Ask the developer

To find out more about the new-build market, we ask a developer for the inside track on their patch. In this issue, we talk to Pat Leech, of Dordogne-based Avilion Sustainable Homes, which covers the whole of France...

What’s the most unusual property you have built?I would say it’s our 540m� ch�teau-style house. Built on three floors, it also features wooden beams.What price do your new builds start at?Our prices depend on the square metre coverage of the property and the specification we build to. For example, one of our typical 150m� homes, built to specification and with an acceptable standard of insulation, could be built for approximately €1,200 (�1,034) per square metre – this would be about €180,000 (�155,119) in total.What’s the average time for completion?This tends to be very much dependent upon the time of year and the location, but 6 to 9 months would be a reasonable expectation.How much involvement can the client have?They can choose from designs that we have built previously, or they can work with our designers to create a totally bespoke house.Can you give us a typical price for:- a two-bedroom holiday home? A holiday home may be built to a different specification to a house that’s lived in permanently so the price range can be anything from €110,000 (�94,795) upwards.- a four-bedroom family home? Again, as the layout can vary greatly, I would say the price could be anything up to €215,000 (�185,281).Is there a regional architectural style or are there local materials that you incorporate into your builds?Most departments have local planning regulations, but these often allow designs incorporating traditional influences through to contemporary plans and everything in between; they may specify a particular roof covering or roof pitch, for example.Would you consider renovation projects?Not normally, although if a renovation involved a large extension in timber frame it could be something where we can make a contribution.Are there many British people buying new builds in your region?Yes – barely a day goes by without an enquiry from a British client. Many build in Dordogne or Limousin, but we have enquiries in the Pyrenees, the Alps, Normandy and pretty much anywhere.Is it becoming more popular with British buyers?Certainly there are many who do not seem discouraged by either the credit crunch or the fall in value of the pound sterling. Land with planning consent in beautiful locations is still amazing value compared to most locations in Britain, and build costs are also very competitive with UK prices, even though VAT is chargeable on the construction of a new house in France. It is also far more likely that an individual will be permitted to build a house to their precise requirements in France than in the UK, where planners nearly always restrict designs and frustrate ambitions.What are the trends in new build?Insulation is increasingly important and we always suggest that clients build the bestinsulated home they can afford, especially if they intend to live there all year round. Solarheated water is also a proven technology that we encourage our clients to incorporate into their new homes. We have also noticed that Diffutherm, a lime render on wood-fibre board, is providing a quicker and better quality finish than render on block.What advice would you give to someone buying new build?Spend as much as you can afford on highquality construction and insulation. If you have to compromise then do so on kitchens and bathrooms – these are easily upgraded at a later date when funds permit, whereas you can’t change the structure of a building once it’s set.Is your department easy to reach?Airports at Limoges and Bergerac provide very cheap travel to the region and the TGV stops at Angoul�me.What are the regional specialities?In Dordogne, the local specialities are cabecou – toasted goat’s cheese with walnut salad – confit de canard (preserved duck) and magret de canard (duck breast).What local attractions are there in your department?There are some great days out to be had round here. I would particularly recommend a trip to the beautiful market town of Brant�me. There’s also a fantastic bustling weekly market at Pi�gut-Pluviers.What’s your favourite part of the department?I love P�rigord Vert with its beautiful forested scenery.