An American Dream Becomes a Reality

P7510206Sometimes dreams do turn into reality; for some that dream might be a passion to live in France and to own a small piece of French real estate. It sounds simple enough, but (and trust me, I know from first hand experience) the planning and amount of work required to move countries and continents, and to set up a new home in a foreign land where the spoken language is not one’s mother tongue is never easy. One thing is guaranteed however – it is always going to be a grand adventure.

You may remember Jeff, our American friend who we first met in April 2016 when he visited from the USA. You can refresh your memory here if you want the whole story! Well, this week he signed and completed on his French house which will become his permanent residence; this summer he is moving –  lock, stock and barrel – to France.

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He had been looking for a long while, although I should add that most of those initial trips the previous years were as much about finding the right area as finding the right house. In November 2017 he came to stay in our gîte once more; he searched through the agents yet again, drove around for many a country mile by day, and then each night we discussed over dinner a few places he had seen in passing. But a week flies by far too quickly and it seemed no sooner had he arrived than he left, flying back to the USA, empty handed yet again.

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He asked me to keep my eyes open for anything that might be suitable, as I had a pretty good idea by now of what he was looking for, and just a few hours after he departed I came across an advertisement which had only just that minute been listed on a French site. How typical is that? It was for a private sale (absolutely no agents involved which saves quite significantly on fees for the buyer) and the house was in a very pretty village that I knew quite well.

As he was boarding the plane in Paris bound for the USA I sent him a quick email with a link to the house, asking “What do you think ? Should I go and have a look ?”, but by the time he got to read it he was already on the other side of the pond.

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An exchange of emails later, I went to look around on a freezing cold early December evening. Many, many, photos and emails followed, with descriptions, measurements and minute details. Flying half-way around the world to view a property is not like hopping in the car and driving an hour down the road, as for Jeff this involves four flights in total, plus a train from Paris and then a car, not to mention several days for just viewings. But he was seriously interested. The lady selling the house had another very keen party, so before Jeff made the decision to return we managed to obtain a guarantee from her that she would not accept any offers until he had seen the house and Jeff made arrangements for the long trip back to France once more; of course flights by then were charging pre-Christmas fares – nothing is ever simple!

The day after he arrived I took him to the house feeling a little nervous; what if he hated it and I had dragged him back here for nothing? We spent a long time there on a cold morning. This was followed by a walk around the nearest large village where we found a pretty little cafe, ideal for a much needed coffee.

Conversation at supper that evening was all about the house – the pros and the cons of it. The next day he went back to visit again, but this time with Roddy, so a little building and painting talk could be undertaken. There was a fine drizzle falling, which in my opinion is hideously perfect weather for viewing a house. You see, I always think that if you love a house when the scenery is far from at it’s best, then you will surely love it even more in the prettier months. Never be put off from a viewing when it’s raining!

A week later a decision was made and an offer followed. Remember this is France, nothing happens very fast and buying houses is notoriously slow! Fast forward a few months and this week the house was finally signed over to Jeff via a power of attorney and the keys came home in my car. The next day I found it funny that the first time I returned to his house, it was raining again –  a soft gentle mizzle falling from a soft spring sky. This time though it was landing on roses in bloom and vines in full leaf.

I am so delighted for Jeff, I know just what it is like to be at this planning stage, where anything is possible and I have to admit I too am in love with the property which comes with far more than just a house. He is more than happy for me to give you a little look around and to share in his excitement. But first let’s take a wander around the village, because one can change the interior of a house, but one cannot change the location. That is what has to be right and this certainly is.

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It is immediately obvious that the locals take great pride in this little hamlet, but there is enough that has been left unchanged and original to keep it real and to stop it from looking too pristine and too perfect. It is a proper example of what most buyers in France long for – an authentic rustic hamlet with wild flowers in the street and an excess of old cut stone.

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And there are still one or two uninhabited properties that set my mind racing and mentally I begin planning, those that really fire up the imagination!

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And hidden away at the end of one of these tiny lanes of old stone houses sits Jeff’s newly purchased abode. Despite now being empty it has a wonderfully warm feel and a delightful atmosphere. For the time being these ancient walls are basking silently in the sun waiting for their new owner to arrive.

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As is often the way with old French houses there are a host of outbuildings, which would have once housed the animals which sustained the family who lived here. Now they add to the character and ambience and come complete with climbing vines. There is a small enclosed courtyard and an open barn which would make the most wonderful place to entertain on warm summer evenings.

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There are plenty of original features still in situ, the old hay rack in one barnP7510187

and the ancient stone sink outside a kitchen window.P7510198

For the most part, the windows have their original fixingsP7510192

and the fireplace in the sitting room is fabulous.P7510193

The upstairs bedrooms have original beams and wooden floors, and even though there is plenty of work which needs doing, it will simply put Jeff’s personal stamp on the property,  this is what will make it truly his.

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The garden was of great importance for Jeff. Here it is a blank canvas, a place where he can plan and create, grow vegetables, keep a few chickens and make it exactly as he wants – the old owners were not gardeners.

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There is the most vital addition – a well for watering

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and far reaching views over protected land that can never be built on.

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I really hope this is going to be Jeff’s forever home, where his dreams will all be fulfilled.

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Imagine aperitifs sitting around this stone table under the vine which is absolutely heaving with tiny bunches of grapes already. Jeff, I am so looking forward to a glass or two of champagne here to celebrate with you!

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108 thoughts on “An American Dream Becomes a Reality

  • I wish him well. Who could resist? The house and setting sound wonderful and I also wish him the support of friends, old and new. And courage for the rainy days.

    • Oh I know, it really does bring back so many memories for me too, that incredibly exciting time when everything seems possible. But I know this is going to be a great adventure for him and I am so happy to be a tiny part of it. xx

  • I LOVE this—it is a dream of mine as well, but DH is not so inclined. Someday. . . . someday! All the best to Jeff. . . please do a follow up when things are more in forward motion! I am excited w/you.

    • It absolutely has to be a joint decision! However, I am sure Jeff will allow me to follow up with news of his garden as it progresses and the house, very exciting times ahead. xx

  • Congratulations to Jeff, and kudos to you for your fine advocacy and persistence in helping him find such a wonderful property. Is there anything the Hays family cannot do?!

    • Ha ha, I am never afraid to try out anything and I’ve done some fairly amazing things. Life is an adventure and I am so happy to have helped someone get theirs off the ground, the fun starts here for Jeff xx

  • How exciting! Both for you and Jeff. I wish him well and I hope he will be willing to let you show his progress because I’m sure many others will feel the same as he is fulfilling the fantasy of us all.

    • Oh I really hope so too, I want to show you the garden as it progresses as I know he has huge plans and with the house too. I am sure I will be able to update you all at the end of the summer! xx

    • Thanks so much Miranda, it was fun and I am so happy to have found him somewhere where his new adventure can begin, because as we both know, it will be a great adventure!! xx

  • I am still amazed at how many old building are left standing. What does one need to live in France full time and how hard is it to get. In the US a “green” card is needed. I know several people living in Latin America and they must come home every so often to get another visitor visa.

    • I truly do not know what an American needs as we are British and it is completely different. I do know that Jeff has obviously done his homework and I know he had a meeting at the French Embassy in the States to sort everything out, but I am afraid I really have no idea! xx

      • To automatic gardener: getting a visa that allows you as an American to work in France is fairly difficult unless you have a special skill or are sponsored by a big company. But if you are retired or can otherwise show you have money in the bank sufficient for the period you would like to stay (one year at a time) without working, the “visiteur” visa is easy to obtain. You can look for the documents you will need on your local French consulate’s website.

  • What a find, you did well, but then I am not surprised either, from everything I have seen here you do have excellent taste and great style. Jeff is lucky to have had you on hand.

  • I’m so happy for Jeff. He will be living a lot of folks fantasies. A change in lifestyle while young enough with enough energy to undertake a restoration of such magnitude is inspiring. It will be interesting to hear of the transformation.
    It’s good to have new challenges. Well done!
    Ali xx

    • I really hope to share all of the changes and the progress in the garden (big priority for Jeff) with you, it will be such fun to watch it all change, his big adventure starts here! xx

  • I can just imagine sipping champagne under those vines gazing out over that view. Lucky Jeff I wish him well in his new life.

    • I know I am so looking forward to it, after a long hot sunny three day weekend, it was wonderful to dine outside every day and am so looking forward to Jeff being able to do the same xx

  • You are quite right about seeing a house in less than perfect weather conditions. When we first saw our home in Ficulle, Italy, it was a gloomy day with a light rain falling. We had looked at only a few houses in a few locations; but when we saw the house we told the agent we were finished looking and that we would like to put a contract on the house. That was the easy part as the process took more than a year. However, the house and the beautiful hill that is was poised on spoke to us. We have never looked back, although there have been lots of anxious moments (and probably more to come)….. The adventure continues!!!

    • Elissa; house buying (or selling) is ALWAYS a nightmare but I think that Italy and France are at the forefront of troublesome dealings. If the Hays have made this possible for Jeff they really, really earned more than only a couple of € because buying without the security and research of an agency (for financing, finding the right ppl for all the obligatory papers, documents, seals and reports) this is a truly steep task! We bought three houses in three countries so far and France was by far the most difficult and tedious one.
      And you are right; one MUST visit a house also in bad weather…. If you then still love it, it’s the sign for a go ahead 🙂

      • Kiki, we have bought and sold several houses in France, so although we are far from experts and certainly not professionals, we do know our way around the ins and outs, or as much as one can in France! Coupled with an excellent notaire it was relatively straight forward just long! xx

    • I totally agree with you. When we bought this house, I didn’t even see it, my husband bought it without me, I just saw a series of photos. But he said he knew its location and the gardens and trees could not be imitated, the house we could change internally, but the 500 year old trees with an enormous garden in a central village location with a secondary house attached would be hard to ever beat and so we were sold. Lots of adventures indeed but all worth it and I am sure like you, there will be many more to come. xx

  • Jeff’s house looks amazing, what a timely article, I too am about to leave my job in the UK in two weeks to go join my husband in renovating our house and gites in Normandy. It’s both exciting and scary making that big life change, but life is too short not to take that plunge and get on with it! Good luck to Jeff!!
    Julie

    • Good luck to you Julie, life is indeed too short not to just take the plunge, I am sure you will both be really happy, it is tough, trust me we have been there and done it, but the renting out of a gite is incredibly rewarding and you will meet so many wonderful people, we really look forward to the summer months and seeing our guests. Enjoy it and once again, the very best of luck! xx

  • What a fine home you found for Jeff, he must be thrilled. We have jumped the pond twice to live in Europe. So, I can certainly agree with you regarding the magnitude of the undertaking. Jeff is in for many challenges and much joy in the coming weeks, months and years.

    • Ahhh yes, it will certainly be an enormous adventure, but isn’t that what life is all about, taking the plunge and making the most of opportunities. You are also living in one of my favourite countries in the world. xx

    • I really hope I will be able to share Jeff’s progress along the way from time to time, he has lots to do but so much to work with, it will certainly be a great adventure. xx

  • Best wishes to Jeff! This is a favorite dream of mine also. I hope he will let you post some updates as he progresses! Thanks for sharing. Xoxo Nancy

    • Nancy, I had no idea this was also a dream of yours. I certainly hope to do some updates over the coming months. What are the chances of you getting out here this summer for a holiday? xxx

  • What a beautiful post today. I enjoyed reading this so much. The house is so charming and the story of all you and he went through to get him to the end results. I always feel if it is meant to be it will all work out no matter how many hurdles you have to jump. The property is so charming and beautiful and so full of history. I would love to think about all the many families that lived in this place through out history and made this their home. Oh the stories this cottage could tell! I hope your friend Jeff will be so happy in this new place. Wow this will be a big adventure for him and a big life change. I love when people follow their hearts and dreams like this. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
    xoxo
    Kris

    • I agree with you Kris, this is going to be a wonderful adventure, I am so excited for him. There will be lots of hurdles to overcome but I am sure he is going to love it and live his dream. xx

  • What a wonderful find for your friend Jeff! His new house is fabulous! I hope that as things progress in the house and garden that he lets you share with us or perhaps starts a blog of his own.

    • I really hope to do some updates from time to time, there is much to do and I think it is going to be a fabulous project, most of all I am looking forward to seeing the enormous things he has planned for the garden xx

  • So enjoyed looking at the pictures! Love the house & hope your friend, Jeff, will be happy living there.

  • Huge congratulations to you and Jeff – you’ve found yourself a dream object, albeit with lots of labour to come. But all those buildings, the possibilities, the history and the untold stories. What an adventure. And you being the utterly kind and generous people you are, I just hope that nobody is ever forgettting what you do for others, and pay you back in one way or another.
    Real Estate Agents in France take between at least 3.8 up to 8% of the sale price…. I’ve never seen any agent offering a deal for less, unless you buy a ruin than there is a minimal fee of some 2000€. I have no idea if people from other countries are aware of this but it just might help to get an understanding of the magnitude of your assistance and your kind hearts.
    I think I’m going to drink a glass of rosé right now to this done deal – it will create much joy in Jeff’s life and many a bottle will surely be emptied along the next months and years to come when more help, offering of ‘tradesmen’, giving advice on this and that AND speaking French at offices of power will be needed. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy 🙂

    • You are right, French estate agents charge a huge percentage. Jeff is at the very beginning of what is going to be an enormous adventure. I am sure there will be happiness and frustration but I also have a feeling he is going to love it xx

  • Oh my! …..This will hopefully be us within 12 months too!
    That Hayrack! …..That fireplace!…..That gorgeous sleepy village!
    All so typically French, we can’t wait to start living our dream too.
    Beautiful place, may he have a long and happy life living the dream!

    • Oh what fun, where are you moving to? It sounds as if you already have all your plans in action, have you already bought a house, or is this a whole new process. Whichever, the very best of luck and I am sure it will be a huge adventure. xx

  • Oh what treasures! You for finding Jeff the house and the house itself.
    Jeff is living and doing exactly what I would love to do, live in a small village in France!
    I hope you will continue to share the progress as he moves into the house and puts his touches in it.
    I’m an avid gardener, so can’t wait to see what’s done for the gardens! France has a great climate and soil for growing so many beautiful flowers!

    • It is going to be a wonderful adventure for sure. I really hope to share his progress from time to time, especially with the garden as this is going to be a big project and I just know it is going to be amazing and I am looking forward to learning a lot from him xx

  • Those that are committed enough to the upheaval and emotional stress of such a big move as Jeff clearly is from your accounts of his story, settle well in foreign lands. I am certain this will be the start of a blissful new chapter for him and that he will never doubt the wisdom of his choice. He was very fortunate to have you as a ‘house finder’ …. your understanding of people’s hearts and minds is apparent to all your readers and it is no surprise that you found the perfect jewel for Jeff – the glove that fits the hand as it were. Bravo to you, bravo to Jeff and may the adventures commence for him and continue for you xx

    • It is going to be a fabulous adventure, as we both know, it is not easy, there will be many hurdles to overcome and much frustration along the way, but it is also very worthwhile, I am just so excited for him to finally get here and get everything started xx

  • WOW what a lovely post ….had I been 30 years younger! Hope we can see a before and after in a few years.

    • I will certainly see if I can share some updates along the way, I think it is going to be fantastic, I cannot wait to see what he does in the garden, at the moment it is a completely blank canvas. xx

  • What a wonderful new home for Jeff…I too want to be invited to sip a drink or two around that stone table!!! Please, keep us posted with occassional updates…Congrats to Jeff, what a lucky fellow he has to have you as a friend!

  • Sounds like Jeff is going to have a wonderful new life. What a change from America. It all looks so lovely and I so enjoyed reading this this morning as some of my own dreams seemed to be disappearing but just a few hours later things seem to have turned around. How strange life is at times. The weather is looking gorgeous.

  • Oh lucky Jeff! What a glorious house you found for him, it looks such a pretty little village too. I can’t wait to see how the work on the house and garden transforms it into a home. I’m sure he will be very happy there, and fortunate to have you as friends. Hope you’re enjoying the sunshine, and how are the pups doing? xxx

  • An excellent find and I’m sure Jeff loved having you to help him. Everything I’ve read about buying a place in France makes it sounds like a nightmare (getting good contractors, workers, etc., too), but hopefully people only write about the bad experiences!

    Have a wonderful weekend, Susan.

    janet

    • I truly hope his dream is going to be fantastic and I am sure it will be, I am so excited for him to get going with the garden, I cannot wait to see what he has planned. June will be with us before you know it. Enjoy London and soon you will be back in France! xx

    • He is going to have such fun making this home his and turning his full attention on the garden, I cannot wait to see what he has planned and I really hope I can share that with you all along the way. Plus I am sure I am going to learn a lot from watching xx

  • I too have such a dream & can only imagine how wonderful it would be to have my own little piece of France to return to each year. I would be interested to see how your friend transforms his new house into his French home.

    • I think we all have our own secret dreams. I really do hope to be able to share some updates with you along the way as I am sure he is going to do some wonderful things. xx

  • The perfect place . Roses , stones look a fabulous home. It is funny to see that it can be an American Dream and our french dream is to go abroad and to live under tropical vibes .
    But I guess I would love to own this pied à terre

    • I think we all have our dreams, where the grass is greener and all that. But this dream, I know, has been a long time in the making and I am so happy that it is about to become reality. xx

  • How exciting! I can feel the churning tum even though it’s not going to be mine! And so many lovely old features inside and out – Susan, I feel an interior design job coming on!! Jeff has earned his dream with all that to-ing an fro-ing across the pond and we all look forward to seeing how his journey develops and wish him all the luck in the world. Oh and that land……! I’m planning the garden now..

    • I cannot wait to see what he has planned for the garden, it is a totally blank canvas, but I do know that he will do something very special and that I am going to learn a great deal just by watching and I can’t wait xx

  • This is what I dream of doing, lucky Jeff that he could realise his dream and lucky him too that you were on hand to help.

  • How exciting! And I agree, it would be fun to hear a follow up on how he’s doing once he gets going with it. So much work, so much fun. And what an adventure!

    • What an adventure indeed and it has only just begun! I really hope to bring you the occasional follow up so we can all see the changes, especially in the garden, because I know he has great things planned! xx

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