Thursday, February 1, 2007

We Get High, We Get Low

From the instant we walked under the arch at Rue Porte d'Aude in Magrie, under the Cathar cross, and climbed up to the rooftop terrace to take in the 360 degree views of the surrounding vineyard landscapes, I rendered myself powerless. I am like a kid in a candy store---I want one of everything, and I want everything I see. The house in Magrie sits at the top of the hill, across from the church. The arrangement of the rooms was a bit higgledy-piggledy (as they say), but all the original doors and woodwork remained. The bathroom is about half the size of Doug, but it was the courtyard and two terraces that got us hook, line and sinker. The only building higher in the village is the church. The tradeoff was that the village has no shops, but a "bread van" comes every day, and other vendors make regular stops. This is the usual way when a village cannot support these services in itself.

When we stood on the lower terrace with our realtor, discussing the asking versus offering price, we knew it was beyond our projected budget. We knew we needed to think about it. We knew we needed to proceed slowly. An hour later we were at the office signing papers---the convention de vente. So much for slow moving; unfortunately the subsequent ulcer and buyer's remorse set in much quicker.

It is so hard to compare apples to oranges when house-hunting here. Many village houses we have viewed are sandwiched row houses, three or four levels with an attic and windows only on the front and back. It is a very efficient land use, and obviously not easy for us "big sky" Americans to appreciate. While you don't often see the typical American "yard" here, there is very creative architure in terraces being constructed. The house we are staying in (Alan and Eileen's) in Leran has a fantastic terrace directly off the kitchen, and they admitted it was the big selling point for them. Other possible options are converting portions of the attics and even incorporating outdoor kitchens, since this would eliminate numerous trips up and down several flights of stairs.

After the high wore off reality set in. We realized that while we could barely afford to buy this house, we could not afford to "own" it. Up at 4:00 am with churning stomachs, knowing the inevitable. After several hours talking and balancing the lists of "Reasons For" and "Reasons Against", we would have to draw upon the right of withdrawal that is a mandatory inclusion in French real estate contracts---called their "seven-day cooling off period". Nevertheless we feel embarrassed, foolish, and hopefully have learned that the candy in the jars comes at a price.


leslie said...

I just wrote a big long post and it didn't work, I will try again tonight at home. Au bon courage, mes enfants. Leslie

North of Andorra said...

Testing 1,2,3,

North of Andorra said...

OK. Keep trying. We are cooking dinner, at least Nancy is, and I am listening to the Tradin' Post which is a hilarious show which airs at noon on the Moab KZMU public radio station. We just got back from the bar where we practice our French on the locals. Wine seems to help with pronunciation and vocabulary recall.

And Leslie, say hello to Les Hibox if you run into him.

Cousin Kathy said...

Don't beat yourselves up over the real estate deal. We "sold" our house twice in the last 2 years and still own it. Better to take the emotional pain now than later, when you're up to your neck in maintenance costs.