Meet the expats: Diane and Kevin Sowells from Peyriac Minervois, Languedoc Roussillon

This week, I speak to our expat neighbours Diane and Kevin Sowells about their new life in France.

Diane and Kevin Sowells

What made you decide to buy a home in France?

We have always loved coming to France and visited yearly for holidays. We were paying a large mortgage in Hove, and whilst on holiday here we saw that house prices were a lot cheaper - and there was the chance of living a stress-free lifestyle without the shackles of a mortgage.

 

What areas did you consider and how did you end up choosing the Languedoc?

We considered Provence, in particular Avignon but property was expensive and there were  limited business opportunities We came to the Languedoc on a holiday and immediately loved the scenery, its proximity to the coast, Spain and the Pyrenees, and of course the relaxed way of life and weather.

 

Did you do any research beforehand?

We visited as often as we could in all seasons to get a feel for life here in winter as well as the popular summer months. We read all the books, including “Making a living in France” etc. and attended numerous France exhibitions in London. We also spoke to people already living here.

 

How long did it take you to find the property?

We started seriously looking once our house in Hove was under offer. Once the property had sold, we came here to view as many houses as possible over a one week period. We found our house on the 3rd day after viewing about 15!

 

What was your experience of property agents in France?

Efficient, friendly and professional. We were very impressed at how helpful our agent was - she translated everything into English for us and “held our hand” every step of the way.

 

When budgeting did you take advantage of using a currency company?

Yes, a London based company who were again professional and efficient. Just what you need when very large amounts of money are being transferred!

 

Did you both speak French beforehand? How are you finding it now?

I didn’t learn French at school, so when we made the decision to look into moving, I did a beginners’ and intermediate course in French in the UK. We now have lessons here each week, and try and practice as much as possible by speaking to neighbours, shop keepers etc. I listen to the radio when driving to and from work. Our French friends and neighbours say we have improved immensely after only living here for 17 months, which motivates us to keep going to become fluent!

 

What would you say are the pluses of having a home in France?

Living here permanently has enabled us to live a lifestyle that we could never have done in the UK.

 

And the minuses?

The bureaucracy and it is more difficult not being fully fluent in French.

 

Looking back on your purchase, is there anything you would have done differently?

No, everything went very smoothly.

 

What tips would you have for anyone wanting to buy in France?

  • Make sure you conduct heaps of research into your chosen location, and make sure that the village/town is right for you as well as the property.
  • Be certain that moving to another country is really what you want.
  • Learn the language and try and speak French at every opportunity, it’s much appreciated.

Further reading for Living In France

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Finding work in France

There are a number of ways that UK expats can fund their lifestyle in France.
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Education in France

Are you emigrating to France with school-age children?

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Social life in France

The best way to get settled in France is to find out as much as you can about your new community.
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Healthcare

The French healthcare system is one of the best in the world...

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