Did you know that an estimated 10,000 Brits who relocate to France each year, in search of an idyllic new life? So if you're thinking of joining them, particularly before Brexit, new show 'Escape to the Chateau: DIY' is a must watch.
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It follows the original Escape to the Chateau stars Dick and Angel Strawbridge, as they help more Brits trying to renovate and convert their own French castles. We'll follow them through the trials and tribulations of a new life in a different country, the struggles of renovating old derelict properties, and the pitfalls of running a successful business.
To celebrate the start of the series, Dick and Angel have kindly come up with some expert advice on how to turn a derelict chateau into a fairy-tale homes and money-making business, exclusively for us!
1. Do prioritise location
France is a big place with many remote, rural areas. While this is part of the appeal, being close to an airport or port is advisable.
2. Do be realistic
A chateau is old, will need work, and costs money to run. You'll need a budget
3. Don’t forget that France closes down in August
Fewer shops and services are available, and many artisans take extended holiday. That means it's highly unlikely that much – if any – work will happen on your site. It also makes life more difficult if you're planning to host events, such as weddings.
4. Do plan ahead
Think about how you’re going to earn money. If your chateau is going to be run as a business, do some research and plan your offering, how it will work and how you’ll market it. This will also help with prioritising renovations.
5. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced builder
The ability to plan well is most important.
6. Don't get carried away
Prioritise the fundamental basics like heating, electricity and plumbing. It's not, for example, a good idea to get pigs and chicken straightaway!
7. Do set a deadline
Or better still, set many and work to a timeline. Keeping focussed will motivate you to keep going and reaching milestones does wonders for your morale.
What a bargain! This stunning French Chateau could be yours for just one euro
8. But don't surprised by long lunches
It’s common for French artisans to take a two-hour break. Always get a quote based on the job rather than time.
9. Be patient
The French love bureaucracy.
10. Don’t rely on getting everything you need in France.
DIY materials, paint, tools and even radiators are much cheaper in the UK. Shop around!
11. Reuse and recycle
Make the most of what your chateau has to offer. It’s cheaper and greener.
12. Do learn the language
It's risky to rely on the expat community – if you learn the language, you'll find it easier to get by and communicate effectively with the best person for the job. It will also help you integrate with the locals and join in with community events.
Escape to the Chateau: DIY starts on Monday April 9th on Channel 4 at 4pm. It will be shown every weekday for four weeks.
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Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.
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