Sunday, 9 February 2014

A place for dreaming....


The weather is terrible here in the UK, floods are as bad as they have ever been, and I shouldn't really moan as at least we are not watching water approaching our threshold like the poor souls who are having to abandon their homes in the South West.
At times like this, I like to fantasise about a house in the sun.  I've always been a bit of a coward when it comes to property, I like to be in the best location that I can, for the smallest outlay possible.  I've never been drawn to big impressive houses, I love them to belong to other people (especially my friends who throw great house parties).

But for me, I like to be nimble and unobtrusive.  The idea of a house abroad has always filled me with terror. I watch those 'Holiday Homes from Hell' programs, where the local authorities in Spain or Portugal demolish houses with the poor home-owners standing by helpless.  Or in France where they live in a beautiful multi-million pound villa, only to find out that it never had planning permission and they are going to have to pay hundreds of thousands of Euros to keep it in place.

The unifying thing, seems to be it rarely happens to the locals, it is always the poor foreigner who have invested their life savings that get burnt.  So I have looked endlessly, marvelling at the mansion in Europe that I could buy for the price of a one bed in central London, but without the protection of UK law, it has always remained 'window shopping'.

Until today, a friend who has a bolthole just outside St Tropez is selling up, she can't be bothered to rent it any more and she would like to help her kids to get on the property ladder in the UK.
I have watched the rental cost of our holiday home in Ramatuelle treble in the last 10 years, and I had been wondering for how long our two week August pilgrimage would be viable with the way that prices have been going up.  My memories of the location are the fondest of any, I watched my kids grow up with the background of that turquoise sea, and some of our best friends are those that we met over endless lunches at Club 55.

It all seems to be coming together at the right time, this place is so tiny, it does not even have a proper bedroom, I wouldn't need to borrow much money, so there would be no necessity to rent it out.

The only risk is nutty Hollande and his mad campaign to destroy the French economy, he has successfully turned Paris into a ghost town and housing sales dropped 40% the first year that he was in power.  His next target could be foreign owners in France, and with some kind of insane property tax, in order to complete his destruction of the housing market at both the upper and lower end.

So that is the 'real' concern holding me back from buying, is the instability of the political system more than anything else.

It is safe to say I have a split personality, the practical one above that looks at political and financial risk and the dreamy Sunday afternoon one who seeks out beautiful images of one of my favourite parts of the world, and wonders which elements could be introduced into the shoebox that is for sale.

My favourite hotel room in the world at Villa Marie on Route des Plages...

 The verdant beauty of the South of France...
 Sturdy outdoor dining chairs...


Many years ago, I was going to set up a furniture company with a friend.  We visited a place in Lancashire called 'Coachhouse', it is where pretty much all the decorative furniture that you see online and in boutiques comes from.  It is easy to register as an interior designer, as long as you place an order of about £1k minimum.  The prices are only visible once your have registered, but as a rough guide, they are about half those that you see on Ebay etc.

Here are my picks for making over the tiny house (in the lilac/pink and silver of Villa Marie)...












Where do you dream of on quiet afternoons? And would you ever take the plunge and commit to buying there or do you prefer the flexibility of freedom?

16 comments:

  1. While I am not a financial advisor I would seriously suggest you wait until the next French elections! There is a reason why a ten bedroom chateau with grounds in Bordeaux is the same price as a studio in Chelsea. Besides the taxes, there is no stability and the rules about doing up a property can be a nightmare. Plus if you dont pay your council tax on time and depending on the province three months late - the bailiffs can come in and take what they want and they don't even shut the door after them. It honestly might be cheaper and more enjoyable to stay in a hotel!

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  2. Buy it! Live for today, you may regret it if you are overly cautious. Spend your summers there and rent out when you can, I would give anything to have a place abroad no matter how tiny and if our weather doesn't make your mind up, nothing will!

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    1. Ha! it's like the devil and angel on each shoulder!

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  3. oh dear you appeal to my 'sensible' side, all that you say is so true, but the hotels are as much as 1000 euro a night in high season, and all the cheap little ones are becoming 'boutique' hotels. I didn't know about the council tax, that is pretty harsh. I have heard all sorts of stories about un-knowing foreigners getting trapped in obscure property law.

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  4. Gorgeous. I'd love a winter place in the Caribbean but am also spooked by the prospect of foreign property ownership. Still, St Tropez...so tempting

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  5. Hi Alex. I do have a place in the sun simply because I lived there for 13 years. I only bought property because Spain is literally on it's knees. There were fears everyday that one day we would get up and not be able to access our bank accounts (as happened years ago in Argentina), so we were advised to buy. I never wanted to buy because I have seen property along the coast in Marbella that have been on sale for more than 5 years (decreasing in price each year). I guess what I am saying is I think the political stability of a country is really important. Thankfully my flat is in the city so I can have a long-term tenant in it. I am not sure if it would be the same if I was near the coast. Think hard ;-) I know people in Spain and France who are desperate to get rid of their holiday homes. You have to ask the question why?

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    1. you make a great point, I would especially worry if it was some 'superstar' house, apparently in Spain, the mayors can over rule any national law, so if they wanted to take possession of any property they can without any recourse. Luckily this is a shoe box that is so tiny, cheap, dilapidated and boringly located that I don't think anyone would want to take it!

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  6. Oh we had the loveliest yellow house in Cannes when I was growing up, school hols were spent there or in LA, but when push came to shove after my dad passed away, I couldn't take it on as I'm too impoverished to even manage the upkeep but I wish I had been able to, I will egg you on but personally I couldn't manage the responsibility!

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    1. It's just one and a half rooms, so nothing splendid, but very lock up and leave, every time it rains I feel more resolved!

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  7. Having just sold a second home in a "foreign" country (Canada) I would suggest you wait. We found it terribly difficult to justifying ever vacationing in a place other than our second home. While it was lovely, it did tie us down.

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    1. I'm quite keen to be tied down (ooo eer, not in the naughty sense!)

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  8. Sorry to change the subject but was catching up with your posts and in particular the Getting Glossy one. I love the eclectic look that you manage to create with your finds and your existing wardrobe. Anyone can look like the latest magazine fashion shoot but to have your own individual look is what sets you apart. Fashion comes and goes very quickly but style.........style is unique to each of us and much more interesting.

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    1. You are echoing exactly what my husband says, but I think he is thinking mainly about credit card bills!

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  9. If you absolutely love the place, its worth it. Different situations are appropriate for different phases of your life. I fully intend to branch out again, but it is scary! There is a fine line, I suppose. Hollande does seem to be the concern. That photo is absolutely beautiful!

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    1. it's one of those places that will never create envy, so would seem safer than trying to be too grand.

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I would love to hear from you and quite happy for some lively debate so feel free to say what you think! ....