Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France

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Let’s face the view and dance – face la vue et danse

83 Molly and Tom check out view

Molly and Tom check out view

Just a quick post to say that we have now visited the site ourselves and it is even more exciting than I imagined it to be.  The elevation of the slab really makes the best of our view and we couldn’t be happier.  This was one of the things that drew us to the plot in the first place and we definitely made the right choice.  Seeing as we will see it on our sofa by a log fire or when we wake up in the morning is fantastic.

We also manged to meet out timber frame guy on site who is happy with all the work and will hopefully start next week.  He and Tom had to iron out a few remaining design issues, but this is all sorted now, so we are good to go! This week we will be having more site visits, choosing our log burner (poêle à bois) and trying to arrange meetings with tree surgeons.  Tom is also working on the specifications and scope of works for the internal joinery to get some quotes.  We have a busy few months ahead….

Poêle à bois – Log stove

Parpaings – Blockwork
Concrete – Béton
J’ai  une faim de loup – I’m a hungry Wolf.   I’m reading (or attempting to read) ‘Tintin au Tibet’, in the hope it will improve my French.  (From this you can read that I am just doing it as an excuse to read Tintin)
Hors d’eau – Water tight
Hors d’ait – Air tight
La poute – beam
Poussez les dents – teeth coming through!
Baies coulissantes – Siding doors
Casque de chantier – hard hat.
Sous-sol – basement
La Renouée du Japon – Japanese knotweed


It’s ours! C’est le notre!

Ready to design our own Grand Design!

Ready to design our own French Grand Design!

Hooray – the land in Montemboeuf is ours!

To get through this final stage we had to sign a proxy form with ‘lu et approuvé bon pour pouvoir’  which directly translates as ‘read and approved for good order”  but basically means  “valid as a power of attorney” (to be American about it).  This meant that we gave permission for someone else to sign the Acte Finale (usually the Notaire’s clerk) for us because we would not be there.  I don’t think that this really mattered because we were there for the signing of the Compris de Vente and this was very important to us.

I think we have mentioned this before, but do shop around when looking for a money transfer agency.  We were going to use the same company for our final payment as we we used for our deposit, but asked another and got a better deal.  With the sums we were talking it wasn’t a massive difference, but enough to have made it worth while.

I don’t think I can stress enough how much our Estate Agent helped us though the whole process.  If you do decide to buy property or land one of the most important things is to get a decent Estate Agent and one that is bilingual, especially if your French isn’t great.  Ours was and she helped us through the buying process every step of the way and was always responsive to our emails.

So we now have our CU (in writing) and the deeds… I can’t believe that we own a little corner of France!

Let the designs and planning application begin!

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The current tenants of our land

So we have the land, but we don’t quite know when we will start building. Thankfully, the farmer has very kindly agreed to keep his sheep on the land until we are ready. We do not know when this will be at the moment, so we are very grateful to him. I would like to be able to say that we own the sheep, but sadly we don’t, one day maybe…..

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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…..

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The Chosen Plot

After much deliberation and discussion we decided on the plot in Montemboeuf.  For ages we thought we would go with Tournon, it was an amazing plot with incredible views and from the neigbours we met, a very nice community. It was a tough choice, but the proximity to ‘beer and baguette’ and good transport links finally won through.

Our Plot!

Our Plot!

The site was also very big, 7000 sqm, so there was a lot of scope for doing something really special, while still allowing room to create our own jardin potager!  Our plot was in fact two plots facing each other, one with a north facing slope and one with a south.  We decided that by buying both, we would have control over what was on the opposite side.  Since both plots came with certificat d’urbanisme there was also a chance that we could build something there in the future.

We also liked the feel of Montemboeuf. There are plenty of facilities in the village – the ones you find in most French villages!  A couple of boulangeries, tabac, Spar, post office, Crédit Agricole and a primary school.  The plot itself is only a 3 minute walk from the village, but is still very quiet.

Montemboeuf is very well located to some fantastic outdoor recreation facilities, great for people who like the idea of cycling for 30 miles or so through beautiful countryside, only to come back to a glass of wine, fresh bread, cheese and olives on the terrace watching the sun go down…..

The Charente is the second sunniest part of France and gets 2000 hours of sunshine compared to 1200 in London!  Their winters are short and not too cold and it is often t-shirt weather in February. This along with 35 degrees plus in the Summer, you can see why we would want to have a home there!