Second Homes

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Second Homes

by SandyJean » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:23 am

I'm just back from a very enjoyable visit to my little village house in the Ariege. As usual we had a lovely time in the area and I'm always impressed by the friendliness of the local people but I can't help feeling that perhaps I am in some way contributing to the number of locked up homes in these villages which are unoccupied for most of the year.
Any views on this subject from the more permanent ex-pats?
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Re: Second Homes

by kalba » Sat Nov 05, 2011 10:59 pm

Well, nobody else has chimed in and I can't bear to see your interesting topic float off into empty space, so ....

The last place I lived in the UK was a very pretty, honeypot village (240 inhabitants) on the north Norfolk coast. I was there for 8 years during which time it got more and more desirable to visitors and second homers - it's now Chelsea on Sea territory. Also while I was there quite a lot of the 'indigenous', elderly inhabitants died. It was remote; there was no work and no sensible public transport to get to any; house prices were rising to ridiculous levels; no local people could afford to buy, hence every house and cottage was bought by second homers. During the summer it was heaving, during the winter it was dead (except for weekends when the local-ish walkers and birders came out - none of them would come near the place in summer).

That experience left me with mixed feelings. One the one hand, we had things that a village our size would normally never have: a good deli, a good restaurant (ours!!), a smokehouse, 2 pubs, 2 galleries, a bookshop etc etc .... which was A Good Thing; and nearly all the houses were looked after and not falling down. On the other hand, there was a dearth of community, with about 90 year round residents, and as a non-indigenous permanent resident it was difficult to be accepted because (a) we were seen to be 'blow-ins' (which, of course, we were) and (b) many of the elderly locals assumed that as we weren't local, we too were part-timers.

I do have to say that because of that experience, when we came here 5 years ago we both wanted to live in a commune that didn't have such a high number of second homes, and we do (something like 15% of Rimont's houses are officially residences secondaires, though many of those are occupied at weekends by extended family etc so they're not exactly locked up and left).

I don't know which village you're in, SandyJean, but maybe a valid question is 'is there such a high demand for housing there that if you second homers didn't own your houses there they'd all have been snapped up by local people or other permaresidents?' One of the reasons that house prices rose so much in north Norfolk is that there are so few houses .... which isn't the case here (nearly 900 houses for sale in Ariege on Greenacres today, whereas 5 years ago when we were looking there was an average of 80 ...). So if you weren't here, would your house be a heap of rubble?
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Re: Second Homes

by Margaret » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:32 pm

I agree with what Kalba said in the second part of her post. Generally speaking, in many communes here, there are lots of empty houses, particularly in the centre of towns and villages, as the French dash to the outskirts and build on those lotissements they seem to favour at the moment. Anyone who buys a house and at the least keeps it in good nick is doing something positive for the community. If in addition, while you ARE here you join in, and respond to any positive advances, I think you won't be resented, but rather, appreciated for liking the community enough to join it. If your community has local shops and facilities, support them. It sounds as though you're already being welcomed....so....good luck!
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Re: Second Homes

by Tiffany » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:23 pm

A small justification from us....

If we hadn't bought our place near St Girons, it is very likely it would have been left to slowly fall apart. It wasn't wanted by the family, whose father had used it as his second home, and had been on the market for ages. If it was difficult for people to get houses (say like the UK) there would be cause for concern, but it's not really the case here, especially in the Ariege. So long as we contribute when we are here, are friendly and helpful, then I think we can make a positive impact that isn't turfing anyone out.
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Re: Second Homes

by Myrtle&Martin » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:06 pm

Here's another justification - our Maire said she wanted more houses in the village to be renovated or built, because the more inhabitants there are, the more money comes to the commune in the form of local taxes to spend on lighting, events, keeping the village tidy etc.
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Re: Second Homes

by Margaret » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:14 pm

Absolutely! If your village turns against you, which sounds very unlikely, come here! We have 4 'for sale' or empty houses within sight of our house, and a further 3 just down the road....
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Re: Second Homes

by SandyJean » Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:53 am

This is all very positive feedback and I now feel justified in enjoying my house! There is no shortage of this type of housing in the village, with several more similar properties for sale. The lovely village in question is La Bastide sur l'Hers, very pretty with two shops, butcher, restaurant, bar, post office and even a municipal swimming pool. I use both shops almost daily and also the butcher who likes to improve his English. The restaurant "Le Joug" is excellent value and to be recommended.
Living in a rural location in Northern Ireland where a car is a necessity I enjoy the sense of community found in many French villages.
I sometimes wonder is it only a matter of time before I move more permanently!
SandyJean
 
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Re: Second Homes

by Margaret » Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:35 pm

Well, you're just along the road from us in the-rather-less-lovely-but-just-as-welcoming Laroque d'Olmes then! When you fancy a change from le Joug, we have several restaurants here, 2 of which are very good. I'm sure you've discovered the lovely circular walk between our two places- along the crête, with great views one way, then along the Voie Verte for the other. We make a decent cup of coffee too if you need a 'pause café'!
Margaret
 
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Re: Second Homes

by arthur45 » Fri Nov 11, 2011 5:54 pm

Can't allow Margaret to leave "2 of which are very good" hanging in the air like that ! So please, where would you recommend in Laroque ?

Completely agree on the quality of Le Joug, and on its value for money, and welcome, and above all its authenticity. Just a shame there is nowhere to sit outside when the weather is fine (although it comes back into its own when its so hot that we seek shade).

Arthur
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Re: Second Homes

by Margaret » Fri Nov 11, 2011 7:32 pm

Oh, Arthur. You're quite right. The thing is, the second one, La Maison, we haven't sampled yet as it's been open only a matter of weeks. But it's the successor to Chez Eugène in Belesta, which sadly burnt down over a year ago. If it's like the Belesta place, it'll be traditional Ariègeois food, impeccably cooked (don't eat breakfast first), with a personal welcome from Eugène and a great atmosphere always. Now open Thursdays to Sundays inclusive. 15 euros at lunchtime. It's opposite the tool hire place on the Lavelanet road just beyond the Laroque town boundary, and you could park there.

Secondly, la Table d'Angèle, which I've reviewed here before. The only changes are that's it's now only open lunchtimes, but Mondays - Fridays inclusive.

After 2 glowing recommendations in this thread, we'll have to start going back to le Joug. We went off it rather. The menu always seemed the same, and it seemed to lose its spark. Has it found the winning formula again?
Margaret
 
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