All in it to­gether

What’s it re­ally like to live in a co­pro­priété? Christine Tew­son shares her first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence and words of wis­dom

French Property News - - Contents - Christine’s prop­erty is for sale at €205,000 Tel: 07767 660 542 Email: christine_tew­son@hot­

An in­sider’s guide to the col­lab­o­ra­tive world of prop­erty co-own­er­ship

More than 15 years ago, my hus­band and I de­cided to buy a prop­erty in France as a bolt­hole. We were both work­ing so hard and needed some­where to go for a short break every now and then to recharge our bat­ter­ies. We opted for Nor­mandy as it was within two-and-a-half hours from Calais, mean­ing we wouldn’t ar­rive ex­hausted. We bought a de­tached house which had a large back gar­den but noth­ing else. It was down a lane out­side a vil­lage, so lit­tle things like mow­ing the lawn and keep­ing the gar­den in shape soon be­came a prob­lem. As it tran­spired, al­though the food, the lan­guage and the way of life were dif­fer­ent, it was al­most the same as at home. On top of that, it rains a lot in ru­ral Nor­mandy!

Five years later, when we re­tired, we tried again, de­cid­ing this time to find some­thing fur­ther south as we had more spare time and wanted to en­joy the sun. As we were look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent, an ar­ti­cle in French Prop­erty News led us to a con­cept that was new to us – co­pro­priété (co-own­er­ship), re­ferred to in­for­mally as co­prop. The ar­ti­cle fea­tured a site be­ing ren­o­vated by an English ar­chi­tect in north-west Dor­dogne. It would have eight stone houses (each very dif­fer­ent and each with its own pri­vate space) around a court­yard, all of which would share com­mu­nal land in­clud­ing a large so­lar-heated swim­ming pool, a hard ten­nis court, a boules pitch and wifi, the to­tal cost of which would also be shared.

Per­fect – all the fun but only one-eighth of the up­keep! What could be bet­ter? We would all pay in €120 a month to a com­mu­nal fund and this would cover all the main­te­nance and up­keep, in­clud­ing such things as a new swim­ming pool cover, a new shower for the pool, plant­ing and mow­ing as needed, and any­thing else that may have been re­quired, all the while build­ing up a fund in case of any fu­ture emer­gen­cies. This was to be ad­min­is­tered by the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of two of the eight houses each year – we have all taken our turn, and it works well.

Do­ing the home­work Be­fore com­mit­ting our­selves, we vis­ited the ar­chi­tect and asked him all sorts of ques­tions, not only re­gard­ing the ren­o­va­tion it­self but also about how a co­prop worked. He had a great deal of ex­pe­ri­ence to draw on, as over the pre­vi­ous years he had de­vel­oped other such sites. This par­tic­u­lar site, Le Re­paire, was to be his 10th and last.

As far as the build­ing works were con­cerned, he was us­ing the same ar­ti­sans as be­fore, so he knew and trusted them all, and they knew ex­actly what was re­quired to meet his high stan­dards. We went to look at some of his other projects and were im­pressed by them, so we de­cided to go ahead. It took al­most 18 months for the site to be com­pleted but all the own­ers agreed that it was worth the wait.

Af­ter the qual­ity of the houses them­selves, the grounds and the fa­cil­i­ties, the next im­por­tant point to con­sider was what the other own­ers would be like – would we all get on? As it stands, we had no prob­lems and ev­ery­thing is dis­cussed at our an­nual meet­ings (re­quired by French law) or by email dur­ing the year if quicker de­ci­sions need to be made. We all own our own houses; it is only the com­mu­nal grounds and fa­cil­i­ties that are shared. All the own­ers get on well and meet once a year to de­cide on what, if any­thing, needs to be done dur­ing the fol­low­ing year. There are not usu­ally many de­ci­sions to be made so it be­comes more of a so­cial event and a get-to­gether.

Daily life Part of the na­ture of a co­prop is that when you ar­rive, you may find only one or two of the other prop­er­ties in­hab­ited for the time you are

Liv­ing in a co­prop has been a great ex­pe­ri­ence and one we wouldn’t have missed for all the en­joy­ment we have had

there, or maybe none at all. To help, there is an on­line cal­en­dar so that peo­ple can keep up with what oth­ers are do­ing.

We are also ex­tremely lucky in that we found an amaz­ing English chap and his col­league. They started as the gar­den­ers but now do all sorts of main­te­nance as and when re­quired, in­clud­ing the up­keep of the pool and keep­ing an eye on the site for us all.

We have tried to spend nine or 10 weeks at the house every year in blocks of two weeks or so at a time. Be­cause Le Re­paire is on a hill over­look­ing the vil­lage of Cham­pagne-etFon­taine, we don’t in­ter­act much with the lo­cals, but we do try and sup­port the shop – and it goes with­out say­ing that we have been known to visit the lit­tle bar!

We have also tried to at­tend lo­cal events such as the Christ­mas mar­ket run by the school and the chasse sup­per (the hunters’ din­ner), and we made sure that right at the be­gin­ning we vis­ited the maire to in­tro­duce our­selves.

Fun in the sun We have seen more of the sun and have en­joyed the pool and the ten­nis court – some­times with friends and fam­ily, with other own­ers or even on our own. Liv­ing in a co­prop has been a great ex­pe­ri­ence and one we wouldn’t have missed for all the en­joy­ment we have had from the house and our friendly neigh­bours around the court­yard.

Cham­pagne-et-fon­taine is a typ­i­cal French vil­lage with a shop, a school, a church and a bar. The near­est su­per­mar­ket is 10 kilo­me­tres away at Ville­bois-lavalette (where there is also a very good restau­rant, a bank, a gar­den cen­tre and a Satur­day mar­ket).

Ten kilo­me­tres in the other di­rec­tion is Verteil­lac, which also has a num­ber of res­tau­rants, a bank, a church and a monthly mar­ket, plus a shop which sells ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing from jars of mus­tard through to wood­burn­ers and gar­den fur­ni­ture. The near­est TGV sta­tion is An­goulême and the near­est air­port Berg­erac.

Sadly our house is now on the mar­ket, as my hus­band died two years ago and it is un­likely that I will go down so of­ten – al­though I will miss it and the lovely rolling coun­try­side. The house has two large re­cep­tion rooms re­tain­ing some orig­i­nal fea­tures and a big pri­vate bal­cony over­look­ing a lake and fields. There are four dou­ble bed­rooms (two of which are en-suite) and a fam­ily bath­room. Out­side there is a pri­vate stor­age area where we keep the gar­den fur­ni­ture, the bar­be­cue and the logs and some bi­cy­cles.

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