After 4 1/2 years in southern France, it is a monumental moment when you qualify for a loan.
Loans are extremely hard to get. In France the banks do not look at your equity, your bank account balance, assets, or anything of that sort. They only look at your weekly income, the paycheque. You can have a entry level job making minimum wage, and as long as there is a steady flow of funds going into your account, you will qualify for some kind of loan.
For us being self employed, a less common concept in socialist society, it makes it just that much harder. The bank views self employment as a gamble with no assurance for future wages. When you work for a company in France, after a couple of years, if they don’t fire you, you are guaranteed a job for life at that company. It is this security that they think will make it that much harder to forfeit on a payment.
It is hard in southern France for the French to quality for larger loans; mortgages, higher car payments etc. Income levels are low and they have laws that you cannot take a person’s house to pay for debt. Also with 100% capital gain laws, it is nearly impossible to play monopoly and build assets or generate a revenue from rental properties. The concept is not viewed in the same fashion as in North America or the rest of the world. The government has grants in place to insure the people can fix their homes, and make sure that their houses do not crumble around them.
But we kept at it, reapplying and being turned away, reapplying and being turned away.
This year, being that taxes are a full year behind, the magic number seems to be three years of consecutive tax returns showing an income. Which we finally have! Yippy!
Yesterday we signed on the dotted line to finally receive the money to have our single pane windows replaced, new state of the art shutters that open from the top and swing open with beautiful modern latches that look old, a new security front door made of glass to let the light through to my kitchen, and lastly new insulation in the attic to keep our home cool in the summer and cozy warm in the winter months.
because we have three things being done, we qualify for one of those government grants plus a special program. A 30% grant comes with it, and the 0% interest rate for 10 years. No wonder it was hard to qualify. This is our first payment of any kind in years, and although it feels like we are going back into debt, it also feels like we have finally arrived at our destination, being treated like one of the many. Welcome to socialist society. Feels good.
Banks and government officials are not allowed to treat foreigners differently. It has been my experience, that on paper, it is true, that they cannot push something through for anyone without the proper qualifications. But they can turn you away for not filling a form out correctly, or not understanding exactly what it is that you need. Best to always ask your french friends how it is done, and have them come along to help out. And it was a friend high up in the banks that made the call, to give us that extra help with the forms. Having finally reached this point in our expat lives, although a wee bit anticlimactic having going through such a rigorous process, it feels like progress.
In seven days we will be ordering the windows, and the work will be done no later than May! They put the money in the bank only if you have the coinciding receipt in place, so if you were thinking we could take the money and run, you are sadly wrong. The loan system is very precise and there is no running over budget. The quotes are exact and good for 6 months, and they provide the work and the receipts as they go. No money up front, pay after instillation. Voila!
Once we realized that the house will finally be getting done, Alfonz started on the few projects that have been hanging in the wind, waiting for the renovations to begin. He stripped the banister leading up the stairs covered in a plasticy strange light green paint. After two days of non-stop hard work, he has revealed a beautiful hard wood handrail! What a huge difference. The doors will all be painted white and all the green will be covered on the inside of the house. Funny enough, the same green colour that has grown tiresome inside, is the same colour we chose for the outside shutters. All the orange on the outside will also be painted.
After that we need to replace the Air Conditioning unit and an old fridge that is draining our electrical bill. Upstairs we will eventually change out the laminate flooring. Whoever did the DIY job, was terribly incompetent and the floor seem is lifting up. And lastly eventually the wallpaper will come down. It is old and ugly and I would love to see freshly painted walls in either a light yellow like our home in Budapest or silver sage to remind my of Vancouver mornings.
There is our happy renovation update for My Expat Life, Capestang France!