These are the English titles for several shows on Discovery Travel and Living.
Every episode features a British couple or person who has decided to leave the city and buy property in the country or overseas. I'm addicted to these shows.
The prices in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal are much cheaper than in the UK and the weather is better so I understand the attraction of moving. I also get that train wrecks make for better TV but some of these are folks are freaking nuts.
Usually things do work out at the end but the process! What drama. These shows are educational in that they show you what NOT to do.
• Always get a survey/inspection.
Who buys a house without doing a survey? I realize some places don’t require one but given how much thought I put into buying a pair of shoes, you best believe my anal self will be asking lots of questions and will have someone look at the property before I buy. One couple in Normandy bought a house full of termites, which were discovered after they moved in. Another couple in Southern France found out that the previous owner didn’t have proper sewage facilities. This weaken the property’s foundation. Sewage had been leaking out into the yard for years. Yuck.
• Budget enough for your renovations.
Call me crazy but 5,000 pounds (around $9,000) is probably not enough money to renovate an old Tuscan farmhouse that doesn’t have plumbing, or electric.
• Hire professionals unless you actually are a builder.
Just because you can put together some furniture from IKEA doesn’t mean you can put up a roof, wire electrics, pour concrete floors by yourself, etc. I really wouldn’t mess around with wiring. A badly painted wall is not the end of the world. Jacked up electrical can be a fire risk.
• Don’t pay builders in full before the job is done or use their lawyer to draw up your contract.
This seems to be more of a Spain problem, since most of the properties there are new builds. In fact, there are more new builds in Spain than in France, Italy, and Portugal combined. I do not want to buy a new house so I tend to ignore those episodes. I did get sucked in with one couple from the UK who paid in cash before the job was done. The contractor didn’t finish the house. There were several couples who found out after they signed the papers that their houses were illegal builds (again big problem with new developments popular with expats along the coast), or a highway was going to put in next door, or that the person who sold them the house really didn’t have the rights. Hire an independent lawyer folks.
• Have a back up plan/save enough money.
Watching these poor people living in small caravans while their renovations go over budget or are delayed, I wonder why they assumed everything would go smoothly. It’s construction, in a different country. The ones who quit their jobs and think they will be able to renovate quickly and make money from vacation rentals have the toughest time, especially if they have kids. There were several near divorces. One couple renovating a houseboat did in fact get a divorce. The marriage couldn’t survive the stress.
• Get references.
Don’t hire a builder because they are cheaper than the others. They might be cheap for a reason.
• Learn the language.
Or at least make sure your project manager or architect can communicate with the builders.
• Find out what the zoning laws are.
If you are moving to the country for some peace and quiet, you might want to make sure there are zoning laws. This one woman paid for a villa in Spain with mountain views and the developer built these ugly ass condos right behind her. She’s stuck since she can’t sell the property and she doesn’t want to live there anymore.
• Find out before you buy the property if there are restrictions on renovations.
Many older homes are protected. Try to get all your building permits lined up before you actually hire a builder. There were several shows where people started renovations only to be told they had to halt all work because they didn’t have the right permits.
Here's a clip of George Clarke. He's the host of "Build A New Life" and easy on the eyes.