The house that I grew up in had shutters on the windows. To be precise, these were wooden slatted frames screwed into the wall beside the windows and served simply as decoration. In fact, every house that Bill and I have lived in, both in the US and in France, has had them as well but with one major difference: here the shutters open and close so you get window protection as well as ornamentation. And it doesn’t stop there since the hot summer sun is prevented from streaming into your home, meaning that in many situations there’s no need for air conditioning to be comfortable. For the two of us who came from Atlanta where it seemed that we were in cooled air buildings 24/7, that’s been a pleasant change.
As you would expect, the location of a property that you want to buy has a great impact on the selling price. That 100 square meter (1076 square feet) apartment in Paris with a minimum selling price of 1 to 2 million euros would probably cost you one tenth that price in one of the most affordable places to buy in France, Saint-Étienne, about an hour outside of Lyon. The newspaper Le Figaro has compiled a list (pdf link at the bottom of this post) of cities with a population of at least 50,000 people that they have called, “The cities where the price of real estate is the most affordable.” While this chart will give you a good idea about the sales price of the home itself, it doesn’t include any of the accompanying fees, most of which fall under a category called frais de notaire that will easily be thousands of euros. So, how do you estimate that and are there other costs too?
A few years ago when we were playing the Who-What-Where-When-Why retirement game, I thought that there was only one of those Ws unanswered. After all, it was just us making the decisions and we already had a timeline so the one thing left to do was to finalize the location of our next house. By that point we were pretty sure that we wanted to live in Carcassonne so we started reading everything that we could find about this medieval city. There were travel guides, history books, bicycle routes, photo pictorials, and a best-selling historical thriller trilogy by Kate Mosse. Then at the library I saw the book Narrow Dog to Carcassonne by Terry Darlington with the tagline, “Two Foolish People, One Odd Dog, an English Canal Boat..and the Adventure of a Lifetime.” Hmm, that kind of fit our situation since we were two people and one dog about to move to another country 4000 miles away. All that we were missing was that canal boat so it was time to investigate what life onboard might be like.
Years ago when we told our friends who live in the north of France that we were considering moving to the south of their beautiful country, the first thing they said was, “Watch out for the floods!” They were understandably concerned since there had been 14 major inondations involving overflowing rivers in the previous 15 years in this part of the country. We knew that Carcassonne itself had risks since we’d seen numerous high water marks beside the 14th century bridge that crosses the Aude river (featured photo above) that brings us drinking water daily and destruction occasionally. Luckily we’d also seen the flood zone map prepared by the local newspaper so that we knew in advance where to concentrate our house hunt, or more accurately where to avoid. But what if you’re looking elsewhere in France; is there a national database to access?
This is a bit of a long post about the experience we had with a roof renewal in Carcassonne and the final cost.
The week before the work was to be started on the house, workers arrived to install scaffolding (échafaudage) on the street side of our house. They managed to keep it all on the tiny walkway and out of the street but our neighbors all moved their cars to keep from being a casualty as the road is very narrow. How many holes do they have to drill into the side of our house and do they know that they are drilling right into the electric panel on the other side of a very thick wall? They did move to another place on the wall before there was any damage from the drill but there was an unexpected consequence of having the walkways just below the top of the windows and doorway.
One of our local newspapers had an article entitled, “How much does it cost to be old in France?” so I just had to read that. With homage to Ethel Merman’s character Annie Oakley on Broadway, aging just seemed to me to be a natural process with no admission charge. However, if you want to stay for the whole show you have to pay the price which depends on where you sit from the orchestra to the balcony. It also depends if you are like 85% of the French who say that they want to spend their retirement years at home rather than moving to group living arrangements or to a medical facility. A website that specializes in banking and insurance for seniors (Retraite.com) teamed with another site that helps people live and age well at home (Silver Alliance) to calculate the costs.Continue reading “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly”
It was 1954 when singing cowboy Stuart Hamblen released his hit single “This Ole House” that included lines such as:
Ain’t got time to fix the shingles
This ole house lets in the rain
Until recently he could have been singing about our own house but it was reasonable to expect that after nearly one hundred years, the roof was going to need some repairs. Prior to selling our house in Atlanta we had to have the roof replaced and all of the price estimates came in at about $10,000 for new asphalt shingles on a 4000 square foot (372 m2) 3-story house. Last summer during lockdown we had plenty of time to investigate a similar project here on our 1-story house measuring 1055 square feet (98 m2). Granted, now we had terra cotta tiles (on the main house and on an attached room) instead of asphalt but the surface was about 1/4th of what we replaced in the US so we should have been in for a pleasant surprise, right? Well, the cost certainly was a surprise!Continue reading “Raise the roof”