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Holiday home in Normandy


Old Lochinvar
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My wife and I are retired and are planning to buy a holiday home in France together with my son and his wife. I had apreference for Brittany but we have decided on Normandy as being somewhere my son and daughter could get to more easily for short breaks. My wife and I are going out there on Monday to view some properties. If we find somewhere - and we are very keen on what we have read about one place in particular - I'm sure I will be asking for lots of advice.

But for now I am hoping some kind soul will help with a couple of general points.

1. Any views on the suitability of the Manche region?

2. What are the prospects for holiday lets when we aren't there?

3. Is there anywhere locally we could get help in arranging electricity, telephone, etc. suppliers (my French is OK for shops, hotels, restaurants but not much more)?

4. Any general comments or advice?

Thanks in anticipation.

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1. Perfectly suitable. There is a choice of several ferry routes, plus two or three airlines flying to nearby airports so getting to and from England is no problem.

2. To be honest it may not have the initial appeal of some of the hotter regions, but the area does have a lot going for it, so it depends mainly on how well you market your place.

3. If you buy through a decent agent they will help you with all of these. Otherwise there are 'hand holding' agencies in the area, but they are a little, shall we say, controversial.

4. Whatever you need to know, try a seach on this forum, chances are it will have been discussed already.

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1. Any views on the suitability of the Manche region?

Yes. If you're going to be in northern France, it is the best region. It is very beautiful. (Biased, moi?) More sensibly, parts of Calvados are beautiful too and it too has a coastline. If you're a bit nearer Le Havre, you (and holidaymakers) also have the option of good value LD Lines ferries, Portmouth / Le Havre, which is useful as BF are expensive and unlikely to come down in price.

2. What are the prospects for holiday lets when we aren't there?

You'll have to have a well-located, well-equipped house, market it very well and ideally find a way of differentiating it from the competition. There is a lot of competition.

3. Is there anywhere locally we could get help in arranging

electricity, telephone, etc. suppliers (my French is OK for shops,

hotels, restaurants but not much more)?

It's not that difficult. Go into the various offices and do things face-to-face. In Calvados and Manche, there are plenty of British people who've trod the path to EDF, France Telecom etc before you. The companies have got used to dealing with pigeon French. Write your script beforehand if you're not confident and take a dictionary. Fear will improve your French rapidly. [:D]

4. Any general comments or advice?

Start learning French now. Now.

Will's better equipped to comment on this point: it seems there are a lot of houses on the market right now and the market is slow. You could do well. If you are buying something half-renovated, make sure the renovations aren't DIY bodge-jobs done by people who think that putting up a shelf in the UK equips them to build walls, put in floors and do roofing work. If major renovations (roof, electrics etc) have taken place within the past 10 years, ask for a copy of the "decennel insurance". If the work has been done by registered, insured artisans, this document should be available.

If you're tempted to buy a house that needs a lot of renovation, the costs are always double those you calculate at the time of purchase and will take triple the time you plan.

If you think you may be buying a house to which you'll eventually retire, make sure you buy something that works as a home 52 weeks a year, not just for a few weeks at Easter and in the summer holidays.

Does any of this help?? [:P]

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Presumably you are the Artist Formerly Known As Young Lochinvar? Must have been a long time since you came out of the west. Still got the good steed? It was the best, I heard.

We have a holiday home in Manche, between Mortain and St Hilaire du Harcouet (I recommend St Hilaire).

Manche is not spectacular, but it is beautiful in parts and good in others. It is tranquil, friendly and humide...

You won't find a thriving arts scene in Normandie Profonde, but there are other benefits. like good, honest restaurants, produce and meat (beef and veal, mostly, some pork). Easy to travel into Brittany or Mayenne or, if you are a masochist, the Mont St Michel.

Do you want to be around other English people? Hard to avoid! Leclerc in Vire has an 'Englsih Spoken' checkout. There is an 'Englsih Pub' in Sourdeval and it is perfectly possible to get fish and chips!

If, however, you want to avoid all that it is possible.

If you have any specific questions, please ask.

edit - Catalpa wrote it all better - and she is dead right.

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I too love Manche but before moving here used our home as a maison secondaire and for some time we were able to obtain a return on investment.  It was an asset and thus had to earn its keep.  We traded it up to the standard that we would wish to live in and that was one of the problems for it is a fact that all home owners or gite owners have good or bad experiences of the rental market.  We had some but on balance people are on holiday they have paid their fees and some adopted that approach and on a suprise visit to the house (for business) and when I introduced myself found four people in the house that had not previously been accounted for.

However the gite market is now perhaps approaching the age old scenario of supply and demand. You cannot beat the market and the trick is to differentiate your gite or property from the next.  I know of someone not far from Tessy that has consistently obtained £1000 rental per week for his mill.  I also know of other people who are struggling to fill their properties at £250 a week. The gite business is now a commodity marketplace.  Years ago the corporate IT users were happy with say 4.2ppm with BT the rate is now under a penny it is a commodity and market forces will and have driven down prices.

In some country areas you will find a 'unique' lifestyle and it has not changed and will not change for hundreds of years.  It can be somewhat demanding (solely personal view)

We have given it six years and we truly will miss some of the things about the Manche but we are moving further south and to the Charente Maritime and with La Rochelle on our doorstep we can get back to Bristol Birmingham and other centres rather much quicker than Caen Cherbourg Le Havre or St Malo.

In saying that we have today had a wonderful day with sun this afternoon walking the dogs doing some gardening and with crocus and daffs out and cyclamen and seeing what is coming with the wisteria and which clads the house...................I have to be tough I was seduced with this house some years ago its been a hard mistress.............but I have got it out of my system ( I think)

The Manche is not for us.( I think)

I am probably now going to be shot down but it is a considered view and only arrived at having had considerable exposure to life a la Percyaise.

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So many replies and so quickly! Thank you all.

Dick Smith has rumbled my ham-fisted nom de plume: I was indeed Young Lochinvar - before I went bald.The steed by the way is an ex-steed, he is no more, etc.

We are going for places that are fully renovated - largely because I had read what others had said on this site about the cost and difficulty of getting work done.

Thanks once again. I have no doubt I shall be seeking further advice very soon.
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Llwyncelyn wrote

"We have given it six years and we truly will miss some of the things about the Manche but we are moving further south and to the Charente Maritime and with La Rochelle on our doorstep we can get back to Bristol Birmingham and other centres rather much quicker than Caen Cherbourg Le Havre or St Malo."

Llwyncelyn

You have chosen a good area but be warned that the cheap flights from La Rochelle are good during the summer months however Bristol and Birmingham services do not operate during the winter so you may need to consider Bordeaux or Poitiers for flights back to U.K .

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[quote user="Will"]

1. Perfectly suitable. There is a choice of several ferry routes, plus two or three airlines flying to nearby airports so getting to and from England is no problem.

This can significantly help lets in the shoulder season as many people do not want to travel for a long time if they are just taking a week off at Easter, for example. Also many families with young children do not want a really long car journey.

2. To be honest it may not have the initial appeal of some of the hotter regions, but the area does have a lot going for it, so it depends mainly on how well you market your place.

From what some of my guests with young children were saying last year, the temperature in summer in Brittany/Normandy is as hot as they want in order to be able to spend a lot of time outdoors with their kids on the holiday. The beaches in the area are unspoilt and beautiful too.

[/quote]
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Thanks thats very kind of you and to be very truthful I had approached it from a standpoint of an all year round service.  Thanks for the other suggestions.

 

Our friends live in the Vendee and they tell us that either before or after Nantes that there is now almost a dual carriageway that takes you towards Rouen and thus Le Havre.

thanks again

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Hi Susan I agree as to summer weather but my wife suffers and has done so for over thirty years from Rheumatoid Arthritis and badly at that if RA can be anything else.  The winter here in Normandie is not conducive to her illness and that too is one of the other considerations.
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Lochinvar - you really need to be further south for the best weather, beaches, food, scenery etc etc and soo easy to get to. My fully renovated house is for sale, so just pm me!!

Edit: sorry....forgot to say, I'm in sunny Charente!
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i ADORE normandy; at least manche, orne and calvados.  don't really know eure.  i do think the bocage is so lush and green.  best of all are the romanesque churches (if you're into that sort of thing)

the one time we were there in january, i did find it extremely extremely cold.  even so, i didn't reject normandy for that reason.  we are in the charente maritime more by default than anything else.

i don't know about lettings but i must say that there does seem to be a very good range of accommodation for hire at very reasonable prices

the sunday morning that we got off the ferry at ouistreham and drove north to avranches, stopping at all the normandy landing places, and then having breakfast overlooking mulberry harbour has got to be one of my most abiding memories of  all time!

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There are certainly some very beautiful places, and for people like me with an interest in comparatively recent history there is so much to see - including some very moving sights. Manche has Mont St Michel, of course, a deservedly very popular attraction, as are the landing beaches, but otherwise the area is a little neglected by tourism. Which is why I think good holiday accommodation should do well in one of the less popular areas. There are areas of B&B desert, and I think it's a rather similar situation for good rental cottages. But it's also why you would have to do more of the marketing yourself, rather than rely on the local tourist boards.

I agree that winters can be cold, though they can also be quite mild. The temperatures are rather like southern England, though inland it tends to be a few degrees warmer in summer, and a few degrees cooler in winter. Of course, the south gets cold too, though the cold season is shorter.

Just to be pedantic, I think you meant Arromanches. Avranches is somewhere else altogether (one of the three major towns of Manche departement), but no less important historically, particularly to the English, being closely aligned with the story of Thomas a Becket and Henry II.

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will & carole (who kindly pm'd me).  thanks for pointing out my error.  i meant arromanches of course.  in fact i had to ask for directions to it.  i remember seeing pictures of arromanches on the tv at the time of the d day landings 50th celebrations and i just HAD to visit.

i know where avranches is as well.  never been inside the town but did'nt particularly want to go in when i viewed it from the road high on the hill, looking down on it.  trouble always is having to pick and choose what to see on account of lack of time!

i think one of my favourite places is bagnolles de l'orne but that is NOT a place for buying for rental.  on account of its spa town status, it has an over provision of hotels, etc.  lovely in the summer but in winter, most of the towns and restaurants seem to close down till round about easter.

my husband always says that the trouble with france is that the last place you visit is always the best.  no wonder it took us over 2 years and several trips to view property and places. just couldn't make up our minds! 

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  • 4 weeks later...
Old Lochinvar!

There was mounting 'mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;

Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:

There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,

But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see.

So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,

Have ye e'er heard of gallant like old Lochinvar?

Well - we haven't heard anything! What did you decide?

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  • 2 weeks later...
We viewed about a dozen properties, took photos and a few videos, reported back to my son and his wife and chose a property that we all agreed seemed to meet all our criteria. The asking price was 220,000 euros and we asked the agent if the vendor would accept 200,000 - subject to a final visit for my son to view. We heard nothing for a week: so I reminded. We were told the sellers (British) were in Spain on holiday. So we waited. After 3 weeks I told the agents by email that we wanted a response within 24 hours or we would look elsewhere. We heard nothing. How strange is that?

So, all four of us plus 2 grandkids are off to Basse Normandie for a week at Easter. The plan this time is to choose the best we see and sign up, subject to survey, before we come home. Hopefully we shall find agents that actually want to make a sale.

Perhaps I'll have to make do with our home on the Solway with fair Ellen!
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Good luck with the search.  We have a holiday cottage (renovation nearly complete) in southern Manche and love it there.  We've been there every summer since we bought in 2003 and it's always been hot enough for us.  We're about halfway between Brecey and Manche - lovely unspoiled countryside and off the beaten tourist track, so no crowds. We're not planning to let, however, so you may want to be closer to major tourist attractions to attract tenants.

We were there for a short visit last week and had a surprise visit from the estate agent who sold us the house 4 years ago.  He happened to be passing, saw me in the garden and called in. He's now working for an agency in Villedieu and said that the market is quieter than it was when we bought, with fewer British buying and more Parisiens after holiday homes. So hopefully you'll find plenty on offer and agents and vendors willing to swing into action.

Incidentally, we saw our cottage one day and signed the compromis de vente the next.  It had just come on the market, was within our price bracket (i.e. cheap) and we could see that it was basically sound, so we put in an offer the next morning and the paperwork was able to be dealt with the same day, because we didn't need a mortgage. We haven't regretted it for a moment!

Kathy

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Kathy we are on the move and going further south.  Lots to commend Manche for but equally the last two winters have been less than kind to us on this hill.  Equally my wife suffers from RA and has done for over 30 years and the humidity here (damp) is just a literal pain.  Again now totally retired (unless some documents turn up in the post and they do from time to time)   so its time to move on.

We have instructed one agent in Villedieu to sell our home and we are happy with suggested terms.  However your guy works for which agency?  For protocol purposes perhaps you can pm me for I need other contacts for I truly believe that a multi-agency approach plus private internet sale is the way forward.

If we do not sell then we will move back to the UK buy a place near to West Bay and Bridport and go fishing.  Then our son and grandchildren can use our home here as and when they like.

However the thought of a return to the UK and to a Brown dominated Government is too horrendous to think about.

Have you noticed of late how many Ministers and sub-Ministers if you like are Scottish.  Nothing against the Scots for being Welsh they are essentially cousins and there is a relationship going back years and certainly on the rugby field.  I still cannot get my head around the point of them being MP's for Scottish constituencies and they have their own Parliament yet can still vote on matters south of the border.

kind regards

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Good luck with your house hunting!

We thought about buying somewhere further South with a better guarantee of sunshine, but with two school-aged children we realised that we would be better off buying somewhere which we could easily reach by car. We didn't fancy having to drive down the French motorways for hours on end, and low-cost airlines don't work out so low-cost when there are four of you travelling during the school holidays, especially when you factor in the cost of car-hire! So we decided to concentrate our search to an area just 2 hours from Calais. Previously we had by-passed this region on our way down to the better-known parts of Normandy, i.e. Manche and Calvados, and didn't realise just how lovely the Seine Maritime actually is. We can get to the house in 4.5 hours door to door from our house in Sussex (and it was the same when we previously lived in London), via the tunnel, and once there we are ideally placed to visit so many lovely places - Rouen, Dieppe, Paris (not forgetting Disneyland!), Monet's house at Giverny, etc etc. So it is perfectly possible for us to go out just for a weekend if we want (although we don't tend to so much anymore as it is so often booked up!). Although we can't take credit for realising it at the time, because the global-warming issue was not so much in the news, we have since realised that we can be smug about the fact that each time we travel to Le Gaillon by car, we only use 99kg of CO2, as opposed to 600kg if we had taken a short-haul flight to a European destination, so it is a much more carbon-friendly option!

We always laugh when we watch these "Place in the Sun" programs when the people choose to buy somewhere within a day or two. We spent over 6 months viewing properties on about 6 separate viewing trips - we must have spent over £1,000 on ferries and accommodation and seen over 30 properties. We were close to giving up (I even wrote a post on this forum called "should we give it up and get a loft conversion instead?" when I was still CatherineS) then we viewed Le Gaillon on a cold snowy day in February 2003 and it was the "coup de foudre" - we instantly knew that after all that slog we had found the one that we had been waiting for. We wanted somewhere "special", and we believe we have found it - it really is magical because it is so secluded yet has such lovely views. It is big enough for us to go on holiday with another couple and their children so we often go over most half-terms and holidays, and one day, when we have the funds(!) we would like to do a "Grand Design" on the attached barn... In the meantime, to help pay our mortgage, we let the house out as a holiday cottage and we have been very successful (40 weeks booked in 2006! OK, that includes us during the holidays, but those are weeks which we would be able to book 10 times over anyway) - I think this is largely due to its location, people come to us for a week for their "second" holiday in the spring and autumn.

By the way, we bought the house while we were living in London. We found that coming back from Le Gaillon was so depressing that it made us want to move to France and we spent a few months planning to move out there permanently, but we realised that moving to France is not always the sweetness and light that people with their rose-tinted glasses make it out to be. But having decided to leave London, it did prompt us to move to the country - and we ended up moving to Heathfield, which is the twin-town of Forges-les-Eaux, our town in France!!!! So now we have the best of both worlds - a house in the country in East Sussex, and one in its twin town in France (although I would guess that most people who have houses in twin towns would do it the other way round, i.e. buy a second home in their twin town abroad, not vice-versa!!!!)

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[quote user="Llwyncelyn"]

Nothing against the Scots for being Welsh they are essentially cousins and there is a relationship going back years and certainly on the rugby field. 

[/quote]

Is this some covert reference to sexual encounters in the scrum between close relatives, resulting in such interbreeeding that no-one knows whether they are Scots or Welsh? [:)]

I agree that the Normandy climate is not exactly desert-dry, but then, no-one would expect it to be (cows, pasture, stays green in summer).  I reckon the last two winters we have spent here were worse - damper and colder - than those we experienced in south east England.  But the temperatures seem to rise more quickly when the sun appears and the summers are sunnier, warmer and longer.  We came here because we love gardening and wanted somewhere conducive to the kind of garden we enjoyed in England.

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