Gently into Retirement No 3 – The Deal is (Almost) Done – May 2006

Never did a holiday take so long to come around, the time really seemed to be dragging and the respective solicitors in our house sale had turned dragging into an art form! Our house was within 500 yards of Ely cathedral and out of the blue came a request, nay a demand, from our purchaser’s solicitor that we should pay £113 for a Chancel Repair Insurance in case the chancel collapsed inside the cathedral! Apparently all vendors within a quarter-mile radius of the cathedral were required to pay this. The husband, the canny Scot, was not happy – indeed, thought someone was “ ‘aving a larf” – but sure enough it was true. But why should we pay it? – it wasn’t about to collapse during our tenure, he argued, maybe during the purchaser’s if they stayed there long enough. In the end, with our next Céret trip only a week away and contracts still not exchanged we caved in and paid the blessed (indeed!) thing and so it was that literally on the way to the airport on the Friday afternoon the call came through that all was well and we could set off in confidence on our next round of viewings.

We checked into our, by now, home from home studio at the Arcades, with David in a small double at the back of the hotel – woken each morning, incidentally, by the most breathtaking sunrises all captured on camera – impressive enough in themselves but all the more impressive was that he could actually be awake at 5.30 am – all news to me!! We did our “tour guide special” of the area for David (once we’d dragged him out of the market – yes, he’s got his Mum’s shopping gene!) over the weekend and he loved it all and we all three presented ourselves on Monday morning, this time at Richard Immobilier in Céret to meet “Mrs Richard”, Kim. (Those of you who know Céret well will know that tragically Kim died earlier this year which is sad beyond words. We will always remember her with fondness and be grateful for her unfailing professionalism and kindness and good-natured hand holding over, for us, four crucial months last summer.)

Again, our budget and wish list was discussed thoroughly and, as with previous immobiliers, we were shown a map of the area so that we could understand the routes of the TGV and the THT and their possible impact on communities – all this carried out by all of us in a good-humoured mixture of French and English, sometimes in the same sentence! (We’d been lucky with our estate agents – Mark Sayers at Med and Mountain and Catherine at Cap de Ville (but since moved on I think) were obviously English but Olivier at ImmoService spoke excellent English – to the extent of being able to say “ticks all your boxes”!!! Makes me feel SO inadequate!!) We set off on a couple of viewings over in Amelie and St Jean, an apartment and a new-ish build respectively, nothing special in either case, and then came back into Céret to see a town-centre apartment and to our amazement it was the same property we’d seen with another agent on a previous visit which was now reduced in price and (almost) within our budget. This definitely interested us right from the start – right in the midst of things, just the accommodation we needed in excellent decorative order, so light and airy, garage plus separate storage, third and top floor (sadly no lift!) and consequently a view from the small terrace to die for overlooking the hills behind the town.

Off we went for lunch and to the beach for the afternoon to chew over the morning’s visits, with another meeting and other viewings booked with Kim for the following day but we were so excited about the apartment that we rang her during the afternoon to see if we could schedule another visit there as well. But Polly, what about your restored maison de village with the Provencal blue shutters and wood burning stove?? Yes, yes, but seemingly not affordable in the middle of Céret!!

Tuesday was the clincher! We saw three more very nice properties but none of them were in Céret, let alone in the middle of Céret, so we had a much longer viewing at the apartment and this time conversations with Monsieur and Madame (all in French but with Kim there to double check we weren’t talking at cross purposes). She dragged us out before we could commit ourselves completely and we then went back to her office to discuss the price and the charges, etc etc. Some skilful negotiating went on during the afternoon (we were pleasantly surprised at this as we’d been led to believe that it “wasn’t done” in the French market, but lucky for us it went our way) and by that evening we’d bought ourselves a beautiful two bedroomed apartment to include all the ‘white’ goods, curtain rails and a big, mobile air-conditioning unit! Yippee! and phew! and Kim and Richard took us off for a celebratory apéro before we collapsed in a heap.

I say ‘bought ourselves’ but, as you’ll know, the financial fun and games was only just beginning…………

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