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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We're interested in buying a house that hasn't been lived in for a couple of years. I was wondering what kind of potential problems we need to be looking for that might have occurred during the vacancy . We've looked at the 'Expert diagnostics' of the house and there was nothing serious but I noticed that it didn't cover all the questions I had. One thing that is common in Canada where I'm originally from is the pipes freezing in the winter. Here in Provence, it does get cold in the winter, we had snow a couple of times last winter but would there be a chance that the pipes could have froze and cracked? Likewise, the sprinkler systems in people's yards, do those tubes need to have the water removed before the winter sets in?

Thanks
 
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Yes sprinkler pipes etc definitely need to be drained before winter, especially if your part of Provence is inland by 50 miles plus. I'm near Avignon, and I've seen temperatures down to -15°C plenty of times.

As for the internal water system, if there are any cracked pipes you would have an obvious leak that should be easy enough to spot on doing a thorough survey of the property (assuming you can turn the water on. If for any reason you can't, I would ask for it be done, not only to check for leaks but to verify the state of the boiler and central heating if by radiator, after two unoccupied years).

In countryside locations, any land close to or bordering the property itself? One local trick is for a landowner/farmer to retain a small piece of land that comes close to the house. Once you have settled in, he then procedes to find all manner of reasons for farm workers to use noisy machinery at the crack of dawn. Eventually you give in, and end up buying the tiny parcel of land at fifteen times the going rate per sq.m..

Other things to check? I very nearly bought a property close to Apt one summer, when I noticed a tiny stream nearby, and below the house by some 5 metres or so. I asked if they had ever had any flooding - the answer, unsurprisingly, was no. But I went to the Mairie and checked the official map with the flood plain boundary, and guess what, the house was in that area.

Owners were angry when the sale fell through as a result, even made a complaint against the official who had shown me the map! Then in October 1994, I pick up the Provence newspaper in the local café, and what do I see, big front page photo... but the house I nearly bought, the ground floor under a metre of floodwater, completely isolated from Apt and nearby villages. Phew.

What else? Noise. When you buy out of season, you can easily underestimate the intrusive non-stop racket from a nearby major road in July and August.

Boundaries - there's been a thread on this recently.

I could go on, but it really depends on the nature and location of the property!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for your reply Frogblogger. The house I'm looking at is in a community close to a golf course. The terrain is already fenced off so I don't think I have to deal with any greedy farmers :)

I'm glad you mentioned the house in Apt because the house I'm looking at also backs onto a small creek. When I looked at the flood plain drawings, the boundary comes right up against the property so I'm concerned.

We were at the real estate agent yesterday and we had agreed upon a bidding price. We had proposed a bidding price 10% lower than the asking price but she came back with a price about 8% lower than the asking price. After some discussion, we agreed on her price. Today she wrote back and said, after speaking with her "tutrice" The price is now the original asking price...RRRRRRGH!!!

Do you think this is just another case of "Oh they are foreigners so let's charge them what we want" ?
 
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Hard to say - did you give off any "wow this is fantastic, our ideal home" vibrations at any time?! :D Did you drive up in a Bentley Convertible?!

Depending on how desperately you want this particular property, I would stand my ground, and make it clear that there are plenty of other equally desirable places for sale - and there certainly are, thousands of them, in this buyer's market.

As for the flood plain, I would be wary. I have heard of unscrupulous developers with 'influence' allegedly persuading local authorities to err on the optimistic side, with respect to floodable terrain boundaries. Back in 1992, in Vaison la Romaine in the Vaucluse, you may be aware of the terrible flash flooding that took around 40 lives. There were all sorts of recriminations afterwards, levelled at those who had fixed the flood plain limits - loads of new build properties were swamped up to first floor level during the floods.

And of course with the weather becoming more unpredictable, there have been a number of studies predicting increased flooding in the future...
 
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One other thing. I know an English couple who bought a property that had been empty for a decade or more, at a crazily high price, even taking into account the fact that it was a seller's market back then. I can remember the locals laughing their heads off in the bars around town at the time. Yes the "we saw you coming" phenomenon is 100% alive and well, even in these times of economic depression...
 
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