IT is important to consider what impact a move to France will have on your life, here Beryl Brennan casts an eye over some of the key things to consider.
So, you’ve been hooked on the programmes every time they are on TV. You’ve been to the bank to take them up on their offer of doubling your mortgage.
You’ve flown over to France and fallen in love with every cheap tumbledown stone wreck that the locals don’t want. With your estate agent gleefully watching you sign on the dotted line, you are ready to live the dream.
You’ve watched A Place In The Sun.
With red geraniums trailing from the window boxes and sunshine sparkling on your swimming pool, you are ready to sit back with your baguette, camembert and vin rouge and enjoy life where the word stress is just a distant memory.
But wait – before you get carried away, have you thought about your life thereafter?
Early retirement sounds great, but can you really cope with being in each other’s company 24/7 without resorting to murder after the first month?
You have probably worked during the day and mixed with other people, even going to the gym at lunchtime for exercise.
Going out for an afternoon shopping with friends, and perhaps a night at the theatre later, may have been a regular date in your diary. Moving to a new area in a new country calls for a change in your lifestyle completely.
And life is so much less expensive in France. Well, yes, maybe. But unless you are lucky enough to have an index-linked final salary pension, and lots of money in the bank after the sale of your house in England, then your money may not go as far as you think.
The house may need a new roof, or the central heating might need a new boiler – these are all things which can take a sizeable chunk out of your savings.
But, never mind, just do a little job on the side – no need to tell the authorities. Convert that old stable, put an extra toilet in for guests – gites, B&B – no problem. Well, think again, as the French have got wise and the words ‘crackdown’, ‘licences’ and ‘listed buildings’ have entered their vocabulary.
Summer sunshine, red geraniums, lazy days by the pool. Great! Then winter hits, and you resort to thermal long-johns like your granddad used to wear and, as the cold bites, you add yet another fleece to the four you are already wearing.
Central heating, double glazing and cavity insulation may be but distant memories, until you’ve rebuilt your tumbledown wreck.
Statistics tell us that nearly half the people who buy abroad to live, sell up and return to the UK within three years. For some people, strong ties with family – especially grandchildren – draw them back.
For others, it is the realization that converting a grenier actually means a lot of physical work which they are not used to, with building material costs higher than anticipated, and a gradual acceptance that one has bitten off more than one can chew.
Yes, life after A Place In The Sun can be good if you think things through carefully, and do as much research as possible BEFORE embarking on a commitment to living life abroad.
So, next time you watch TV and dream of a place in the sun – don’t get carried away – it’s not all sunshine and vin rouge.
Counselling services in France
Beryl Brennan moved to western France in 2002 having worked within the BBC and local radio. Her work now involves overseeing her farm, as well as two horses, two cats and three dogs, and running the Galgo News website, which raises awareness of groups in France and Spain that rescue greyhounds.