I bought a mini medieval manor here in France. A real doer upper. Come join in the fun.

What’s it like buying a home all your own in France? Well, grab a cup of tea (or wine), have a sit and let me tell you about my mini medieval manor.

This past year was spent working hard on a hotel barge on the Burgundy Canal. From March until mid-November it was non-stop. And I do mean we didn’t stop. We had Saturday evening off. But as we didn’t have our own cars, this meant Saturday’s were usually spent on the boat. I am telling you all this because it meant there was no where to spend money. So the whole work period was spent saving money.

Now if you put making money without being able to spend it together you get the opportunity to buy a house a lot quicker than normal. Especially in France. I say ‘in France’ because house prices are, well, normal. Affordable. And in some cases downright cheap. (Though note cheap = lots of work.)

The search is on

From February I started looking at houses. And camping cars, and buildable land, and of course canal boats. I fluctuated between the options, depending on my mood and plans. As the season progressed so did my plans and I started checking out villages, areas I didn’t know. Making note of what fit my criteria:

  • a village in the countryside but with some life to it
  • the basic amenities – post office (a must for my shops), store, bakery, etc.
  • Some public transport, access to bigger towns and further away places

Not a long list, but it is surprising how few villages like this there actually are. First and foremost I was looking in Burgundy, in the area the barge was cruising through. Nope, nada, rien. Well, I found one village/town I adore, Pouilly-en-Auxois. Tick, tick, tick. But then could find nothing in my price range*. So the search field widened. And widened.

Taking time out

Amongst all this I did think about returning to the UK. I had loved living there before, so it was worth considering again. I took a week off the boat (required) to go visit my old stomping ground of Wales. Stayed with a friend and really tried to pay attention to the changes and how it compared to France for me.

Pluses: language, cost of food, good friends. Minuses: litter (OMG I never realised how clean France is!), quality of food, cost of wine. Pluses for France: food, wine (and living amongst the vineyards), prices of houses. And it is this last one that won the toss.

Visiting houses

So it was down to brass tacks and working out what I really could afford to look at. I was required to take another break so this time I stayed with a friend in France. Someone with a similar mindset to me, eg sees the beauty in doer up old houses. Sympatica.

My criteria for my house was also fairly specific:

  • had to have a garden, ideally with lots of trees, minimum 200m2
  • the basics to move in: toilet, water, electricity
  • house could be worked on over time, not everything needing doing at once

I specifically took my week in August, when I knew how much money I would have saved. And house purchases typically take 3 months in France. This meant if I found something, I could move into my house almost immediately after my contract finished.

We saw at least 3 houses each day, every day for 5 days. And each day I saw a house I would have been happy to consider. The tricky bit was almost all the boxes were ticked, but there was always that one. Perfect village, great garden, structural issues. Great garden, great house, village so-so. Still by the end of the week I was feeling very hopeful. We narrowed it down, visited 2 again, and then one of those had an offer put on it before I had decided. So easy peasy the house was chosen and an offer put in and accepted on that Saturday. I felt no stress, only excitement.

The waiting game

Then it was back to work. Now that I had a house size to plan for, I started looking for bits of furniture and essential items. I had 2 and a half months of Saturday afternoons to try and accumulate what I might need. Which was actually very little. Again, just the basics; bed, kettle, gas burner, tools… Smaller things were stored in my cabin, under my bed. Luckily we had a lock-up where we stored things for the boat that had space for my larger items.

Those months dragged and also went by so fast. Before I knew it we were finishing and I had only a few days before the signing of the house. And suddenly I was the proud owner of my very own mini medieval manor. (Can you tell I like alliteration?) In other words a very old tiny house in a very very old village.

My mini medieval manor

Now I know my home would frighten or even disgust some of you. It is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. But it is mine. My neighbours look at me in horror when they realise I am living in my restoration home. Yes there is a lot of work to do. But the bones of the house are good ones, made of stone with oak beams and floorboards. There is water, even a new water meter. And one sink. No hot water tank, so no hot water. There is a toilet, that works, essentially. A new electricity meter, but it turned out no fuse box.

One of the things that had been organised prior was to get an electrician to come look at the house on the day of the signing. The lack of fuse box was a surprise, the condition of the old wiring was not. Per request, he put in 3 sockets (with fuses) the next day and I now have long extension leads running around my house. Luckily it is not a big house.

There is no heating, and yes I moved in just in time for winter. My salon/bedroom has meter thick stone walls and faces south. The room keeps a fairly constant temperature And you would be surprised how well a little radiator does. I more or less live in this one room, with the intent to work on the others first. It is about 6 times larger than my cabin on the boat, so for me it is quite luxurious. 1920s wallpaper and all.

Medieval in style

I wish to take time in the house to get a feel for the flow. Where to put sockets. The outlay of my kitchen. To see how the sun tracks through it. I know from visiting in August, it has a very very hot sun trap garden. And now being here in winter, I think that too hot is going to be an issue more than too cold. The house has 4 rooms in an L shape. It’s typically medieval in that you pass through one room to the next. Corridors are a much much later invention.

And like a medieval house of old, I plan to have each room be multi-purpose. No sperate bedrooms, dining room, etc. I like that each room will be used daily/regularly. So one room will be a salon/bedroom. Another office/bedroom. My kitchen, at the centre of the house, will have a small dining table (for winter), so again at least 2 purposes.

The 4th room? No idea. It’s not pretty. I think it was a terrace that was closed in. It houses the toilet in the far corner. Currently it is my work room, home to my tools. Maybe I will keep it as a workshop. Time will decide.

*Price?

I am sure a few of you are curious about house prices in France, especially if they are cheap. In case you have that dream of moving to France one day. A quick caveat, houses are generally cheaper, especially compared to the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand, but the cost of living is higher. And in no way are cities, like Paris, included in this picture. The affordable prices are in the countryside, in smaller villages and towns.

Like many countries, the young are moving to more urban places so that leaves family homes empty. Typically the cheaper houses are inherited houses where the children do not wish to keep it, let alone work on it. And this is also why many are antiquated in their facilities.

Artisans can be costly here, hence my wishing a house with projects that didn’t all have to happen at once. Simply requiring me to rough it a little. But then I spent 11 years travelling and camping from a bicycle, so am not daunted by this.

Finally…!

So, how much did I pay? Drum roll… 13,000 euros. Yup, you read that right. 13K. Plus estate agent/notary fees of 3,600. The grand total for my mini medieval manor was 16,600.

I had this house on my list back in February. There were a few houses on my list like this one, each sold during the space of saving it on my computer to having the opportunity to see it. And do note, it was not listed at the price I bought it for. You can add another 10K on in fact. But the fact that it had not sold by the time I could visit it gave me bargaining power. And I had nothing to lose, so went in very low. (Actually I tried for 10K, but we settled on 13.)

The beauty of finding a house at this price means I can start some of the work this year. Not to mention, I have no mortgage. And it gave me the freedom between purchase and today to simply live here. Take the time to settle in my petite family of 3 cats and 3 ducks. And to work on getting settled in my own time, whilst also taking time to read, relax, sleep and be alone. After 9 months with people 24/7, it has been pure bliss.

Tomorrow the friend who has been taking care of my shops whilst I was away returns them to me. And I start the year with new energy, refreshed and ready. Oh, and there is a new hair salon opening tomorrow. Guess who is their first customer? I am so so in need of getting my hair washed and cut. What a treat it will be.

PS

If you wish to join in and support Pumpjack & Piddlewick, do check out my Nourish page.

Or check out my shops for a truly unique gift idea. Here’s a taste:

Simply click on an image to see more…

2024-01-01

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