Making a multigenerational move to France
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These days multigenerational living makes sense for a lot of families - maybe it could work for you?
Multigenerational living is not for everyone but if families do get on well, the mutual benefits can be enormous.
First and foremost, there’s the boost to emotional wellbeing. People are generally living longer, healthier lives and children are good at keeping their grandarents active and engaged while benefiting from their love, time and wisdom.
Then there’s the practical support. If you loved watching Dick and Angel Strawbridge renovate their country pile in Escape to the Chateau, no dubt you spotted their secret weapon. As well as Dick’s practical knowhow and Angel’s design flair, they had Angel’s parents Jenney and Stephen on hand to look after their young children. In return, the grandparents got precious family time, food, wine, sunshine and a stylish new home!
Why spend money on boring things like your own driveway, hallway and utility room when you could happily share them and funnel your finances into a grand property with a pool, views and desirable location?
Obviously, your money will go further in France where house prices are significantly lower. However, living costs are higher on the whole, especially for food and clothing, so joining forces could pay off in the long run. You could divide up bills, are share costs of things like petrol and logs for woodburners, too.
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Privacy and independence seem to be the key to a harmonious multigenerational household. This could influence what type of property you decide to buy. Sharing one big house gives you the chance to funnel your funds into something really special and potentially save money, but a single open-plan living space is not going to cut it, however fabulous it looks.
Many French homes come with self-contained apartments so that you at least have the option to cook meals separately and give each other more space. A main house with a gite in the grounds gives you the advantage of maintaining more independent households while still being able to enjoy communal facilities and dip in and out of each other’s lives. It also gives you the flexibility to rent the other property out if circumstances change.
The need for independence could also influence where you choose to live. Even if that gorgeous farmstead in the middle of nowhere has space for all the family and is going for a song, you may ultimately be happuer in a smaller property on the edge of a town or village with amenities and leisure facilities within walking distance.
How to buy
Anyone buying French property should think carefully about how to structure the purchase. The most common purchase structure is ‘en indivision’ which could work well for a multigenerational set-up.
Each owner (indivisaire) holds a distinct share in the property, normally representative of their contribution to the purchase price. The notaire can draw up a shared ownership agreement setting out the maintenance obligations of each owner and the criteria by which a property might be sold, so that no single party can force a sale.
Another method for multigenerational buyers is to consider an SCI. This stands for Société Civile Immobilière and is a specialist type of French civil company. Under this arrangement, the company owns the propert and the owners are effectively shareholders who occupy the property as non-paying tenants. They are each allotted shares in accordance with the size of their investment.
“An SCI may be a good option,” says Matthew Cameron, Head of French legal services at Ashtons Legal. “The statuts could anticipate powers for parties to buy back shares from each other if, for example, one party wanted to sell up and moveon. Rights to purchase can be anticipated to cover death of a shareholder as well.”
Take a look at these multigenerational-friendly properties with gites:
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