When Christine Frost and husband Stephen moved to France in 1999, they already had a good idea what life would be like in their chosen area.
“Our neighbours in England moved to France and we would visit them a couple of times a year,” says Christine, 60.
“We eventually decided to buy a place to use as a holiday home.”
The couple settled on a large 200m² property in Charente-Maritime, which was structurally sound but needed a lot of interior work.
The garden was just 400m², as they did not want to worry about it when they were away.
After spending many happy holidays at the house and falling in love with France, the family decided to make a permanent move to the country six years later in 1999.
Holiday home was too small
“We had thought our property would be our forever home,” says Christine.
“Sadly, although it was great for holidays, we found it did not have enough outdoor space to meet our needs once we lived there full-time.
With our children – then 13, 10 and eight – growing up, and wood stacked up for the wood burners, we were short on space.
“Plus, I love gardening and it seemed silly to live somewhere where land was so affordable and not take advantage.”
The family initially tried to buy some land from neighbours, but when they were unwilling to sell, put their home on the market.
“We had lived there for about two-and-a-half years by this point,” says Christine.
“The property sold in just six weeks and the couple invested in a large farmhouse with 1.5 acres of land.
“It was just 5km away from our original home, as we did not want to disrupt our children’s lives too much,” says Christine.
Renovated farmhouse became too big
“The house needed complete renovation and we moved to a mobile home for a while, then switched to a gîte over winter.
“We did much of the work ourselves, but employed specialists to do the roof and electrics.”
Once the family moved in – in 2003 – it proved an ideal home for the couple and their growing family. Then, once again, their needs changed.
“Over the years, the children grew up and moved on. They went to university and just came home at weekends, or sometimes not at all,” says Christine.
“We found ourselves living alone in a huge house. It took around €4,000 to fill the heating tank and that would barely last 12 months.”
The couple decided to move to a smaller terrace property nearby.
Terraced house felled ‘hemmed in’
“We initially bought the property with thoughts of turning it into a gîte,” says Christine. “But we decided to move in instead.
“The market was quite flat, and it took six months to sell our farmhouse, but it worked out well as we were able to stay in the farmhouse while we renovated. Then we moved in once the work was finished, in May 2011.”
The move initially proved successful.
“We went from €4,000 on heating to just €400,” says Christine.
However, as time went on, the couple began to wonder if they had made the wrong choice.
“Although the house was lovely, and had a reasonable-sized garden behind, we felt hemmed in,” she says.
“Having attached neighbours for the first time in years, and with no room to park outside, it just was not working out.”
Current house is just right
Stephen, 62, and Christine initially thought they might build a house themselves on a patch of land they had kept from the farmhouse – but everything changed when Stephen went on a bike ride.
“One day in 2016, Stephen went out cycling with his friend, who showed him this amazing property.
“He took me to look at it – and we fell in love.”
The property, which is the couple’s current home, is a large semi-detached building with gardens front and back, as well as a field.
“It needed updating, but not a full renovation this time,” says Christine.
Since moving in June 2016, the couple feel they have made the right choice and are enjoying life in their current location close to the small town of Aulnay-de-Saintonge.
“On the back of the property is a really large veranda – the whole width of the house, with views right across the fields and hillside.
“It is beautiful to eat out and sit out. And, with two spare bedrooms, there is plenty of space when the kids come.”
Buying and selling was straight-forward
However, Christine acknowledges there might be a further move on the cards in future.
“Eventually, the property might become too big, or the land may become too much,” she says.
“The children have started to suggest that we look for a bungalow, but we are not there yet!”
Instead, the couple have made modifications to make life easier, installing a pellet burner using a government grant, rather than having to chop wood.
With so many moves under their belt, have the couple struggled at all with the process?
“It has always been really straight-forward,” says Christine.
“We have not needed a mortgage, which has helped. We have always stayed within a 5-6km area of our original home, so there has not been much disruption in terms of our daily lives.”
With each of their four houses serving a particular need, the couple have truly proved that there is no such thing as a ‘forever home.’