Monday, October 24, 2016

Ready for retirement (2) ?

Choosing where to live

One of the major decisions you will have to make as you approach retirement is choosing where you want to live. The main options are staying where you are or moving to the 'dream location' you have fancied all your life - in the countryside, on the coast, perhaps even moving abroad. There are advantages and potential pitfalls in either and it pays - financially and emotionally - to take your time before commiting yourself to one choice or another. And if possible have a 'Plan B' just in case.....

Staying in your present home can offer a number of advantages, including retaining and maintaining your existing circle of family and friends, many of the latter former work colleagues as well as those from the golf club, your local tennis, squash, walking or fishing partners - to say nothing of the 'usual crowd' in your local pub. You may not want to break these ties but if, for example, your family have moved away from the area, you may have to sacrifice some in order to move closer to your family.

If you own your own home and the mortgage is paid off, almost invariably you are sitting on an asset that has increased in value which you could sell (and possibly 'downsize') whether you decide to stay in the area or move. If you check the post below you will note that in the many commuter towns surrounding Paris (and it's same for many urban conurbations) the typical seller is frequently a post-war baby boomer who earned a good salary when jobs were secure and saw their property steadily rise in value. It is the many people in this situation who are selling up and moving 'south to the sun'  and contributing to the population growth in areas such as Languedoc-Roussillon and the Mediterranean coast where properties are cheaper and plentiful - as younger residents move north or to the capital in search of work!

Note however that a change from city life if you are used to it, to the coast or countryside, can come as a bit of a shock. In my experience as a property adviser, often to British people thinking of moving to the area, it is only fair to remind them that many small villages 'close down' as soon as it gets dark and may lack amenities such as a bar or bistro, local shops, post office, bank or medical services. You may have to plan on using your car even on short trips or to the local town - though local bus services are good and include the 1 Euro bus regardless of distance.

One of the (many) advantages of living in the country however and buying a property with a garden is that you can (learn how to) plant vegetables and enjoy fresh food in season at minimal cost. Failing this, many local producers are now selling direct from their smallholdings and you can find them by asking your neighbours or as you drive around. There is also a slow but increasing organic (bio) movement in France, the subject of several  recentTV programmes and books.  In addition to direct organic producer/sellers and established specialist 'health food' shops,  virtually all the major supermarkets are stocking more bio products and prices are starting to come down.  

Some French country areas have become especially popular with the British and other 'foreigners' including the well-known Dordogne region, as Brits tend to attract more Brits! If you are struggling to learn French this may be your ideal environment.

Sadly not every new arrival manages to survive and in my fifteen years here (in L-R) I have seen a number of clients/friends who decided to sell-up and move back to Britain. Among the reasons were struggling with the French language, not being able to 'integrate' with the locals, boredom with small town life, illness that needed attention from the (free) NHS (I shall be writing about French healthcare in a later post), missing family and friends and local surroundings, and in one or two cases the death of a partner. Added to which those of us living permanently here and cannot or do not wish to move are facing the uncertainties of Brexit.........

To end on a positive note, there are of course 300,000 British living permanently (the majority retired or approaching) in France, an estimated million-plus in Spain - not forgetting of course the 400,000 French living in Britain.

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