Following the setbacks from the agencies, we were pretty despondent. The agencies all said we would have similar problems with private landlords too.
But I was absolutely determined to make this happen, so I started a campaign of joining every Facebook group for French rentals, specifically targeted at ex-pats. I searched throughout the month of August, and while we were offered many properties, they were always too rural, and miles away from the nearest bus station/train station/civilisation (delete as appropriate).
One thing I have found, that living in the UK doesn’t really prepare you for…France (and by proxy, other countries) are vast. We are spoiled by having towns and cities literally spilling onto each other, and lucky (that’s right, I said it) lucky that public transport is as frequent and convenient as it is in the UK. It is clearly better if you can drive if you move to France.
In addition to looking in Facebook groups, I also had the idea that we could look at an Airbnb for a long term rental, and ask if the owner would mind if we set up all the bills/utilities in our name so we could start to build up that history. I sent out so many emails to properties that looked like they would be appropriate for a small family, asking if they would let us rent for a period of four to ten months.
But yet again, we were receiving either negative feedback, or in most cases, no response whatsoever.
Until one lady contacted me and said that the property I had enquired about was not really appropriate for a family, and she directed me to her own website and to work outside of Airbnb. She said she had many properties in Montpellier and in a small, quiet town to the south, right on the beach called Palavas-Les-Flots. Palavas is connected to Montpellier by buses and trams, and is also very close to the airport (for me, it’s walking distance). She pointed out one property in particular, which was right on the main street, overlooking the canal. It was a loft apartment, which seemed like it would have enough space for us.
We moved fairly quickly, and asked my Mother-in-Law if she could visit the property for us. She did so on a Saturday, and met the Landlady who owned the property. The feedback was that the area, the property and the landlady were nice, and it would work out as a nice little stop gap for us, especially if we were to stop over the winter and look to move on in the summer as we were originally planning.
Based on our Mother-in-Law’s recommendation, we looked to press ahead with the deal, and asked the landlady if we could see a contract. It took a couple of weeks to see a copy of the contract, as up until this point, the landlady had never let the apartment long term. It had always been a holiday let, with a maximum term of a month, so she advised us she had to consult a few people on how to draw up the contract.
When we chased the contract, there were a couple of days waiting for responses, and usually the response was “don’t worry, I am working on it, it’s going to happen.”
When we eventually received the contract, there were a few charges that hadn’t been explained to us. Still, it came within our monthly budget.
But we continued, and signed the contract and returned it to the Landlady, asking how we pay the initial security deposit. We were ready to go, and just needed to know when and how we pay, and agree a moving date.
I was so excited, and asked my wife’s permission to post on social media that this was happening. I did so, posting pictures of the area, and got a lot of great feedback from friends and family, and well wishes of luck.
We sent a follow up email to the landlady a couple of days later when we heard nothing.
Then my wife made a phone call the next week as we started to worry about the radio silence. The Landlady who had previously been very helpful and keen was now indecisive and fairly reluctant. She advised that she had been speaking to a couple of people about the contract, and how to proceed.
And that was the last we ever heard from her. No signed contract back, no details to pay. The trail went cold and we faced the fact that this deal was now not going ahead.
Despite a day of sulking (mostly me) we actually eventually took it as a sign that this was not right for us, and that we would find something better eventually. Ultimately, we were too excited to really stop and think whether this was really right for us. I mean, a loft apartment? I work from home, and an open plan apartment would not stop the noise of an excited toddler running about and causing havoc.
Little were we to know, but something was (literally) right around the corner.