It's always a challenge to take a venerable old home and make it livable in today's standards and with modern amenities. It is especially challenging in France: Those picturesque stone houses are being snapped up by new owners who then have to renovate it to fit their needs.
If you are fortunate enough to have bought one of these lovely French properties, good for you. They were built to last. But you had better hire an immobilier, who can check its authenticity. Also be sure to have the drain, septic tank, walls, roof, and electrical systems inspected to be sure they are still sound.
Your home inspection has probably turned up a few unpleasant surprises. After all, everything has a tendency to break down over time. And especially in these ancient homes that have seen wars, economic hardships and who knows what other circumstances. In a way the walls really do talk. They speak through the damage they have sustained over the years.
Shop around to get cost estimates for the repairs. Be sure to make a budget and stick to it. If you are handy, go ahead and try to make the repairs yourself. However, be aware that all home repairs take time. If you are too busy or just not handy at home repairs, hire an architect or a builder to oversee the work. An architect will be able to make sure the project complies with all building regulations, especially those that apply to historic buildings. In any case, plan for additional hidden costs and extra time for unforeseen circumstances. There is truth in the motto: Failing to plan is planning to fail.
It is always important to get a reputable professional for a home improvement job. Ask friends or neighbors if they know anyone who can perform the work. Were they happy with the person they hired? What were their charges? Were there any problems with the project? Before you hire anyone, make sure you get that person's Siret number (used by the French Chamber of Commerce). Also be sure he or she has Decenel insurance (the French insurance program that protects clients) or a Responsibilite Civile. This is a third-party insurance program that protects against accidental property damage by a builder.
If you are not a French citizen, be sure to have an attorney available to handle any problems that happen with the project. You don't want your simple home renovation to turn into an international incident.
An architect will also be able to find if your property is on the Inventaire Supplementaire des Monuments Historiques (Supplemental Inventory of Historic Monuments). He or she will secure the permits required for structures on the list.
By following these basic precautions you will be well on your way to having your French dream house. Who knows, generations to come may appreciate the time and effort you put into restoring a French treasure.
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