Living France - - The Essentials -


I’ve re­cently viewed a house in France and like it enough to put in an of­fer, but have some con­cerns about its con­di­tion – the roof in par­tic­u­lar. The prop­erty gen­er­ally needs some TLC and work to up­date it, but it’s dif­fi­cult to know what is sim­ply cos­metic and what would in­volve more se­ri­ous work, not to men­tion cost. If I need to spend a con­sid­er­able sum of money on re­pairs, then this would ob­vi­ously af­fect how much I’d be happy to of­fer to buy the prop­erty. What are my op­tions? THOMAS STEWART


You are right to be con­cerned about the con­di­tion of a roof; its func­tion is crit­i­cal to the protection of the house, its oc­cu­pants and their fi­nan­cial wel­fare. There are three ba­sic el­e­ments; how it is sup­ported, how it is fit­ted, and the age/con­di­tion of the outer cov­er­ing such as slates or tiles.

A slipped or miss­ing slate can be eas­ily iden­ti­fied and re­placed at nom­i­nal cost, but it also opens up a num­ber of ques­tions as to why it failed in the first place. This is an early symp­tom of a wider prob­lem as­so­ci­ated with age­ing. You can ask what the time pe­riod was be­tween the slate fall­ing and the re­pair – hol­i­day homes can be left unat­tended for months at a time dur­ing the ‘rainy sea­son’; and what dam­age has been caused to the sup­port frame as a re­sult? Only de­tailed in­spec­tion and ex­am­i­na­tion can pro­vide the an­swers that you need.

The ad­vances in dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy al­low for the ex­ter­nal cov­er­ing to be closely ex­am­ined. It would be help­ful to use a drone with a high-def­i­ni­tion cam­era that al­lows those ar­eas not vis­i­ble from ground level, such as roof val­leys, hips, chim­ney stacks, etc, to be ex­am­ined in close-up de­tail.

A pat­tern of ad hoc re­pairs, lo­calised patch­ing and fixes of the ‘make do and mend’ type should be a se­ri­ous cause for con­cern. It also points to the prob­a­bil­ity of damp-re­lated prob­lems to the roof sup­port frame, such as at­tacks by wood-bor­ing in­sects, rot and fun­gal growth.

The sim­plest an­swer to your ques­tion is, of course, to com­mis­sion a sur­vey of the prop­erty which will pro­vide you with a com­pre­hen­sive ap­praisal of its cur­rent con­di­tion and an­tic­i­pate re­pairs it is likely to re­quire in the short- and medium-term fu­ture. You can then use the sur­veyor’s re­port to for­mu­late your pur­chase ne­go­ti­a­tion strat­egy. A pre­con­tract sur­vey costs a few hun­dred eu­ros, but it can save you many thou­sands in the long run.

Hav­ing iden­ti­fied de­fects with the prop­erty, it fol­lows that con­trac­tors’ price es­ti­mates should be ob­tained to rem­edy them. Your ini­tial pur­chase of­fer should re­flect these pre­vi­ously unan­tic­i­pated costs. You can then use the sur­veyor’s re­port to bring the de­fects to the owner or agent’s at­ten­tion and pur­sue your ne­go­ti­a­tions with vigour.

As with most com­mer­cial trans­ac­tions, knowledge is power. I hope this helps you. JOHN SNELL

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