It was a little over a year ago that we successfully returned from San Francisco with Extended Stay Visas in hand, allowing us to remain longer than 90 days in France. A few days later, Doug was driving off to Houston to load Old Smokey on the freighter to Barcelona. Both of these events required seemingly endless paperwork shuffling and numerous dangling phone calls, not to mention more than a few episodes of 'going postal'. Then we began assembling the documents required for purchase of the Leran village house. By the time we actually arrived in France, I felt like I could work at the State Department----theirs or ours.
We opted not to return to San Francisco to reapply for a Visa, and will be staying for the maximum 90 days allowed. At one point we thought about blowing off the restriction, figuring what was the worst that could happen if we overstayed our welcome? The answer apparently is to not be invited back. With the dollar succumbing to the Euro as the global currency, it unfortunately becomes more expensive for us to be there. But, and we view this as a significant but, it makes our investment all the better.
Foreign currency exchange, from US dollars to Euros, is heartbreaking. When the Euro first entered the European markets in 2001, it was on equal par to the dollar. Now, $1USD = 0.62 Euro. And that's on a good day. For instance, if we wanted to transfer $25,000 USD to France, what would actually be deposited in our French bank account would be about 15,000 Euros. The rest is history.
Realizing this evaporation of money was not a long-term solution, we set about applying for a French loan to finance our renovation. Actually the real motivation was to not lose touch with French bureaucracy, a very important aspect of French society. I had already completed (successfully I hope) all the hoop-jumping for Fergus' flight to France. He's been microchipped, re-rabied, IATA-sanctioned kennel awaiting outside, portfolio of paperwork in his personal dossier. With that done, I had no excuses to not be studying French.
The 'research' phase was rather enlightening, learning the relevant terminology and commonalities and differences to our procedures. What we were looking for was the equivalent of a home equity loan, using the Leran house as collateral, since we have no mortgage on it. It seemed simple and straight-forward to us. My first call to Frederic on the English-speaking line at our bank, Credit Agricole, clarified that only a very few French banks are authorized to process "equity release" loans. And of course, they were not one of them, so he suggested we get a mortgage. Things seemed to be moving along until one of the requirements stipulated that we submit bids for the proposed work to be done on the property, and these bids had to total the exact amount of the requested figure and be signed by a registered and licensed French contractor. Whoa! I didn't even know there was such a thing as a licensed French contractor. We figured that since we wouldn't be using one of these fictitious people anyway and we weren't there, it would be hard to get their input. I doubt that Frederic expected to hear back from us anyway.
Further Internet searching finally found the banks that, for whatever reason, were allowed to loan monies against the equity in a house and located their websites. The only reason we were focused on the equity release was reference made to "monies released without contractor bids" or architectural drawings, and that the money could be used for any purpose. So now I didn't feel like some inspector was going to come by every 15 minutes to see if we used that sheet of plaque de platre in the exact location stated. I started communicating with what appeared to be a very professional woman who led us through the application process, step-by-step-by-step-by-step. We applied for an equity release loan, a simple loan requiring fewer documents and a streamlined underwriting procedure.
For your enjoyment, I have included a list of the simple supporting documents we were required to scan and email in order to apply:
*Mortgage application form
*Copy of passports
*Birth or Marriage certificate
*Life insurance questionnaire
(Note: Life insurance is required, and when filling out my form I got a little mixed up computing my height and weight from inches/pounds to cm/kg. Doug informed me that when I listed myself at 140 cm and 285 kg, I was clocking in at 4'7" and 628 lb. I hope that didn't put me in an unfavorable light.)
*Copy of most recent paycheck stub
*Copies of last 2 years FULL tax returns
*Copy of Rental Agreement with management company (for our nightly/weekly rental)
*1099 from Rental Management Company
*Year End Investment income Statements for last 2 years
*Copies of last 3 months bank statements
*Copy of the deed to French house in Leran
*Name and contact info for keyholder of Leran house for inspector to contact
*Name and contact info of Notaire
Needless to say, I have had this year's fill of French bureaucracy. We're still waiting to hear if we qualify for the loan. If not, there's always le bras d' honneur! I need to get a better hobby.