House Hunter: I sold my Normandy house within a day and I'm desperate to find another one'

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The Independent Online

THE PROBLEM

Dr Elisabeth Allin writes: "I have just sold my house in Normandy as the house was too large and the garden a little small. The problem was that it sold on the very day I put it on the market! I didn't expect that so I am now staying in England while I try to buy somewhere urgently. We have around €130,000, which we hope will cover the house and any repairs. I know Brittany fairly well and I would prefer to be near to the coast and reasonably close to a large town like St Malo or Roscoff, but I don't want to be too isolated. A friend of mine has a house that is 20 miles away from the nearest town and that's not for me!

"I have friends and family in Ireland and London. Portsmouth to St Malo is an easy journey so I think it will be a good spot. As for the property we don't mind some work, but don't want to embark on lots of it. Ideally we'd like three or four bedrooms, two living rooms, a kitchen, bathroom and garage.

"We'd prefer a single-storey house and would really like some outbuilding that could house another family in the summer or act as a gîte. A good-sized garden which we could manage as a wildlife area and vegetable garden would also be nice. I worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris for many years so I speak French and have never had a problem finding a house in France before. But I'm desperate to get back to France, and I'm hoping that you can find something splendid. We are counting on you!"

THE ADVICE

Rhona Booth says: "Around one-third of our clients are, like Elisabeth, looking for permanent homes. Many buy with an eye on retirement - they are holiday homes at first, but the plan is to live there permanently one day. We've had a couple of quiet months over Christmas but things are starting to pick up.

"We simply can't get enough of good properties such as the sort Elisabeth wants to buy and bargains are getting harder to find. We are often in the business of advising a wee bit of compromise. I know that Elisabeth does not want to be in too remote an area but, although it is possible to get something at this price level, it is becoming rarer. She may want to consider accepting something a bit more isolated or that is attached to another property rather than detached.

"It may be a cliché, but there really is nothing better than being in the right place at the right time. There are now so many agents here that properties tend to go very quickly particularly at this level of the market. With the way the market's been going many people expect to get what they could two or three years ago but things have moved on.

"I've picked out three houses that may suit Elisabeth, although she could do with upping her budget. The first one is a very nicely renovated stone longère-style house, which has been renovated thoughtfully. The bathroom and kitchen are light and airy and untypical of what you find in many French properties. The property is not too far from a big town.

"The second property is a nicely renovated three-bedroom house, which has a store, a south-facing conservatory, and an outbuilding, all set an acre of land. This is a typical Breton cottage in its own hamlet, 10 minutes from a town.

"The best one for Elisabeth has two bedrooms, but the loft space can be used as a third. There is a barn attached that you could knock through and make into another sitting room or a guest room, and it has a fireplace. The real beauty of the house is that it is within walking distance of Guerlesquin, where there is a boulangerie and restaurants. The price has just been reduced so this superb bargain will sell quickly."

THE SOLUTION

Property One: Stone longère-style house.
Price: €165,430 (inclusive of all fees).
Agent: VEF: 020-7515 8660, www.vefuk.com.
Agent's details: A perfect rural getaway, this stone longère is ready to go and has a store and outbuilding plus around one acre of land with countryside surrounding it.

Property Two: Detached longère-style house.
Price: €182,700 (inclusive of all fees).
Agent: VEF:
020-7515 8660, www.vefuk.com
Agent's details: This is a traditional stone property with a beautifully landscaped garden and fabulous views. It is detached, ready to move into and has three bedrooms.

Property Three: Rural cottage plus barn near Guerlesquin.
Price: €121,500 (inclusive of all fees) Agent: VEF: 0207 515 8660. www.vefuk.com
Agent's details: This two-bedroom rural cottage is located around 20 minutes from the coast and is also within walking distance from a beautiful old town and on the edge of a lake. It is ready to move into and has a barn attached to it.

Rhona Booth heads VEF's Brittany office (020-7515 8660, www.vefuk.com)

THE VERDICT

"I have decided that I really need to be within striking distance of St Malo as, even if I were based near another town, it would be too far from the port and would be a hell of a journey if I had to pick someone up from there. I'm going to contact the agent to see if they have anything nearer St Malo, as these properties all sound too remote for me. If I base myself in the countryside it will complicate my life enormously. But, as for price, I think my budget should be enough to get what I want. I've definitely had enough of England and there's no question that I want to leave."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail with full details: househunter@independent.co.uk

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