Dick and Angel Strawbridge of Escape to the Chateau fame share their top tips for those dreaming of buying a chateau and moving to France. But these do’s and don’t’s are good for anyone making the move to the good life in France…
Key things to consider when you move to France
Location is key: France is a big country, about three times the size of the UK. There are many remote, rural areas and while for lots of us that’s part of the appeal, but when you’re running a business like this, being close to an airport or port for transport options is seriously important.
Be realistic. Chateaux are old, it’s inevitable that they will need work, whether that’s full-blown renovation or just maintenance. And, they generally cost a lot of money to run (heating especially).
Plan ahead: It’s really important to consider how you’re going to earn an income. If your chateau is going to be run as a business, do some research and plan what you will offer guests, how it will work to suit you and your guests and, critically, how you’ll market it. This will also help you when you’re planning renovations.
Set deadlines and try as much as you can to work to a timeline. Keeping focussed will motivate you to keep going, you’re going to need that. Reaching milestones does wonders for your morale!
Join in: Don’t forget you have to live there, it’s not just about the bricks and mortar. Integrate with the locals and join in with community events as much as you can.
Be patient. The French love bureaucracy, there will be a ton of paperwork. It’s life. In France.
Key things not to do when you move to France
Don’t buy pigs and chicken straight away! It’s easy to get carried away, to want to live the good life straight away, but concentrate on the basics first, you need to make your home weatherproof etc – then you get the pigs and chickens!
Don’t rely on getting everything you need in France. Some things are cheaper in the UK, such as paint, tools and even radiators. Some things are cheaper in France or essential to buy here, electrics and plumbing for instance. Shop around!
Don’t get carried away – prioritise fundamental basics such as heating (if you have a wood fire, don’t leave ordering the wood until its cold, it may be more expensive), electricity and plumbing.
Don’t be surprised by the fact that in France long lunches are still common – even for French artisans who are working on your home! Always get a quote based on the job, rather than time.
Don’t rely totally on the expat community. By learning French, you’ll be able to communicate better and importantly, get the best person for the job you want done.
Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced builder, you can learn lots from books, YouTube and the internet. The ability to plan well is really important, start with this.
Don’t forget that much of France closes down for August holidays. You’re likely to find that there are fewer shops and services are available, and it feels like all artisans take an extended holiday then!
Website for Chateau-de-la-Motte Husson for details of events and news from Dick and Angel…