Buying a French ruin and making it home

Buying a French ruin and making it home

Buying a French ruin and making it home

If you’re planning to relocate to France in a hurry, you’ve two choices – buy a new property or live in a camper van until you’ve renovated your very own dream villa.

Falling in love with a French ruin is commonplace amongst British would-be expat retirees who’ve had DIY experience in the home country. However, finding a suitable renovation subject at a price which covers the entire operation from structure to décor is another matter entirely. Losing heart and settling for an affordable condo isn’t the answer, and many expats have taken on the challenge and lived happily ever after to the envy of their friends.

The first necessity is to prioritise the structural work, stripping what’s there back to basics and identifying what’s needed for your lifestyle. At this stage, practical decisions have to take priority – such as a usable bath and shower rather than a Jacuzzi and sauna! If you’ve the original large roof tiles, taking them down and washing them will restore their appearance and save you money at the same time. Checking for dry rot, wet rot and woodworm is easy enough, but making it all good is perhaps a job for the local builder.

If the French home of your dreams has wooden ceiling beams, they’ll need cleaning and checking, but they’re one of the most appealing features of historic French properties. It’s the same with old fireplaces – people make their living restoring them and selling them, so it can’t be that difficult. Floors are another matter but, once they’ve been sanded and varnished, they’re yet another traditional feature. YouTube tutorials can help hugely, especially on the boring jobs such as plumbing.

As for the electricity supply as well as septic tanks if required, unless you’re an expert it’s best to farm them out to a local who is. If your plasterwork has seen better days, stripping it out and simply painting the walls is the answer, and will blend well with the beams and the original polished floor. Trial and error is the best way forward but, especially when it comes to the kitchen, getting the professionals in saves time although it costs more than renovating what’s already there.

As for the outside, wooden shutters are easily available and don’t have to be operational, but give the exterior the look it deserves. All the above will take time, usually a lot of time, but isn’t that what expat retirement’s all about?

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