Buying a house in France is a serious business for anyone. Whether you're selling up lock, stock and barrel and moving to France permanently, or you're well-off enough to be looking for a French holiday home, the expense is still great.
So why do we hear of so many people who treat buying a house in France with so little common sense? It's not a pair of shoes - you can't take it back if it doesn't fit right!
Yet frequently we hear the same nightmares. Someone who has bought a French house unplanned and is now starting to find problems. Who are these individuals? They must be well off to just go round buying French property as the thought takes them.
The crazy thing is, nothing could be further from the truth. Frequently - in fact more often than not - these are folks putting their life savings, their entire future, into their French dream house.
And a shocking number of them haven't got any idea. They've done next to no research, they don't speak a word of French and they've sought no knowledgeable advice.
Then when things go wrong they start complaining about the system, the language, the French, the agent... just about anything and everything is to blame except them. They treated buying a house in France like picking a lottery ticket and now they're complaining because their outside gamble didn't pay off!
Now possibly you think I'm being a bit excessive. I'm not. I know one couple who you would think of as very sensible and careful who signed an agreement to buy a French property while on vacation. They weren't even looking for a property when they left England but they fell in love with something.
What they were shocked to find was that by the time they got back to the UK ten days afterwards, getting out of the purchase would cost them 12,000 Euros.
I can give you another example of a couple who bought a French property to live in part and turn the rest into gites. They wildly underestimated the renovation costs (because they didn't ask) and now live in a place that needs a new roof. They can't finish the work so they've only got small pensions to live off. The house is in a bad way so they can't afford to sell and return to England either.
It's all very unfortunate, really. I hear one of these tales about every other month and it's such a shame. Now, I'm not infallible, I've made plenty of errors myself living over here and renovating an old French property, but with hindsight these have been minor because I've checked and double checked the large things.
Which is, when you get back to basics, all anybody has to do.
The French property market provides a wide range of opportunities and buying a house in France is neither particularly tough nor particularly confusing. The difficulty is that unless you're French or you've bought French property before it IS different. There will be things you haven't found before. There will be things that don't go quite as planned.
The essential thing is to get some knowledge behind you. Search the internet, buy a book or two, ask questions - and don't stop until you're satisfied with the answers.
France is a fantastic place to live but it's not dreamland and miracles don't happen. If you rush around blindly in the French property market you will suffer. Do your homework, however, and buying a house in France will be great fun - which is like it should be and what I wish for everyone who visits.