Continuing the Search with Success!
As we'd been unsuccessful with our house-search in Haute Vienne, we spread our search into the Department of Creuse - where we eventually found our French home. Nothing against Haute Vienne, it was probably the wrong agents showing us the wrong houses.
One day, having had an afternoon of more disappointing viewings, we drove through a small hamlet on our way back to the agent's home to collect our car when she suddenly pointed to a house and asked if we'd be interested in looking inside. We said yes but having knocked and got no reply, she said we should look in the "local" bar for the owner, so we drove 6 kms to find him. He quickly downed his drink and we followed him back to the house. We all traipsed through the front door into the living room and looked around us, then Terry and I looked at each other from different sides of the room and could see in each other's eyes that this was the house that we wanted.
It met all but one of our requirements - being in a small hamlet of just eight houses it wasn't within walking distance of a baker's - or any shops at all. In fact the two closest small towns were each 6 kms away in opposite directions. However, it ticked all the other boxes and we loved it immediately and felt "at home".
A heck of a good clean would be number one on the list of "to do" but that would take it into the realms of being immediately habitable. We realised that we'd need to extend through into the barn at the side so that we could have an upstairs bathroom and corridor (so that everyone who stayed wouldn't have to walk through what would be our bedroom to reach the other rooms) but the current owner had already planned some sort of extension into the upper part of that barn and had put a floor in and windows, though that's as far as it went and there was only part of a wall which we could look over to separate it from the barn. He had lost interest due to personal problems and the plan had not progressed from there.
"Our" house was a 200 years old stone cottage; had oak beams, character and promise; was surrounded by beautiful countryside and just 3 kms away from the pretty village of Moutier D'Ahun (no shops but a Roman bridge over the River Creuse) so how could we resist!
There were three older barns attached to one side of the house and a small cottage attached to the other side, with access through from the main house. The little cottage had no floors - you walked in, stood on the dirt floor and gazed up at the roof tiles - but it had promise and would be an immediate storage space. Over the road was another section of woodland and a stone pigsty-type building with a parking area in front of it. This, plus another small copse just up the road was all part of the property for sale.
The large garden was behind the house and almost waist high with nettles and brambles. The owner insisted that we donned some old knee-high wellies (in case of "serpents") to look round the garden area and he thrust a couple of dusty pairs at us. These were not exactly fashionable accessories for our summer shorts but we shook them upside down to allow any crawly tenants to escape then bravely plunged our feet into them. ignoring mother's advice about wearing other people's shoes with bare feet, crossed our fingers and with toes frantically gripping the soles to keep them on, trudged around behind him. We saw nut trees and fruit trees surviving in this wilderness.
However, there was one small fly in the ointment - the asking price plus the agent's fees meant the property was above our maximum budget. We talked frankly with the agent telling her the absolute limit that we could go to and said that although we were really interested in this house, we would not go above that figure. We continued to look at a couple of other properties with other agents the next day as we had made appointments to do so, but we found it hard to become really excited about them. There was just one that we felt might be a possibility and we would consider looking at it again if we had to. Then after an anxious couple of days we got a call to say that our offer had been accepted.
We were over the moon and immediately went back to have another look. The owner was very friendly and handed us a set of keys telling us that we could come back at any time and if he wasn't there, just to let ourselves in to have a look! He told us to keep the keys from then on - before we'd signed a single piece of paper.
We were so excited and felt like jumping around like a couple of kids. When we got back to the auberge we waved the house spec with the photo of the house at Michel and Janine and sat down and described it all to them. They were excited too and joined us with a bottle of champagne that evening to celebrate.
The next day we went to the Notaire with the agent and owner only to find that we couldn't complete the initial paperwork as the owner didn't have the required asbestos certificate, so we did what we could and arranged to return to France in a couple or so weeks - whenever it was ready.
Giving hugs and promises to Michel and Jeanine, we drove back to Folkestone to tell everyone. Excitement had kicked in again!