12 February 2006

Where do we sign?

If you want to read this series of postings in chronological order, start here: Quitting California. Click Next at the bottom of each posting to jump to the next one in the series. This is installment number seven.

That Thursday December 12, 2002, after a very busy Wednesday during which we saw at least seven houses near Montrichard and in Amboise, I think we must have had the morning off. It gave us time to think about the house at La Renaudière, which we were scheduled to see again in the afternoon.

There were no horses on the property at La Renaudière except this poster
pasted onto a door in the entryway. We remember Monsieur Ed with fondness.

At 2:30 we met Bourdais at his office and drove with him back toward Saint-Aignan. We went directly to the house, and we must have spent two hours walking around the yard, opening all the shutters on all the windows, and exploring the house from the ground floor up to the attic. Bourdais stayed with us all that time. He let us look around and talk about what we were seeing without butting in or giving us a lot of opinions. He was there to answer questions.

The house seen from the back of the back yard.
We use this open area for our vegetable garden.

At the time, we were in awe of the size of the yard. After nearly 15 years of living in apartments in Paris, Washington DC, and San Francisco, and then eight years in a San Francisco townhouse with a tiny back garden, it was amazing to be able to be so far from the house while still being on the property.

The house had been empty for two or three years and there was an alarm.
This sign in a garage window warned burglars and vandals to beware.

The yard doesn’t seem as big any more, and a lot of people around here have a lot more land than we do, but we realize we are lucky. When Walt was taking driving lessons (that's another story) last summer, he was talking with his teacher and a fellow student, who were both French. They asked him if he had bought an old farmhouse to renovate. They were trying to figure out why he was in France, I’m sure. He said no, his was a fairly new house that only needed updating and it was on only half an acre of land. They rolled their eyes and laughed and said, ONLY half an acre? That was a lot to them.

There are two rows of grape vines in the back yard.
These are table grapes, not wine grapes, we were told.

When we finished our tour of the house and yard and were ready to leave, Bourdais said he had asked his office staff to draw up all the papers for us to sign to begin the buying process. Were we ready? I was surprised, and told him I didn’t know if we wanted to take that next step yet. But you are going back to California this weekend, aren’t you? When will you sign if you don’t sign now?

The front of the house, with green tarps covering the front deck.

He explained that under French law we had a week during which we could change our minds (la période de rétractation) after signing the agreement to buy (le compromis de vente). When you get back to California, think it over. If you change your mind and don’t want to buy the house, send me a registered letter postmarked by Friday, December 20. That seemed reasonable. After all, he wasn't asking us to shell out any money on the spot.

The neighbors across the street have a couple of acres of land.
It's like living across the street from a park.

It just dawned on me that the next day was Friday the Thirteenth. That turned out not to matter, fortunately.

If you don’t change your mind, Bourdais said, send me a deposit by bank-to-bank wire transfer. He gave me a piece of paper that had on it all the information about his escrow account that an American bank would need to process the wire transfer.

The living room is a nice big space with big windows.

Escrow is an interesting word. In French, Bourdais called the equivalent account his compte séquestre. The money is sequestered until all agreements are finalized. I told him that the American term for that was escrow, trying to make sure I understood the process. He blanched, and I realized he had understood the French word escroc, which means crook. Un escroc (the final C is silent, so it’s pronounced sort of like escrow) is a swindler or con man. It took a minute to straighten that one out. He thought for a second that I was accusing him of being dishonest.

After a sudden shower during our December inspection tour, we saw
this rainbow from an upstairs window. We took it as a good omen.

So the impossible had happened. We went back to his office and signed the papers. In four days, we had bought a house in France, and at a very good price. We had arrived with very low expectations, and it had all worked out very smoothly. The only question we asked ourselves was: what are we going to do now?


  1. Well, Ken, I did like Bourdais and startled (is it correct for "j'ai sursauté", please ?), lol, when I read the expression "escrow account" !!! I immediately thought of "un escroc" !!! And, instead of going on reading the text, I looked it up in the dico and saw it meant "noun US law compte m séquestre"... I can understand the reaction of your "agent immobilier" !!! Poor guy, he might have had a heart attack !!!

    Yes, the "arc-en-ciel"/rainbow was "un bon présage"/a good omen :-)! Bises. Marie qui est contente pour vous, les Gars ;-)

  2. It was good for Bourdais to learn the term "escrow" because he does have other American clients. I was able to explain it to him in French and I understood what the misunderstanding was. If an American with little or no French had said the same thing, Bourdais might have been really insulted.

  3. The conversation with my driving instructor went like this (and I'm paraphrasing):

    Stella: Did you buy a farmhouse?
    Moi: No, just a "pavillon" on a small plot of land, about 2000 square meters.
    Stella: 2000 square meters? (laughing) That's NOT a small plot of land!


  4. Drat, I wish you'd kept Mr. Ed! He's so chouette;-) I must admit that he didn't go very well with the wallpaper, but then again nothing really went with that wallpaper. I did a double- take when I saw the barn door there in your entrance hall. I had to enlarge the photo to make sure of what I was seeing.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your home improvements, but sorry that I will never see your horse of course- you know the famous Mr Ed.


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