status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
No, not to you lot – despite the irregularity of my postings, Status Viatoris would have to be prised from my cold dead fingers before I abandoned it altogether…
No, the au revoir in this post is directed very much at my French apartment, which, after three and a half painfully long years has finally been sold. Admittedly for vastly less than if I had managed to shift it before the market nosedived, but at least I am no longer racking my brains for ways to pay the mortgage every month and staying awake night after night torturing myself with thoughts of the eventual maintenance costs incurred by an empty apartment in a damp medieval village.
The buyers were exactly the sort I had dreamt of – a young French couple who experienced a dramatic coup de coeur at first visit, and immediately set their hearts on obtaining it for their forever home.
(A huge improvement on the alternative cold-hearted Parisien or similarly detached foreigner in search of a holiday home to be used for a piddling fortnight a year, thus contributing to the ghost village phenomenon so prevalent in picturesque rural Europe.)
The price they offered me was in the region of what I had paid (purchase price plus the cost of major renovations) in 2004/2005 – investment, what investment? But desperation had my hands lassoed firmly behind my back, and after a small and purely symbolic haggle, the deal was done.
Then, having jumped once again through the burning hoops of incompetence proffered by Supercilious Turd, we were on the home straight; finally signing the Acte de Vente on the 8th of August, before departing our separate and varyingly happy ways – mine being the slightly less joyous path…
For although, after the agonies of the past three and a half years, I thought myself immune to further shock – and certainly felt the bad luck that had dogged every step of my French real estate journey couldn’t possibly find further ways to blight my life - I was wrong.
At the time I left France in 2008, I had been working for a number of months in a self-employed capacity – my boss at the time being keen to avoid the hefty taxes and social charges implied by having employees. He paid me a decent salary to compensate, so all well and good; but upon leaving both job and country, I then faced a two-year battle to convince French bureaucrats that they no longer had any right to my money.
Endless registered letters (Monsieur Le French bureaucrat’s most favouritist thing), normal letters, emails and phone calls whizzed their way, until the dreaded URSSAF finally backed down and let me be – the proverbial straw possibly being the bill for €52,000.00 in “social charges” that I sent back heavily defaced with red pen:
“IF YOU DON’T STOP HARASSING ME I SHALL REPORT YOU TO THE POLICE, YOU INCOMPETENT BASTARDS !”
En français, bien sûr…
The upshot being that the French authorities were left in no doubt that I was no longer a resident of La Belle France; which in turn meant that upon the sale of my French pad, they were going to be able to sting me for over 30% of the plus value (capital gains).
To complicate matters further, mine was not a straightforward property. Had I been in the possession of a cookie cutter apartment of the like so popular down on the coast, the profit calculation would have been simple: purchased for X and sold for Y.
But being a renovation project left me wide open to government interpretation of what expenditure they considered “necessary” improvements to render the property habitable, and what, in their most humble and objective opinion, was purely aesthetic.
Windows, apparently, serve no practical purpose. Plumbing for lavatories is nothing more than a luxury. Railings to stop people falling to their grisly deaths out of Juliet balconies or down stairwells are the trappings of the rich and spoilt, and electrical points to allow a property to be lit, heated or otherwise are nothing more than fancy pants accessories.
Thus it was decided – by unbiased and disinterested parties, I’m sure – that I was selling my house for over €50,000.00 more than I paid for it all those years ago, and of those 50 smackeroonies, the French government deserved €21,000.00 of them.
Just like that.
This is Status Viatoris, who has a sneaky feeling that property investment requires a wilier touch than hers, in Italy.