French Cottage Update

It’s been ages since I’ve shared an update on The Cottage in France — mostly because there hasn’t been anything to report. : )

Here’s the latest: We had an unexpected offer from someone who wants to buy it! The property is not listed for sale, so this was just someone making an inquiry, but it got us thinking about what we want to do with us.

You may remember, a couple years ago we spent the summer in France with the intention of working on the cottage. But after we got there we hit pause. On a fluke, we ended up visiting other properties for sale, and realized that it would be less expensive (and much less complicated!) to buy an already livable, useable space.

But, we still liked the idea of working on The Cottage. We had already worked with an architect on plans. We had already replaced the roof. We weren’t ready to say goodbye to it.

We are lucky, because when we bought it, the property was a bargain (about $25k), and we ended up paying for it in full with the money we’d saved up for a down payment on a more expensive place. This has been good, because it has allowed us to sit on the project and approach it as slowly as we want — we haven’t had to worry about how to keep up monthly payments, and we haven’t had to try to rent it out to cover the mortgage.

But it also means we haven’t felt any urgency to work on the project. Our life is full here in Oakland, and we have enough exciting things going on at any given time, that it’s easy for months (years!) to fly by where we don’t really think about The Cottage. This was definitely a surprise to me — I had no idea how “out of sight, out of mind” I would be about this project.

The offer we received was low, and we’re not planning to accept it. Prices have actually dropped since we bought The Cottage, so if we do sell it, we don’t expect that we’ll be able to earn any money on it — we don’t even expect to break even — and we aren’t in a hurry to sell. But getting the offer has got us thinking about France again.

Shopping for property in Normandy is different than it is in the U.S.. There’s no Zillow or that lists everything for sale in one place. Instead, you have to go to each separate real estate company website, and they each have different listings. And each town has it’s own real estate offices — so you basically need to know the names of the real estate companies that work in the area you are interested in.

We’re still interested in Normandy, and especially being near the town of Argentan. Here are four real estate sites that have listings in the area we like best — my friend Caroline, who lives in Argentan, sent us these:
NPS Immobilier
Hexagone Immobilier
Century 21
Porcon Immobilier

It’s really fun to browse, because prices there — even with the Euro/Dollar exchange rate — are really good (especially compared to the Bay Area!). Here are a few properties that someone should definitely buy:
This house looks like it belongs in a fairytale — and it’s 149k euros.
This one’s a charmer and a bargain — 88k euros.
Here’s one that reminds me of the home we rented in France — 180k euros.
Or how about this little farm! — 72k euros.

So that’s the update. We’re not sure what we’re going to do with The Cottage. Maybe we will officially list it for sale and invite other offers — and then buy something more habitable instead. Maybe we’ll just continue to sit on it. Or, if we can figure out when/how to move back to France, it could still be an awesome project that would be much easier to manage if we lived nearby.

Your turn. Have you ever looked at property in another country? Are there any houses on those French websites I listed above that look appealing to you? If you bought a house in the French countryside, would you want to move in? Or maybe rent it out as an Airbnb? I’d love to hear.

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