Friday, 16 September 2011

The waiting game

I wrote to Maitre Legrand, the notaire, who has been holding the keys asking him to act for us in the purchase. Well not exactly for us as the French system is quite a bit different from ours. It is customary for both parties to use the same solicitor (notaire) as he is not acting on behalf of either of them but on behalf of the state. His role is to see that the seller has a good title to the property and that it is transferred correctly to the buyer. Because of French inheritance laws, we wanted a special clause written into the documentation to ensure that after the death of either Mrs S or myself, the property passes to the survivor. Without that clause, the half owned by the late lamented passes to his or her children in equal shares, which can give rise to quite an awkward situation. This is very often the reason why one sees country cottages falling down: there might be a dozen or so owners and they just cannot agree what to do, so they do nothing.

Writing that letter gave me quite a headache and practically wore out the dictionary. I received a very prompt reply from Maitre Legrand from which I gathered he understood what I was asking for. But time alone will tell if I got the clause right. Mrs S will give me hell if I got it wrong and I am the first to go! I suppose the answer is to sell the house before either of us pops our clogs.

After that, things went very quiet. Well, they didn’t exactly go quiet as slump into a stupor for a couple of months. That, of course, gave us time to start drawing up lists; a list of furniture we would need, a list of kitchen equipment, a list of crockery, cutlery and so on and so on. We recalled the numerous times we had rented cottages both in France and England and wracked our brains trying to remember the essential items that were missing from each of them. Whilst this was to be a holiday home for us, our family and our friends, we were conscious that when we rented it out to guests, we wanted everything to be just right. It is funny how a week can seem like a lifetime when faced with a small irritation such as the lack of a kettle and we were determined to provide our guests with just about everything they could need and then a bit more. There were three things, however, that we vetoed right from the start: television, telephone and washing machine. Our thinking is that we are happy to get away from televised wallpaper for a week or two, most people nowadays have a mobile phone (even if, like ours, it is for emergency use only), and why would anyone want to do washing when on holiday? Anyway, TV, phone and washing machine were out.

But that still gave Mrs S plenty of excuse for visiting the shops. We had already decided that it would be easier to buy most of the bedroom furniture and kitchen units in England and take the flat packs over to France. Crockery and glassware would be bought in French supermarkets on the grounds that these - glass and china - are things that were most likely to be broken by guests and it made sense for them to be able to purchase replacements as easily as possible. We also decided that it made more sense to buy the larger items – cooker, fridge and beds – over there. But the lists of other items which we needed to have as soon as the house was ready seemed endless. At times it was all we could do to get into our spare bedroom to squeeze in a frying pan or something equally exotic.

All the while this was going on, the dearly beloved was working in a school library to keep the recently-retired man of the house in the manner to which he had become accustomed. This, of course, meant that her visits to France were limited to school holidays. Apart from the fact that ferry prices seemed to treble at the faintest whiff of a school holiday, this was of little real importance – except that when the time did come round for us to complete the purchase, both of us were expected to be present. And, surprise, surprise, completion day fell during term time.

Another letter was sent to Maitre Legrand, this time asking for a suitable form of words to give me power of attorney so that I could act as proxy for Mrs S. I had great difficulty translating the document when it arrived, but I finally deduced that it need to be signed by both Mrs S and me in the presence of a suitably qualified solicitor, probably a commissioner of oaths. The only reasonably honest solicitor I knew was not exactly a commissioner of oaths, but I reckoned that I knew him well enough to get away without paying through the nose for five minutes of his time and a signature. I calculated that his French was probably worse than mine so he would rely on me to tell him what the documents said, meaning we should get away with him not being quite as well-qualified as he was supposed to be.

All went well. Sheridan couldn't understand the forms and was happy to append his signature where I showed him. He then added various rubber stamps to make it look more official, although I was a little hesitant about the ‘First Class Post' stamp which I thought lowered the tone a little. Anyway, the forms were returned to France and we had heard nothing before it was time for me to set off for the ferry. Am I being cynical in suggesting that the fact that I had transferred several thousands of pounds (even more when expressed in euros) into the notaire's bank account a week or so before might have had just a little influence? I could picture them rubbing their hands with glee and saying to themselves, "Another English mug! We've got his cash, so bugger the paperwork!"

1 comment:

The Broad said...

We were lucky to have a huge glut of furniture that would set up our French purchase (more than twice!). Since we are here for 3 or 4 months at a time the washing machine, telephone, and tv are necessities! We were very fortunate indeed that my husband's sister was returning to England after 5 years in Lille and donated her French washing machine and even her French car to the cause! She also donated a French television -- however it sits in a corner under the stairs collecting dust and we have a British TV with Freeview Satellite up and working and no regrets about that! Cutlery and dishes and pots and pans, etc. are a combination of stuff acquired in the U.S., Britain, and France.

We also opted for a 'Tontine' to safeguard ourselves from French Inheritance laws. At that time it was important that this be done at the time of the purchase. I'm not sure, but I've heard that that may not be necessary now.