Friday, April 9, 2010

Buying Houses, Selling Houses, Renovating Houses in Provence

A new neighbour of mine was widowed last year. She left the beautiful villa in Narbonne which she'd shared with her husband and moved to Isle-sur-Sorgue. There were too many memories in the Narbonne house. (Which she's selling - if you're interested in a large, perfect, move-in-condition villa with a great pool and oodles of space, just ask.)

The first thing she did here was order a new kitchen. Heaven knows why - the 'old' one looked perfectly new. But people like to make a home their own. A local company agreed a (high) price with her and duly sent lots of crates and a fitter along. The kitchen would take two days to fit. Er, not quite. The guy was meticulous when he worked but had various other claims on his time so that the two days slid into...12. Twelve days without one or other or several of the appliances and sometimes without water. Oh well, it got done.

My neighbour then decided to build a large wall round the property. To my mind this is a fairly frequently-seen anglo-saxon priority and privacy could often be protected more aesthetically with hedging or shrubs. But beauty's in the eye of the person holding the deeds to the house. She duly engaged a team to build a wall and agreed a (high) price. "How's the wall progressing?" I asked her after a while. "OK" she said slowly. "Though the builders don't always turn up when they say they will. They seem to have other claims on their time."

Next day they were happily back to work though. Part of the wall was to block out a neighbour's garden where a large stately white horse had got used to gazing into her garden, pensively chewing grass. He watched the builders mixing concrete with a certain amount of interest. But looked affronted as they plonked blocks one on top of the other, gradually phasing him out of view. Walled up in his own garden, poor thing. He was accompanied by a barky dog though, whose barks were not blocked out by the wall so I imagine he and the horse felt they'd had a partial victory.

New kitchen and large wall in progress, my neighbour then decided to replace all the house's (new) interior doors with (new) new doors. And the frames they hung in. I spoke with a local craftsman who does patines for doors - (what's the word in English? Finishes?) Could he supply doors and frames? No. Did he know anyone who could? Probably. What about price? He didn't know. Probably high? Probably.

And then she turned her attention to the lawn. Her gardener is pretty good at what he does but, like the kitchen fitter, he has various other interests and things to do with his time apart from prune trees and plant lavender bushes. So my neighbour decided she should at least buy a lawn mower - one she could use so she could mow the grass when the gardener's not available. Which meant a ride-on mower as she's quite small and the lawn is quite big. Looking at prices on line, she saw they were rather high in Provence so she's ordered a John Deere tractor-like lawn mower to be delivered from the UK.

Generally I must say I find prices in Provence wa-y lower than UK prices. For almost everything. (Except, curiously, knickers.) I have a feeling that delivering a tractor-style John Deere lawn mower from Britain may turn out to be quite a performance and possibly one of the most expensive home improvements my neighbour makes. But perhaps it'll arrive on time. We'll see.

For a useful Provence and French Riviera Guide see: Rick Steves' Provence and The French Riviera 2010

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