That way you could save yourself a lot of hassle - and you have some paperwork to support your case.

    Incidentally, our agents seemed to put much more effort in to persuading me to drop the price, than they did into finding prospective buyers.

  4. I'm thinking of adopting "sour70" as my nom de clavier. Would there be any copyright issues?

    Basically, if you treat agencies fairly, they seem to do the same. I don't think they would bother to initiate any legal action unless you really manage to irritate them.

  5. Congratulations on finding a potential buyer, I hope it goes through smoothly.

    We sold (privately) a couple of years ago, and I'm sure I remember a clause in the standard Mandat (non-exclusive), that if the agents received an offer from a buyer at the full asking price, they could agree a Compromis de Vente on our behalf without recourse to us. At the time, this was very unlikely; I queried it but it stayed in the Mandat.

    Accordingly, as soon as the private buyer came over the horizon, I took great care to inform them (in writing with proof of delivery) that we had found the buyer without their help. I also wrote formally as soon as we had agreed an offer to inform them, and also to ask them to take the property off the market. They all complied with this request immediately, and there was no subsequent hassle.

    If you have a similar clause, it might be better to explain the situation to the buyer, and to accept the offer "subject to no offer at the full price being made." This should be sufficiently unlikely that the buyer is not put off.

    I remember a case on the forum a few years ago where the agents came along after a private sale with another buyer (probably fictional) supposedly prepared to pay the full price, and accordingly demanding their full fee. Tread carefully!

  6. My sympathy to the original poster - an unenviable position to end up in.

    We had fifteen happy years in France, but after a couple of short spells in a French hospital (one each), realized the potential difficulties of growing old in France, not just to us but much more to our family (still in UK). The admin and paperwork of old age and illness followed by (eventual) death looks to be an absolute nightmare - worse than the illnesses . We decided to move back to an English-speaking country for our old age (both 70-ish), sold up in France after a struggle (just avoiding capital gains tax), and moved to the Isle of Man.

    We had English-law wills and Powers of Attorney sorted within a month, domicile shortly after, National Health service doctor and dentist, and pensions transferred. Now we can die tidily (hopefully not for another 15-20 years) with no inheritance tax, leave the pension funds to the kids, and pay only10-20% income tax in the meantime.

    It certainly wouldn't suit everybody, but I would urge other Forum readers to think ahead to how (and where) you want to spend your 80's and 90's.

    France is fabulous for the young and fit, not quite so good for the old, particularly without families.

  7. This is a real minefield. The French tax authorities have only started to chase Trusts in the last few years, and still do not really understand them. According to French tax law, all Trustees must make annual returns (and payments) for any trust with a french-resident settlor or beneficiary, even a potential beneficiary. The tax due may not be any more than you're paying now, but the paperwork looks like being a nightmare. The Trustees don't necessarily want to comply with this, since they are not French resident.

    I found the free Tax Bulletins on BDO's Guernsey site useful, although very heavy going:


    I eventually paid them for advice, which I felt was expensive but necessary. In the end we moved out of France so the potential problem disappeared.

  8. Not too complicated - it's the date on the notification (e.g. interest statement, dividend statement, bank statement). Most of these won't arrive until after 5 April.

    Don't forget to ask for the income to be paid gross in UK. It's tedious to reclaim UK tax.

  9. I confused myself by taking "SHON" on planning permission docs as relating to "Surface Habitable" - it doesn't, it stands for "Surface Hors Oeuvre Nett", i.e. total area excluding walls. I think it included the garage, which would not be counted as "habitable", but I've never been able to reconcile the various figures.

    Incidentally, this had a big effect on my Diagnostiques, as Energy Efficiency is measured per square metre habitable - in my case dividing by 143 rather than 186 pushed me into Band E.

  10. Fair question, Renaud. We have a 2,400 sq metre garden in the Alps on a 30% (1 in 3) slope. Mrs P has osteoporosis now (after fifteen good years in the Alps) and already has one hip replaced, but is a keen gardener. The possible swap in Derbyshire turned out to have a larger garden on an even steeper slope, just under Frogatt Edge. It might have been a little easier to sell, but with the garden and punitive stamp duty of £24,000 in real money (not just added to the mortgage!), it was not an attractive proposition.

    As it happens, we've locked up the chalet for the winter and bought a small house in the Isle of Man, five minutes walk from historic Castletown and 50 metres from the sea. Everyone speaks english (although they all wear woolly hats) and tax rates on pensions are even lower than in France. Not a flake of snow all winter!

  11. I'd take issue with Sprogster's point that France is an unfriendly tax environment for retirees. I've been here since retiring fifteen years ago and find the tax treatment is much kinder than it would be in UK. Two main reasons - pension income is not subject to socialist contributions, and a couple are taxed as a family rather than individually. Our marginal tax rate on a reasonable income is 14%, and the overall just over 3 (three!) percent. It would be 25% marginal and well over 10% in UK.

    I have some dividends and bank interest which are loaded with CSG as well, but that's not much of a problem at the moment.

    Just wanted to mention it in case there are readers in UK getting the wrong impression.

  12. Several responses seem to regard the lump sum as just another pension payment. Surely it is tax-free in UK because it is a return of contributions, rather than a regular pension payment - it was your money in the first place. It's complicated by tax relief given to you (and your employer) to encourage your saving, but the principle still applies.

    I wouldn't want to argue it with the French tax man, however, which is why I took mine a few years ago, having read on this forum that it was about to become taxable. Taking it before arriving in France, if possible, must be the best option.

  13. Depends on what you feel they are worth, and how much you need the proceeds. A few times with items we no longer wanted, we've left them by the poubelles, and they've been scavenged within hours - obviously with no payment. Other times we've taken them to the dechetterie and the attendant has welcomed them for recycling - he may make a few euros, but good luck to him.

    It works both ways - I recycled a child's bike (geddit?) from beside our poubelles for the grandchildren, spent a bit on inner tubes etc., and they had the benefit for a few years. It's now gone back the same way.

  14. Insurance companies aren't really geared up for income drawdown - they just want you to give them your fund, and they'll give you a meagre annuity in return - then you die, and they get to keep the cash. That's how come they're rich, and we aren't!

    I had accumulated personal pension funds with Sun Life, Scottish Life and Skandia, and I moved them all to a drawdown provider - initially Winterthur, and then again to Alliance Trust because I wanted a low, fixed annual fee. The transfer process was tedious because it was new to Winterthur at the time, but once complete with Alliance it runs very smoothly. I just have an investment portfolio which happens to be inside a pension wrapper - I decide which investments to make, and which to sell each year to generate cash for the annual pension payment. I found over many years that I can draw about 6% per year of the fund capital value without long-term depletion. However, there's always a danger that if you draw too much, the fund will run out before you do. I don't use an IFA at all.

    There are some incidental benefits - you should have reasonable cover against inflation, and your spouse gets to use the whole fund if you go first. She can even take it in cash less a tax charge.The insurance companies would normally only give her a half pension, if that - provided you've opted for a lower annuity in the first place.

    Be very careful about charges if you think of moving to QROPS.

  15. I imagine you were given that advice because the French system treats personal pensions differently - for example, a "tax-free" lump sum is now taxable in France, which will affect your decision making. Your UK IFA wouldn't normally know about such differences.

    However, it's not too complicated - if you are prepared to do a bit of reading, there's no reason why you shouldn't manage the fund yourself and use a provider on an "execution only" basis. I use Alliance Trust to hold my funds (they work on a small fixed-fee, rather than a percentage), and make all the decisions myself on where to invest (international investment trusts) and what income to take. I've been doing it for fifteen years and the fund is still worth what I started with, after taking a reasonable income and despite the efforts of bankers and politicians.

    There is a suggestion that the French are starting to think about counting personal pension funds towards wealth tax, if you're anywhere near the threshold.

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