The Wreck – redeveloping my pension part one

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buying property for french income in the UK, Devon

It’s now January 2015 and I, as the Grandma on this expedition, have been pondering just how a move to France would work for me. It’s nearly a year since we first talked about this move and it is obvious that giving ourselves 1 year to research and assess living in France, was not really a realistic timescale. We all agree we like France enough to live there – we particularly love the South West. We all agree that the children would settle in to the French way of life and schooling. We all agree that it would be prudent, despite there still being some bargains out there, to rent for our first year. This does not mean we are not committed to the move. Instead, it allows us to keep a foot on the UK property market which we all feel is a sound financial decision.

For myself, newly retired and recently widowed, I don’t want (can’t afford) to make a ‘big’ mistake. I am of an age, like a lot of women, where organising a pension was not common practice – until near the end of my working life! I have had to be innovative as working a 9 to 5 job is unlikely to be sustainable, regardless of any Governments age related initiatives!

So, what can I do/find as a regular pension top up if I make the move to France. Do I already do something that could bring in a good (pension) income. For me, property rental answers these questions. I am already a buy-to-let landlord and the UK property market is something I have experience off. By keeping any buy-to-lets in the UK I would also be fulfilling the need to keep a foot on the UK property market. Buying property = French income.

However, I will have to review how I operate. At present I choose to let to professional couples and families. Traditionally this gives less rental income, but is usually less hassle. Moving to France may make it difficult for me to be as ‘hands on’ as I would like. I may have to appoint (and pay) an agent. To maximise the rental income I need to look at entering the student market, i.e. houses of multiple occupancy (HMO’s). Moving into the student market means searching for and buying city properties, not the small town/rural ones I currently own. which is how I have got completely sidetracked.

The student market is very competitive. I had found a perfect house, made a lower than asked for offer, got accepted, had the survey – so far so good – then out of the blue got gazumped! And here was little ole me thinking that gazumping was a long forgotten practise…..

Disgusted, and somewhat tee’d off, I took a drive out of town to a coastal village in a big touristy area. Driving down the hill into the village I came across an appealing looking property, with a big ‘for sale’ sign on it. Now, I knew that this house ticked NO boxes on my list, but sometimes when you view something, ‘out of the box,’ it gives you something you didn’t know you wanted.

A spot of unashamed property tourism always cheers me up so I booked a viewing – which is how I have now got completely sidetracked! From the moment I stepped inside I realised this unloved Victorian house screamed ..POTENTIAL …. POTENTIAL… POTENTIAL. Untouched for 30 years, empty for 1 year, no heating, undulating floors, a staircase that leans to the right, some sort of (rear) two story wooden extension that not only houses the kitchen and bathroom but balances on the garden wall – this property was uninhabitable. It did however, have a wonderful Victorian marble fireplace, 3 wonderful art deco style fireplaces, original window shutters, several original cupboards and under all that paint I am sure are original old doors. A major project by anyones standard – but could it be mine?

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