We talk to John Sjotun who lives in the Oise department about expat life in Picardy, where he is a local agent for the award winning estate agency Leggett Immobillier.
Oise is about 35km north of Paris and is home to a number of outstanding attractions such as the Chateau de Chantilly, Chateau de Pierrefonds and Parc Asterix, the fun theme park featuring the characters from popular French comic books Asterix the Gaul.
Can you tell us a little about how you came to be living in France…
I’m Norwegian, but I spent a decade in Britain and it was there I met my French wife, who is my reason for living in France. Obviously, this has made our settling in France easier than for most.
Where do you live in France and what inspired you to move to that particular place?
I live in Oise, just north of Paris. We first moved to Paris and stayed there for three years. When we needed more room for the children, we decided to move out of Paris. At the time we both worked abroad a lot and needed access to a large airport. Where we are in this part of France offers a good balance between countryside and access to the city.
Our house was in fact the first one we visited. Even though it felt right straight away, we forced ourselves to visit lots of other properties, before eventually returning to the one we loved. We have done lots of upgrades, and we’re still very happy here – more than a decade after first arriving.
What made you fall in love with the house?
We fell in love with the garden as well as how the house felt. That said, we are in a location which is close to so much. Close to Paris and its airports, and close to Calais and Britain. Two hours in the car will get us to such an amazing number of places.
Any top tips that you learned when searching for your own house?
It can seem bewildering! Although all the legalities around the transaction can seem foreign and complicated, it is actually reassuring to have that security. Rather than representing either the buyer or the seller, the Notaire is there to protect the interests of both.
As an estate agent it really helps that I’ve been through the process myself. My job is to bring buyers and sellers together. Usually, a buyer will start out with a list of requirements, which will evolve as we visit properties. It is my job to listen very, very carefully to the client along the way.
What do you love about the area where you live?
Apart from the proximity to so much, I love the countryside around here. I can put on my shoes and cross the road, and I have paths that stretch on for countless miles. There are châteaux and cathedrals seemingly everywhere, and some pretty great restaurants too, I really like “La Flamiche” in Roye their “Turbot à la peau, asperges vertes, préfou et jambon vendéen” is outstanding!
Do you consider yourself a member of the local community?
I do – mainly through my children. They do various sports and other activities, and I get involved with those.
What would you do on a day off in your area?
I love the Forest of Compiègne. 14,000 hectares and 1,000 kilometres of roads and paths. There are even a few picturesque villages hidden in there.
Being close to Paris means that the prices in my area vary hugely. So how close to Paris do you really need to be?
Take your time. Don’t just look at the house and the garden, but also the town or village they are in.
Be prepared! Look at lots of properties online. This will give you a feel for what is available, and at what prices.
If you have any questions about buying property in Picardy, contact John at: www.frenchestateagents.