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We've been to France hundreds of times over the years, so the journey, the ferry and the hotel really held no surprises for us.     It does take a bit longer though when (1) the car is so full the doors are bulging and (2) it's pulling a trailer equally groaning at all it's joints.    And so mid afternoon on Friday, just one week after finishing at my job, we were settling into our new, albeit temporary, home in Lot and Garonne.     Lot and Garonne is the much less known department, immediately to the south of Dordogne - but just as beautiful - in fact, the locals tell me it's better.

Phase two of our plan now - We have a fortnight to find a rental property and then find and buy our new home by Christmas - 3 months to find it and 3 months to buy!!

But first, Saturday morning means a visit to the local market.

The estate agents table did look inviting and there were several properties worth further investigation, so by 5 p.m. we were viewing our first property to BUY!!!.

Françoise, our estate agent worked miracles and by Wednesday we had seen over fifty properties.     There was one however………
and on Thursday we made an offer.     By the end of our first week in France we had had the offer accepted and were moving into phase three - buying the property
Oh - one snag - it was impossible to rent anything unfurnished unless we entered a long contract so we rented furnished and told the removal company to hang on to everything a bit longer!

I had done a lot of research in the UK about buying property in France and was beginning to understand some of the pitfalls that lay ahead.     I had also produced copious amounts of my own paperwork in an attempt to replicate a thing that every Frenchman has, a thing called an "Etat Civile".     This, basically, is a complete record of your official life history and I had learned that the French hold much store by it.
the house
Tuesday - less than 2 weeks in France, was the day set to visit the Notaire and sign the first "acte" - a contract which tied us to buying the house and the seller to selling it, subject to, a very few, exemption clauses, the main one being that it was the seller's to sell!!!!     I turned up at the appropriate time with my file of important papers (including my Etat Civile) and the one and a half hour "ceremony", for that is what it was, began.     Right at the start I had to produce our passports and I became smug knowing that everything that would be needed was in the "file".

An hour and a half later we left, no further paperwork had been required - just our passports!

And so on the 20th October we bought and paid for our new home and became the legal owners - we didn't actually get to move in for another week as the seller had decided to set the date she moved out a week after the completion and everyone seemed to nod and say fine, even though the contract quite clearly stated that she would give us free access from the time of the completion ceremony!
That's France!

Ian Holden


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