A Tale of 2 Chateaux

It’s been a long few months but I’m back with a little tale in, which the names and locations are fictitious but the story is all true.

Monsieur Trucmouche, having sold his business making clothes and furnishing fabrics with traditional Camargue designs, decided to sell the magnificent chateau, which he ran a B&B and a showroom.

After a few visits he had an acceptable offer and he agreed to sell. Confident that all was well, he went out and bought another chateau. And that’s when things started to get complicated.  His buyer went as far as agreeing a date for the Compromis.…and then pulled out, leaving him with two chateaux at least an hour’s drive from one another.

He decided to move into the second chateau, and get on with the renovation and open a B&B. The chateau is lovely and the B&B was successful. But, for family reasons he wants to move to another region so now the second chateaux are on the market.

Last autumn I took a client to see both of them. The first one wasn’t his style of chateau but he and his wife fell in love with the second one. Mr. Bidule is not French, and to complicate things he lives most of his time in the far east where he has his business activity. Like many people in business he is wealthy on paper but doesn’t always have ready cash, so he decided to take a small bank loan.

Enter the bank that makes much in its advertising about how good it is for people with interests in more than one country. OK, I’ll name it: HSBC the truth is that they are probably wonderful for most people but not when France and its sometimes bizarre banking system is concerned.

Mr. Bidule signed a formal offer between Christmas and New Year; Monsieur Trucmouche countersigned his acceptance. They both agreed not to sign a Compromis dependant on the loan because that automatically means a delay of 3 months before the final signature and they hoped to get it all tied up asap.. Knowing that nothing would get done until January was well under way, Mr. Bidule went home, contacted his local (Far East) branch of the HSBC where he has an account and asked them to start the procedure with the appropriate French branch.

January came and went and he hadn’t heard from HSBC France.
In February they announced that he didn’t have an account in France (so much for international banking!) so he set one up. He came to France and went to see the person dealing with the dossier. He went back to his business and he set about getting all the documents, insurance policies etc that the bank asked for.

February came and went. He had no news and the person in the HSBC didn’t answer his queries immediately.
Come March: still no progress.
April?….no. So much for not opting for the “3-month delay Compromis” – at least the bank would have had to pull its finger out to comply with the dateline.

By late April we were all getting anxious. Monsieur Trucmouche was talking about putting the chateau back on the market and he was annoyed that he had started to cancel advertising for the B&B. We were getting annoyed because in our business either you get commission or nothing, no salary but all the overheads.  Mr. Bidule was also getting annoyed because he had done all that the bank in France asked of him.

In May he rang his contact again. She was away – and when someone is away in a French bank no-one else can deal with it.

Two weeks ago he e-mailed her asking what the problem was. No reply.
A phone call revealed that she had been away when he e-mailed her, (that was the 3rd holiday since January, I suppose she had a lot of RTT* to use before the June limit) and…wait for it….a week later she hadn’t yet read her e-mails!

So here we are in June.  As I write this, Mr. Bidule is in the bank in France; he hoped it was to sign the loan but no, it is to make sure that all the elements in the dossier are OK and to sign more papers. If the bank then agrees the loan (no reason why it shouldn’t) he won’t be told there and then. French law requires that a bank sends the offer by (snail) mail. I have advised Mr. Bidule to stay at his European address until he gets them rather than risk it taking ages to get to his Far East address. I also told him to return it by courier service! The bank then has to wait for his seven days of reflection to expire (despite the fact that he isn’t going to refuse the loan he’s been trying to finalise since January) before signalling that it is OK to go ahead.

With luck, we’ll have the Compromis signed mid-June and the final sale in mid-July…unless, of course one of the Notaires is a ‘juilletist’ and goes off on his hols.

When this sale goes through it’s going to be like popping the cork of a high pressure bottle, and I’ll get my brain around blogging again.

*RTT : When France introduced the 35-hour week those who had existing 37-hour contracts were then entitled to accumulate all those extra 2 hours a week and use them when they wish as long as it doesn’t overflow into the next leave year (usually June to June). This can cause havoc for some small businesses and it is currently reckoned that the staff of the Parisian public hospitals have around 1 million hours to make up.

The first chateau is still for sale, visit it here:

Footnote: the buyer who pulled out of the first chateau is notorious with local agents for being unable to make a decision. He’s still looking but he’s on our blacklist and that of a few other agents we know.


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