This post is to get you caught up on what’s happening with our new house in France. But first let me clear up some confusion about the three different French houses that show up in my photos.
1- The rental house. The house we currently live in is a rental house. It’s the one with the blue door. It’s right in the center of our little town and a short walk from the bakery, the market, the school, and pretty much anything we need. It’s very affordable — about 600/month, and fits us comfortably. When our container from the U.S. arrived with our household goods, the rental house is where we moved everything, so we’re surrounded by familiar things — and you might even spot recognizable items (like our green piano) when I share snapshots of the rental house.
We’ll be a bit cramped when the three oldest kids join us for Christmas (there’s only one full bathroom in the rental house), and there are lots of design changes we would make if this was a home we owned, but for day-to-day life, it’s great and we feel lucky to have found it.
2- The cottage. This is a house in the countryside (about 25 minutes out of town) that we bought 6 1/2 years ago. We paid 25k for the property. We put on a new roof and repaired the chimney after we bought it, and have started some other renovations since we arrived 3 months ago, but our timeline for this property isn’t urgent. When we bought it, we thought we would eventually use it as a summer house or a vacation home and we still think of it that way. Perhaps we’ll rent it out or put it on Airbnb.
It has a large yard where we’d love to plant some fruit trees. It has a working well on the property, a charming outbuilding, and beautiful views of the countryside. It’s very rustic at the moment, but we have a vision for what it will be. If you see photos of us wearing muddy boots and working on ancient stone walls, we’re probably working at the cottage.
When we moved to France this time around, we used the cottage as our address and that was really helpful.
3- The St. Martin House. The new home we just bought is also right in town — only a couple of blocks from our rental house. It’s in the historic St. Martin neighborhood, and we’ve been calling it the St. Martin house.
We started looking at homes a few months ago and fell in love with this one pretty quickly. It has a grand staircase, four floors with plenty of bedrooms, a pretty garden/courtyard, and it’s right across the street from a centuries-old cathedral. It hasn’t been lived in for a few years, and it needs lots of work, but it was priced to sell. We officially closed on this house the Friday before Thanksgiving with a price tag of 92k.
I shared a full video tour of every room in the St. Martin house on my Instagram Stories and you can see it on the French Home highlight here. Oh. And there’s a surprise at the end of the tour!
[ Sidenote: I knowing owning two properties in France seems over the top, but remember, the total property value is less than 120k, which is equivalent to a down payment in the Bay Area — so it’s not as extravagant as it might sound. Property is really reasonable in this area — here’s a post with links to listings if you’re curious. ]
Though we only closed a week ago, and took a break for Thanksgiving, we’ve already jumped in and started work on the St. Martin house. Here are a few updates:
– Water was turned on last week.
– Electricity was turned on yesterday.
– Gas (which powers the radiators and hot water) was turned on today.
– We met with a man today who will do the plaster repair and window repairs, and he’ll sand the wood floors too. Though that sort of work won’t start until probably March. Most of the contractors we’re working with are French, but this man is from England, so that makes communication a bit smoother.
– One of the first big projects is adding insulation to the roof/ceiling in the attic. And it’s well under way. The demolition in the attic is almost complete and we picked up the insulation Monday morning. Our Dutch friend, Gjisbert, is doing the attic.
– Yesterday we took a tour of a nearby house that is being renovated and is almost done. The man who has led out the renovation wants to work on our house too and wanted to show us what he can do. I was especially impressed with the stone work and tile work, and we’re thinking we’ll hire him to add a doorway through the (very thick!) stone wall from our bedroom to the bathroom to make it an owner’s suite.
– We were supposed to meet with a fireplace and chimney contractor this afternoon, but he had to reschedule, so that appointment will be (hopefully) later this week. I’ve been hunting for gorgeous fireplace inserts and can’t wait to show you some of my favorites.
– We’re meeting with an electrician on Wednesday, and a different electrician on Thursday. Updating electricity is another of the first big projects I want to start right away. So I’m really glad about these meetings.
We have lots of electricity questions! We’re not sure if we need to replace all the wiring from the ground up, or just update the outlets and switches. And some of the old switches are round and brass and gorgeous and we’re wondering if we can source more of them and use them throughout the house.
– Tomorrow, we’re also meeting with a plumber. He will make sure the hot water heater is working, and help us turn on the radiators. We want the house in decent working order while the renovations move forward — so workers have a bathroom and aren’t freezing, you know?
We also want to get a renovation bid from the plumber because we need to add a few more radiators and extend the bathroom plumbing to the upper floors.
-On Thursday, we’re meeting with design team at a kitchen design store. We took all the kitchen measurements today. For the kitchen and bathrooms, everyone we’ve talked to has sent us to kitchen & bath speciality stores. I guess that’s how it’s done here. There are a few of these stores in our little town, and dozens in Caen, which is about 40 minutes north of us. But we’re going to do as much as we can using resources here in Argentan.
We’re very curious about the process. Does each store only use particular brands of faucets or appliances? Will they provide the plumber and electrician for the kitchen work? Do they do the demolition or just the installation? We’ve also noticed that current kitchen design trends in France are super modern, but we want something that feels really traditional, so we’re not sure what our options will be.
Anyway, there’s a lot of exciting work going on — and all those appointments are just this week!! We don’t have a timeline yet on how long renovations will take, but happily, we can stay in this rental until they’re done.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this update. I’d love to hear your renovation stories. And I hope you get a chance to watch the tour. What part of the St. Martin house renovation would be most intimidating to you? What part would be most exciting? I’d love to hear.