A pause in the process, to let a bit of Christmas magic fly past. Our thanks to Jim and Nicola for taking a moment to appreciate the village decorations and supply us with these pictures. We wish them both a very merry time back visiting their families in England, and wish everyone in Lonlay l'Abbaye and across the rest of the world the peace and joy of the season.
"In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," Benjamin Franklin said. Certain they may be, but the timing of each can leave something to be desired.
I was perusing a favorite expat blog (https://frenchimmersion.wordpress.com) when mention was made of French taxes being due on December 15. I blushed to remember that some bright young thing at the notaries' office had advised me back in September that I should contact the tax authorities to set up automatic payment of our yearly taxes on our newly purchased maison. But here we were, already in December, and I had done nothing!
I scrambled to get information on the tax office in Domfront and sent off a poorly worded missive begging for forgiveness and information at the same time. I received an informative response almost immediately. As it turns out, we are not to pay our 2016 taxes until next year, when we will be advised of the taxi foncière and tax d'habitation that we must pay around the anniversary of the purchase of the property.
The tax foncière is the main property tax (very reasonable by U.S. comparisons), and the tax d'habitation is an "occupancy" tax that is to be paid by the owner or other inhabitant. If someone is renting a property, that person pays the tax d'habitation. I vaguely remember that from when we lived in Paris for a year. I'm not sure how much the tax d'habitation will be, but we've been advised that the tax foncière will probably be about 250 euros.
All the splendors of France for that pittance (and for her citizens, free healthcare besides). How do they do it?
Between one kitchen wall and the next house over, the wall is stone, but the back wall of the kitchen (where the covering is pulled away in this photo) is wattle and daub, a very old building material. As this is one of the walls created to separate the original larger corner house into two residences, it makes me curious to know more about when the house was first divided, and exactly when it was first built.
The wattle and daub can be seen behind the old framework and a layer of plaster that lets the wall breathe. Wattle is a loose frame of sticks or woven reeds that is solidified and held in place by the daub, a viscous mixture of mud, cow dung and straw. Delicious!
We are so fortunate to have had a referral from Sharon Evans at Cle France (http://www.clefrance.co.uk) to Nick Turner, a superb property inspector, who, having discovered most of the possibilities and detriments of our house, then referred us to Andrew "Jim" Daniels and his business partner, Nicola Tasker, who renovate properties. Yes, they are all English, and it is a big help to those of us who don't speak fluent French, especially not "builder's French."
Jim has about 12 years of experience in France, and is fully licensed here. Nicola speaks fluent French, loves history, and was already a great comfort to me - communicating via email - as we waited for more than a year for the English courts to sort out the inheritance rights to our property. As days and weeks and months passed, she kept checking in with me, and we would joke about the Dickensian progress of the courts.
Nicola and Jim have their own team of specialists whom they call on for estimates for the work to be done, but Nicola has also reached out to local French artisans. We are pleased that she has found Monsieur Stephane Degrenne, who has agreed to completely replace the house's gutters and drainage below the roof.
The first project for Jim and Nicola is the demolition of the old flooring, walls and ceiling of the tiny house. Pretty much all of it has to go, as the floors have all been worn away by damp and insects. The attic is in the worst shape, but really all the floors and ceilings have to be replaced.
Nicola and Jim have already spent a good deal of time with me in September, and with Joseph and me in November, walking through the little house and giving us the benefit of their good counsel. When we finished our walk through most recently, Jim said, "You'll be amazed when we're done." We do believe that. Demolition has begun in earnest now, and we will soon be making more decisions about the floor plan and new materials. We feel we are in good hands.