Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


Almost there….y est presque

So the French Bank Account is open and we even have a French Mastercard which I think will come in very handy, even when we are not visiting monsieur bricolage or Reseau Pro!  Our certificat d’urbanisme has been approved and we have fixed our pounds sterling – euro exchange rate and we are ready to transfer the money to the Notaire.  All we need to do now is sign the  Acte Finale and the land is ours!  As we will not be there to sign the Acte, the Notaire’s clerk will sign it on our behalf.  It really is within touching distance…

View from northern side looking south

View from northern side looking south


We have also managed to fix a date to meet the planners in Confolens, (where our local préfecture) is based again to go through our final designs with them before we submit. Tom has revised our original drawings in to something that I think will work much better, but still makes the most of the views and the space that we have.  I am sure that they will change again as we get closer to submitting our plans, but in the meantime, I think what we have is fantastic.  Visit our design page where we will post the updates.

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A note on finance and opening a French bank account

Buying euros at the right time can make a big difference

Buying euros at the right time can make a big difference

When we first started the buying process we went in with our eyes open.  We had been to a lecture about the pitfalls of buying a house/plot in France so knew some of the things to look out for and we also read this guide.  The guy giving the lecture gave some very sound advice, such as making sure you buy your Euros at the right time so that you don’t up paying more for your property than you had budgeted for.  It is amazing what a few points in the pound/euro can do to the cost.  It is therefore worth shopping around or more preferably, as we did, use a specialist currency broker.  If your experience is anything like ours, they will call you a lot.  However, so far, although they will benefit from our business and the good exchange rates as well, I think they are being helpful by telling us when there is a ‘spike in the market’.  I will not advertise any one broker on this blog, but there is plenty of advice here.  This site is advertised by one of them, but not the one we used.

So although we had thought a lot about what we needed to do and taken lots of advice, one of the things I hadn’t thought about was opening a French bank account. For some, this may seem obvious and to me it would have done if we were living in France.   What I hadn’t factored in was that when we start paying the taxe fonciere it would have to come from a French bank account!  Our Notaire also needed a copy of our RIB number or ‘Releve d’Identite Bancaire’ to complete the sale.

Opening a French bank account is not nearly as difficult as you might think.  They do need a lot of information from you (as do our banks) and some of this has to be certified (copy of driving licence and copy of passport) so if you can do it in person while in France it is a lot easier.  However, we did most of it via the internet and post.  Whichever bank you chose, you will most likely need the following;

Certified copies of your passports or identity card (by a lawyer, a police officer or by your bank Manager)
Certified copies of your driving licenses, (lawyer, (by a lawyer, a police officer or by your bank Manager)
Copy of your recent utility bill,(less than 3 months old), water or electricity or gas
Copy of our last 3 payslips
Copy of your last 3 bank statements
Copy of your last P60’s
An original blank cheque with a line drawn through it
An original reference letter from your bank manager

We were able to fit in a visit to the bank when we were last in France which helped with some of the last few bits, such as confirming how many debit cards we needed, did we want a cheque book, did we want internet banking etc?  It was all very straight forward – all we need to do now is transfer €100 and we will receive our French bank card!

It may not be that surprising for you to hear that all the issues we had with providing the information and getting our account opened came from our UK banks!  French bureaucracy….what French bureaucracy?

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March/April 2013 – The signing of the Compris de Vente


Our flights, car and accommodation were booked for a week’s holiday to south west France. However, this wasn’t going to be your usual holiday as it involved a trip to see the Mairie, Bank Manager, Notaire and local planners! Before we got there, we stayed and ate in what has become my favourite restaurant. It is near Thenac in Dogdogne and is an experience that should be had by everyone, at least once.   This was our second time here and this time we stayed the night in their chambre d’hotes and could therefore take more time over our meal.  Just don’t be put off by the simple website.

Dordogne Feast

Dordogne Feast

We then headed to our B&B in Montemboeuf.  The Lavender House  is amazing, you don’t have to take my word for it, have a look at their reviews on TripAdvisor.  Anyway, we took this time to visit our plot and take some more photos.  Driving there again after a about 6 weeks was quite nerve wracking.  Fortunately, as soon as I saw the plot again, this time in the sunshine, I knew that we had made the right decision!

The next day was spent visiting some of the local attractions.  There is quite a lot to do in the area, but a visit to Angoulême or La Rochefoucauld is definitely worth it.  We are both also training for the marathon du medoc so needed to go for a little run and what better place than the local leisure lakes!

That night, I think we both went to bed feeling knackered a little nervous – the next day was the day of the signing!

The big day

Armed with some outline sketches we visited the Mairie the next morning.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t in but it was still a good idea that we visited and made ourselves known.  The people in the office were very friendly and gave us the name of the local Direction Départementale de l’Equipement (DDE) who would be making the decision on our planning application or permis de construire. We contacted her and arranged a meeting for later that afternoon.

Next stop was a visit to our Bank Manager at Crédit Agricole to finalise the opening of our bank account.  They do require a lot of information from you, but it is fairly straight forward and not as bureaucratic as you might think.  Their head office is in a rather nondescript building on the outskirts of Angoulême, but they were very friendly and the meeting was conducted in English – the only thing that day that was.

Then on to Montbron to meet the Notaire to sign the compromis de vente!  This is basically the ‘contract of sale’ and legally binds together the seller and purchaser.  I will not go in to the finer details of this, but there is a lot of good information here.  We also had to pay a deposit of 10% of the purchase price, the rest will be paid when we complete.  It is important to know though, that when buying land there isn’t a seven day cooling off period like there is with houses.  The Notaire was very friendly (as was the land owner), but spoke in very quick (legal) French. Luckily Tom and our Estate Agent, Sandra understood it all and could explain the bits (all of it) where I got stuck!  I just tried to pick out the odd word that I knew and at least then I knew which part of the compromis de vente they were talking about, for example système d’égout or bourn.  We all (seller, Tom and I) had to then sign every page of the document and that was that!

With the contract

With the contract

As Tom has mentioned in the design page we did put in a ‘condition suspensive’ or conditional clause stating that we did not have to complete the purchase if we did not get our new certificat d’urbanisme (CU) which stated that we had permission to build up to 170sqm.  However, at this point the seller cannot pull out and neither can we unless the new CU doesn’t come through (and the planners said it was just a question of rubber stamping).  I think we can safely say the land is ours!

Next stop the planners!  Tom had prepared some early image/sketches of our initial ideas to show the planner. Tom was amazing and I think charmed her a little. He has gone in to more details of this on the design page. She was very receptive of our ideas and although she said she preferred traditional buildings, she did like to see original ones too!

Next stop – design time…..