The "class village" is a fascinating school project. The teacher tapes together swathes of paper "plots" before instructing the class to build their own homes. Now Cluttons Resorts is offering the grown-up version to Francophiles wanting to build their own pile in the heart of the Dordogne.
It is offering 25 fully serviced plots of around 2,500m² overlooking the village of Montazeau, half-way between St Emilion and Bergerac. The plots in the secure community of Le Clos des Charmes are being sold from ¿150,000 (£105,000).
"People are nervous of self-build abroad," says Cluttons' director of developments, Robert Green. Many fantasy foreign homes go wrong because buyers don't know anything about local planning laws or building costs and methods.
"Which is why we're offering a hand-holding version," says Green. "Assistance will be offered at purchase and construction by a local developer who can put buyers through to local architects, builders, legal advisors and mortgage firms. We will also ensure that the infrastructure is completed to the highest standards, with a full range of utilities, roads, low-level lighting, landscaping and telecoms."
This is a savvy move: the developer gets the cash up front, before they have had to build homes and then recoup costs. "It makes sense for the buyer, too," Green stresses. "Developers can put 30 per cent on the price of a new home, which self-builders could save." Green estimates build costs at around ¿400,000 (£275,000) for a 250m² property with 80m² of terraces. "You're likely to get a total cost of about ¿2,200 (£1,500) per square metre, which compares with an average of ¿7,000 (£4,900) per square metre for some new-builds in the area," he says. Green adds that this is the first time Cluttons has tried such a scheme, but six of the plots have been sold already. "If the project is a success, we'll be repeating it," he says.
Custom-building your home is appealing, but your neighbours doing the same could cause concern. "I don't think that's a major worry," says Green. "Homes will have to be 'in keeping' and they're spread apart generously. Each home will have a fair amount of privacy, as well as room for a pool or tennis court. Nobody will be on top of their neighbours."
And if you need inspiration to help you form that vision, try the Château de Montaigne and Château de Beynac – they're just a short drive away.