We are shown around our first few houses by English Real estate agents who have made new lives here in the Charente and seem to love the French life. Our budget is small as we don’t want a mortgage and we know there will be a lot of fixing and maintenance on top of the initial cost.
We have had to rug up well as most houses we see haven’t been lived in for a few years and have been shuttered up. The doors once unlocked and the shutters thrown open to let in the pale sunlight, often release musty stale air, (the smell of forgotten things) and a cold that could chill a Polar Bear. The stone walls are thick and a lot of the houses have been built on dirt making the floors damp and in some houses rotten.
Roofs need fixing, spaces need reconfiguring, which is difficult as the stone walls are half a metre thick. Bathroom and kitchens are needed in most houses. Some houses are beautiful from the outside with their large shuttered windows and huge carved doors, high ceilings and grand fireplaces, but no sunlight reaches their centre. Many are built away from the sun, leaving us colder than we were outside. Some houses have been modernized ( for want of a better word) in the ’80s. Ceilings have been lowered, fireplaces covered over and wallpaper has been the cool thing to dress up a room. Every room has a different patterned wallpaper, mostly orange floral or swirls. It is an insult to the eyes and jarring to my soul. Depressed we drive back to our beautiful rented home wondering if we will ever find anything on our small NZ budget.
A lot of these farmhouses also either don’t have toilets or they are on septic tanks which lately the councils have stipulated they all need updating which can cost up to $15,000 for the upgrade. Surprisingly in the rural areas, it’s not uncommon for people to still use a bucket!