With summer upon us, and thousands of Brits flocking to enjoy their second-home pools in France, Joanna Leggett shares her top tips on joining the happy splashers
Summertime… and the living is easy. Or so the song goes. If your dream is to live in France and benefit from the longer, hotter summers on the French side of the Channel, then that dream is likely to include the thought of relaxing beside a pool under a parasol on a gorgeous afternoon with, perhaps, a glass of something in your hand.
With a pool being a key component in your dream – especially as you move further south into the warmer weather – the question is, should you build a pool, or buy a home where all the hard work has been done?
Before you start, some constants will remain the same. Safety is paramount. Since 2006, all swimming pools in France must have either an alarm, barrier, cover or shelter. Your pool will also need to be safely fenced off.
Before you dive in…
If you are considering buying a property without a pool, but believe it essential to your French dream, the first step is always to go and consult with your local mairie. They will be able to advise on local regulations and what will be required.
It would also make good sense to discuss with your estate agent how much your house is likely to increase in value by the addition of a pool, and factor their comments into your calculations.
As with any project the costs of installing a pool can vary – after all, how long really is a piece of a string? If money is no object, you could choose any pool you fancy, commission the works and come back to find it all fully installed. In real life, however, the practicalities for most of us are likely to be somewhat more pragmatic.
So where on your site would you like to install a pool? Some of the most successful installations I’ve seen in France have used the walls of old stone barns, demolished to around a metre high to create the safety aspect and protection for the pool. But there may be another wonderfully sheltered spot in the garden which would be the perfect position. For any option, you’ll need to consider access from the house and to electricity and water supplies.
There are many professional pool building companies in France, so ask around, check with your neighbours and see what they’ve done. Your estate agent should be able to give you some recommendations about who is good in your district.
If it is to be an in-ground pool you will need to get plans drawn up and approved at the mairie before you start as part of the planning process.
If you are going to use a professional swimming pool company, then all the work will be done for you, although this is likely to be the costliest option.
There are the DIY options – which of course, as with all DIY, usually takes far longer than one expects. Then there are kit pools – which may also take longer to install than you might think from first reading the glossy brochure while sitting beside the fire on a winter’s evening.
Whether you choose a kit or the DIY option, you will most probably need to hire a digger – which is not cheap in France. What are you going to do with the earth and materials that are dug out? You need to think about how you will dispose of them.
Yet another option could be a prefabricated pool. These arrive in one piece on top of a truck ready to be lowered into a hole in your garden. A digger will be needed to make the hole, and should the pool you are planning be on the side of a hill the truck will need to be able to drive around the plot to deliver it. In-ground pools increase your local tax too, as you are deemed to have increased the value of your property.
But the choice doesn’t end there. You could decide on an above-ground pool, and this type will not increase your taxe foncière. Again, there will be a pool to suit all budgets, from the very large with timber walls big enough to swim lengths to an inflatable one from the local supermarket.
The final consideration is the cost x time x disruption factor. It could potentially take three months to install and landscape around a new pool – will you be available to oversee this process?
One thing is sure though. Whichever option you go for will offer long poolside days enjoying the summer sun, ‘in-house’ entertainment for the children and an opportunity for exercise.
Joanna Leggett is marketing director of Leggett Immobilier
Tel: 08700 11 51 51