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 Transacting business in France is always an interesting undertaking. 

Don't get me wrong. I am not one of those sourpusses who has moved to France and complains that French people live there. But French people do have ways of doing things that do not often correspond to the way that I am accustomed to doing business. We are selling our home of seven years in order to finance the move to a house more suitable to our age and old bones. (Links and pics below.) We'll have fewer, more gentle stairs to climb. More room to display, store, repair, and otherwise deal with the stuff we've accumulated over those years. We're talking about multiple opportunities for cross-cultural misunderstanding. Take the case of applying to our French bank for a mortgage.

I won't go into numbers. But I walked into the meeting with the young, casually dressed banker hoping to borrow about 40% of the cost of buying the new house. (It's strange calling a house built over 1,000 years ago a 'new' house.) I documented our income through a combination of French and American tax returns. We went over the payoff of our current mortgage (with a different bank) and the net from the sale. I told him how much of our savings I was willing to contribute to the deal. And I asked that the bank finance the rest, that 40%. 

A lot of typing ensued. Understand, we were both wearing masks and Frederick was seated behind one of those clear plastic shields that they fit around office desks these days. (Future archeologists will struggle to determine the function of thousands of oddly shaped examples of wasted hydrocarbon.) I could see that Frederick was seriously crunching numbers to make things work. He finally looked up, said that he couldn't loan me the money, and scooted his chair around to my side of the desk to pinpoint on paper exactly why he could not. Long story short, basing our lending ceiling on our age and the income on our tax returns, primarily showing only Social Security income thanks to the surprisingly reasonable cost of living in France, I was asking to borrow too much.

He was a nice, earnest young man. I listened closely. I waited. Perhaps you can guess what I was waiting for. I waited for five minutes and I would have waited forever. So I asked the question.

"Suppose I put some more money into the deal. Could I borrow 30% instead of 40%?"

More typing. Smiles. Yes, that would do it.

I'm from the USofA. When two people want to do a deal and one can't quite get it done, negotiations begin. Avenues are explored. The French, not so much. They don't seem to want to make the first move. Anyway, that's done. Now I have to sell our house. I'll keep you apprised of the process. Meanwhile, here are some pics. If you know anyone looking for a lockup-and-leave in the rural south of France, send them my way. Have them bring about $150,000. I just might accept a bit less.


  1. Hi Ira,
    What a lovely home with Queen Anne.....I think. My daughter has developed a 'work at home' business doing web design, and because she can work anywhere she is looking to buy a house near Barcelona. But I will certainly tell her about this one.

    Loved the article. The French....aargh! But of course they same the same about us :)

    1. Thanks. I wish your daughter the best of luck.

  2. Nice house ,I would like to do the same here in Portugal BUT any profit I am assumed to make on the sale is highly taxed regardless of monies owed .Only if I get a more expensive house is it tax free. Downsizing is not a thing to do

    1. Thanks. Since it’s our primary and only residence that we have inhabited for sufficient years, taxes are not much problem.

  3. all the best on this next step in the adventure

    1. Thanks. I’ll try to keep on typing while it unfolds.

  4. Ah, the French! They are SO.... FRENCH! And this exchange is so... EXPECTABLE! You are only provided so much info...every time!
    I'm the the legal rep for/of my mother's family's crypt in Paris. A few years ago we were there, intending to spruce the place up a bit. They couldn't find the key. They said they would search. The next day I called and they said we should come, as they had found the key.
    When we arrived, I said, en français, "Let's go to the crypt!" And the several people in the office stood there, shaking their individual heads. "We can't; the key doesn't work!" Why did they not tell me on the phone? Didn't wish to disappoint?

    Epilogue: I asked for their shop guy, and requested some "double-vee quarante" (WD-40), which was then produced. Using my old VW mechanic know-how, I had the lock working in a few minutes.

    And as for your maison à vendre... yeah, those STEPS! I am sorely tempted, as it is a DEAR little place, in a sweet little town, not far from Castres, where the Blanc paternal line originated, but when we were there in 2016, I wondered how long you'd want to keep climbing them!

    1. It’s hard to have dealings with any French bureaucrat, public or private sector, without having a similar story. I have a bunch of them and the hits keep on coming. Stop by the next time that you’re in the area.


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