Finding our dream home in Brittany
PUBLISHED: 15:58 16 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:02 16 November 2020
Buying a house in France takes daring, legwork and a little bit of fate. After much searching, Michelle and Graeme Warren fell in love with a stunning riverside home in Léhon, Brittany
Buying our property in Brittany was at first quite a long process with many challenges along the way, but it was definitely all worth it in the end. It can be a little daunting to say the least, with all the legal requirements and differences between France and the UK. Even being able to speak the language quite well, we faced many unknowns.
We were very lucky to be introduced to a French/English facilitator who knew the French legal process inside out and was able to help us out with everything. This advice was invaluable and we can’t recommend enough having someone like this on your team, working with you and keeping everything on track. We really wanted to complete our purchase pre-Brexit too.
Now owning our property, to describe it in one word... amazing! It has always been our intention to live in France permanently one day, so completing our house purchase in 2018 was the first step.
We run our own business in the UK, so our goal for the French house was to look at it as another business opportunity, which we can also enjoy out of season. It is one of the biggest decisions we have ever made, but so far, we’ve not looked back!
We have been coming to France for over 15 years and have explored a lot of it. As we live in the north of England, we wanted somewhere that was still easy enough to get to, significantly warmer (but not searing south of France summer temperatures), beautiful, within half an hour of the coast and somewhere that we’d be able to immerse ourselves in the ‘real France’.
France today feels like the UK about 20-30 years ago, with a much slower pace of life and it seems to have a better work/life balance. We work very hard in the UK running our own businesses here and sometimes it can feel like a bit of a rat race. When we come to France, we feel like we’ve left all our worries behind and we can totally unwind and relax.
We also wanted the convenience of being able to walk out of our front door and immediately have things on our doorstep, even if you need to rely on public transport to reach other locations. We attended The France Show which is held at Olympia London every year, and found ourselves on a property stand staring at this beautiful converted mill house which happened to be in Brittany.
We had never visited Brittany before, so without further ado, we arranged a trip for a long weekend. Our first experience of the region was Dinard, where we were staying, which was amazing. We soon came to realise that every part of this region is stunning, from the beaches to the rugged coastline and the breathtaking historic towns such as Dinan. We fell in love with it and our search for where to buy was complete!
What do we love about Brittany? Everything! No matter if you are young, old or somewhere in between, if you are a beach lover, history or wildlife enthusiast, photographer, or if you are after a sporty holiday involving cycling, walking, golf or water sports, there is something for everyone here. Northern France is still convenient enough to get to the UK when we need to as well.
The food is amazing (as are the local tipples to go with it) and we find everyone very helpful and friendly. It just makes you feel good when you’re there and you can leave all your troubles behind.
We viewed our initial property from The France Show (twice!) and although beautiful, we decided that it was a little too much to take on, as there were also acres of land which we would have found too difficult to manage from afar.
Because we were looking for somewhere to also rent out, the location was absolutely key for us and this property didn’t quite tick that box. We also viewed a few other properties, but they too weren’t in the right location for our needs.
We spent many an evening trawling the internet to continue the search. Feeling a little disheartened that nothing was falling into place, we stumbled across an advert which wasn’t from an agency, so we dropped them an email to see what came back.
Unspoiled river views
A good few weeks went by and we heard nothing, so we assumed it had been sold and then out of the blue, we received a reply from the owner. He apologised for the delay in responding and also for the fact that we had found this advert, as they had decided not to sell the house, after having it up for sale for six months. They had forgotten to remove this particular advert, so they were a little confused by our email when it arrived, thinking there were no current adverts out there.
The owner was a true gentleman and offered to let us look around the property the next time we were in France if we were serious about the property, which we were. A few months passed before we were back in France, but we got back in touch with the owner and true to his word, he arranged for a neighbour to show us around, as they were not in France.
We viewed the property on 1 July 2017 and immediately fell in love with the beautiful village of Léhon and the stunning location of the property. It was previously the rowing club for the village (hence the riverside spot) and it was converted into a house in 2005 when the club relocated to Dinan.
Its open-plan layout with unspoiled river views and high ceilings in the bedrooms, with beautiful beams, gives it a great feeling of spaciousness and there is also a private garden and front terrace and a driveway for two cars.
We knew straight away that this was the property for us, so we started negotiations with the owners. Luckily, they decided in the end that they were happy to sell it to us and so the work began to make it happen. We will be forever grateful to them for their patience, kindness and can-do attitude to make this happen.
Meant to be
It was quite a long process and we finally completed in September 2018 and the rest is history! We found the house by accident and there were so many things that should have stopped us finding it and buying it, that we are convinced it was meant to be. Maybe the house found us!
We love where our house is and somehow it just makes you want to spend more time outside exploring, which is excellent for our health and general wellbeing too. Léhon and the surrounding area is a feast for the eyes. It’s just an amazing place to be.
It has been our goal for some years to eventually retire to France, so we’re currently trying to find a way to do this. Buying the house was step one in this process. The more time we spend there, the more we feel like we belong and it is where we want to end up permanently.
Every time we are there, it never ceases to amaze us how beautiful the area is. Our advice to anyone thinking about doing this, is to go for it, but make sure you have your ducks in a row, your eyes wide open and make sure you understand every step and the legal process.
We’ve met some great people along the way who we still keep in touch with and we are also thinking about buying a second property. Learning the language has become my passion too. We have a plaque on the wall in the house which says: ‘Anything is possible if you dare to dream’!
More real life stories