France – Périgueux, St Yrieix & our house search

France – St Yrieix, Périgueux & our house search

NOTE: This blog is slightly out of chronological order as we wished to see what conspired from our house viewings before writing anything specific about them.  We posted our latest Workaway synopsis first, as we awaited news.

Before leaving the UK back in early April, we had arranged several house viewings in our chosen region of Limousin.  We had looked at thousands of properties on-line, spending many hours discussing our budget, accommodation needs and wishes, rural vs village, trying to nail down precisely what we wanted.  We ran circles in our minds from simple, tiny 2-bed cottages to large barn conversions with gîtes, pools and hectares of land, covering every other possible option in between.  All various types had specific advantages and disadvantages; financial, spatial, practical, aspirational.  It took us a long time to finally settle on the type of property that would suit us, and then try to find it.

We saw two houses in quick succession, the first deeply disappointing and over-priced, the second intriguing as it was large (a four bed main house with attached two bed gîte and two acres) but the arrangement of rooms really didn’t work for us and it needed  lot of work to bring it back to a liveable state.  They were both discounted.  A third viewing brought a different house, a perfectly presented two-bed cottage with immaculate views and an exceptional garden. It was owned by a lovely British couple who were heading back to the UK in the hope of spending more time with grandchildren, a common story we’d heard on our visits.  This house remained our favourite for a while as we definitely contemplated converting the floored loft space to a third master suite, creating internal accommodation that worked for us.

We later viewed a small gîte complex high in the hills, near Villac, with no near neighbours and far from anywhere. It was a very rural site, accessed by a tiny single-track road, set in utter peacefulness.  There were three stone-built one-bed cottages set around a pool, with a large garage, outbuildings and potager, and offered the most spectacular views either of us could remember seeing in a long time.  We thought long and hard about how we could make the quirky accommodation work for us, mainly so we could retain that view, but we just couldn’t find a way to justify it; it was all just too immutable without major renovations, and a tad too far from civilisation, even for us.  Our previous favourite, small and perfectly formed, remained with its nose ahead, but it was our final organised viewing of the week that brought us to the one property that, on entry, immediately captured both our imaginations and hearts.

Rouffiac swim lake - nicky at beach

En route we stopped off to have a look at the full set-up at the base de loisirs de Rouffiac, a swim and activity lake we were passing.  We were curious how well they were provisioned, and it didn’t disappoint – It looked fantastic, despite the weather, with dedicated motorhome parking, a beach-side café and plenty of woodland walks.  Limousin is known as the region of 1000 lakes, and we planned to be utilising these as often as possible.  We then visited the market town of Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, to wander around and take in the sights, but it was rainy and our minds were full of recently viewed houses.  The town was founded in the 6th century and forms a part of the Route Richard Coeur de Lion.  The streets were beautiful and historic, replete with medieval buildings, and even in the dreary rain it had a powerful presence that appealed to us.  It would definitely be somewhere we would return to, hopefully under sunnier skies.

St Yrieix - (square and castle)

Our viewing didn’t start auspiciously.  We had a sneaky drive-by the day before our scheduled viewing, under grey skies and bucketloads of rain, and everything looked damp, sodden and sad.  We were again prepared to be disappointed the next day, with moody dark skies overhead, but once we were on the grounds and then inside the house that feeling evaporated into one of quiet excitement and a joint, massively positive vibe.  This was exactly what we wanted in terms of accommodation; flow, openness, lightness and character, along with a distinct separation between a two-bed and a one-bed portion of the house.  It had a vegetable garden, a well, an in-ground pool and a half-acre adjoining paddock, and although the pool is a welcome addition, with us having no intention of keeping horses or chickens, we had no clue what we’d do with the latter. We’re now considering a wild flower meadow, but time will tell.

Pageas house - (gardens)

We returned to nearby Châlus to park up and reflect.  Our minds were full of details about the house – is it the right one?  Does it provide all that we need?  Is it in the correct location?  Yes, we think so, but don’t be so hasty.  But several others are viewing today and more viewings are planned later in the week.  After so much searching on-line, so many viewings, so many previous disappointments, to find a house that suits us and to potentially lose it to another offer (asking price offers must be accepted in France) we were desperately eager to move quickly, but also trying to be wary and controlled, tempered, sensible.  We organised a second viewing for the following day, to check out a long list of things we came up with overnight, and to ask a lot more more questions.  We had a good chat, a walk around the boundaries of the property and a closer look at the pool and out-buildings, galvanising our initial opinions into solid, reasonable surety – yes, this was right for us, and we should be confident enough to move quickly.

Perigueux - (river approach)

Perigueux - (bridge to centre)

Later that afternoon, after a bit of figure juggling, we nervously made an offer, our first on a French property.  We left it with the agent, and with wide smiles and nervous knots in our stomachs, we departed Limousin and headed south into Dordogne.  We had a short city visit to Périgueux on our way south to our previously mentioned Workaway, stopping in one of the free spaces outside the barrier of the neat and spacious paid aire as we were only staying for an hour or so.  It was bright and sunny as we wandered the short distance to the centre, in the deep shade of the tree-lined banks of the river Isle.  We crossed over the Pont des Barris which offered immediate views of the domineering and unmissable Cathédrale Saint-Front, the most prominent visual aspect of the city’s skyline.

Perigueux - (view from park)

Perigueux - (selfie in streets)

We sat in a small park, in the shadow of the domed cathedral, surrounded by pollarded plane trees and ate snacks, looking out over the sun-lit valley below.  The light was ever-changing from a dull uniform grey to a bright white, the latter throwing the stone buildings into deep contrast of shadows and light.  We walked up the main street and visited the cathedral, before winding through the smaller backstreets, twisting and turning as we spotted each hidden square, each beautifully neat and speckled with happy, lunching locals. It was here, on a small side-street, that we received a call informing us our offer had been accepted, the house secured and all future viewings cancelled as it was now removed from the market.  We continued walking the shaded back streets of Périgueux, but now with huge smiles and not a small amount of trepidation on our faces.  What had we done?!  It was all so quick, but still, it felt right.

A&N x

13 thoughts on “France – Périgueux, St Yrieix & our house search

  1. Pingback: (During) Home Exchange 2 – South to Périgueux, Cazeneuve, and some France Passion vineyards | Aaron and Nicky's travels

  2. Pingback: France – Lake Vassivière & our SwimRun challenge | Aaron and Nicky's travels

  3. Aaron Hill Post author

    It’s all quite varied with regards valuation and offers- some agents or sellers routinely have a high asking price (as asking price must be accepted by seller, and there’s always a chance some foreign buyer will still consider it a bargain) and generally expect to have 20% or more dropped off on offers. But other agents price realistically, and only by looking at and viewing lots of similar properties did we get a feel for what any particular house was worth. Many have been on the market for several years, reducing the asking price a little annually to try to find the level where buyer interest arrives. You just get a feel over time for what you should expect for your budget.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aaron Hill Post author

    Hi Jane & Tim, it’s certainly all change for us. We still plan to be on the road in Benny a lot, but likely for shorter trips now. We’ll see what the future holds. Are you guys having any thoughts about a permanent base anywhere, or still loving the life? Housesits and Workaways certainly break up the cramped van time, and some days we wonder if we even need a house, but we’re back in it now! 😀 A.


  5. Clunegapyears

    We will also be cash buyers, so I assume you can offer reasonably low unless you desperately want a particular property. One of the issues pushing us to France (despite brexit) is an additional 3% in England if you own another property. Plus, as you say, the weather and what you can get for your money.
    I speak some French which would improve with use, but James doesn’t, which I think may be isolating for him.
    Too many choices and too many decisions!
    Do keep us posted on the process and CONGRATULATIONS again.


  6. Aaron Hill Post author

    Hi Robert, thanks for your comments. I have looked into getting an Irish passport in the past, and may still be an option, but without moving and living there for (I think) 5 years, my English wife would be unable to get one, so we’re not sure if it would ultimately help us or not. We’ll see. Thanks for the thought. Aaron.


  7. Aaron Hill Post author

    HI guys, sorry for the tardy reply. We have found the process in France very simple so far – we viewed a lot of houses, found one we liked, made an offer, it was accepted and within two weeks we were signing the compromis de vente at the notary. A lot of the emphasis is on the seller for providing basic surveys and guarantees for any works undertaken, although the fees for the agent and notary along with hefty taxes, are on the buyer. (purchase prices usually include the agent fees, and then you’ll need 7.5% on top of all that for notary and tax). Being cash buyers simplified the process massively too. Weather was a big consideration for us, along with opening up easier access to Europe, without long drives and ferries etc.. No concerns about Brexit, don’t think it’ll change much for us really, but we’ll see. Not sure if we’ll take French residence yet or not, still deciding what is best for us. Good luck with your house-hunting, hope it all goes well. A


  8. Chris and Peter

    Hi to both of you! Congratulations! We read this post and commented enthusiastically, but not in writing, sorry. How wonderful! You are really going to enjoy all that beauty!


  9. Robert Keys

    Hello Aaron & Nicky
    Congratulations on your house purchase!
    Just to remind you Aaron that you may be entitled an Irish passport since you were born
    in Northern Ireland, and if so this may help you out re brexit.

    Take care from sunny Annalong Co. Down,


  10. Clunegapyears

    The house looks amazing. Some things are just meant to be.
    One of our properties is being sold at the moment and we are unsure whether to buy in France or in S England … so much difference in what we could get for our money … and the weather.
    Will be really interested to hear about your buying process and any concerns about how long you can stay in France with Brexit.


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