Steve and I love France and have visited the different regions of the country many times over the years. We always seem to go back to the Cote D’Azur region – Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo and the surrounding areas. We have even considered retiring to the South of France and talked about it for the past 12 years. Talking about retirement 12 years ago seemed so far away, and yet here we are, much closer to Steve retiring from his job. He is eligible for early retirement at age 55, since he has been with his company for 33+years, he has that option.
We have lived in England for the past three years and this has made it easier and less expensive to fly or drive to France and look at our options in the different areas. We sold our big beautiful house in Southern California this year, which has allowed us to take the next step and begin to go property shopping and to see what our money will buy us.
Now that retirement is within reach it is time to look at our retirement plans and prepare to take action to make sure we are ready for when retirement arrives. This includes finding and renting or buying a property for us to call home for part of the year, as we will be living in Southern California the other part of year to be near our sons and daughter-in-law, and the rest of our family. We really need to pick the area and fine tune our property search and then visit the area a number of times to be sure that it ticks most of the boxes for us. It is rare to be able to tick all of the boxes, especially under the current financial climate around the world.
So off we went on our first serious property buying trip to France in, of course, the Cote D’Azur. We arranged this trip so that we could meet up with our friends Ian and Carole and their friends, all from Sheffield, England, who own flats in Antibes. They wanted to help us on our property search in this area. It is a beautiful area with all of the amenities and ambience that you could ask for, as well as being near Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo and the airport.Carole recommended the Hotel Mimosas in Antibes as our home base for this trip. The Mimosas resembled a classic hotel from years ago, but one that was tastefully modernised without losing its charm.
We began our expedition with a company that took us to only “new builds,” brand new properties, most in a planned community with amenities such as a pool, a garden, a garage, some with a gated entry into the development. We looked at a few that were not even built yet. These are called “off-plan” and all we could see was the land, a miniature layout of the properties and some pictures of what the finished product will look like. We have been warned about off-plan buying as a number of construction companies have gone out of business before the project was finished, taking your money with them. Money such as initial deposit and installments as they complete each phase of the project. The company that we are working with assured us that they only work with the finest builders, and the ones that we were looking at were by a builder who won many awards for their properties and has an outstanding reputation in France. With that information we decided to go to see properties in four different locations in that region, from the forest to the sea to the rural. It was a full day affair, an exhausting one at that, as we drove with our real estate agent from one end of the region to the other, in search of the perfect property for us.
We learned a great deal about what to expect in a property. The living areas are quite a bit smaller than we are used to. One of the properties was 50 square meters, or about 500 square feet. Quite a small area considering that our house in California was almost 3000 square feet! We are prepared to downsize but this was a bit too small, since it will be our main residence for half of the year, not just a holiday home for short visits. We knew that property in this region was expensive but we didn’t know that it was the second most expensive region, second only to Paris. So we were a bit surprised.
We visited a number of real estate agencies in town, and talked with the estate agents telling them what we want and how much we had to spend and if they had any properties. Most said that they did, and they arranged for us to see them. Ian & Carole went with us most of the time to help translate, as some of them did not speak much English. We viewed about ten properties over the next three days. We were able to eliminate nine of the ten, we found one that we liked, but again it was a small place for a big price.
We left a bit disappointed but also very excited as we made a group of new friends that Ian & Carole introduced us to and we just love all of them. We went to each of their flats to get an idea of the properties in their community – the size, the layout, and the views. The night before we left we all got together and had a fabulous farewell dinner. We look forward to our next visit with them.
We are leaving our options open and know that it will take a little more research and a number of trips back for us to zero in on our criteria of boxes to be ticked. We will find just the right property for us, it just may take some time. Meanwhile, we will keep on sampling scrumptious ice cream on our travels…
Stay tuned for our next property shopping adventure in France. Maybe next time we will have time to enjoy the pool!
Until next time ~ Au Revoir