La Chtelaine in the Dordogne
La Cellette, Audrey Friedman’s 15th-Century Chteau in Celles
French Property Insider
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Bonjour French Property Insider Subscriber,
I finally took a long weekend and trained down to the Prigord Vert…that part of the Dordogne which includes the Natural Park Regional Prigord-Limousin. There are kilometers and kilometers of rolling hills, fields of sunflowers and corn, trees and meadows, rivers and streams and “petits villages” from many ages past, each anchored by a medieval Romanesque church. It’s GORGEOUS with a capital G.
Lucky for me to be invited down by Audrey Friedman, now known in the area as “La Chatelaine” (chteau inhabitant) — the American woman who bought the chteau La Cellette about five years ago and restored it from top to bottom with impeccable taste, every detail attended to.
Audrey only spends a part of her year there, but she’s come to know everyone and everyone has come to know her. She’s easily settled into an active social life there…dinners with friends, art gallery openings, concerts and a variety of cultural events you’d never dream existed in such a rural environment.
But this is France…and this is the Dordogne. It’s spotted with transplanted British, Dutch and Americans who all share their love for the region, their struggles with French and the usual cultural clashes. She claims it’s a very special part of France, much for that reason, as the Expats have formed an energetic and fluid community that makes everyone feel so welcome. I saw it in action.
Musicians from many parts of the globe gathered last weekend to participate in the Baroque music festival. Artists from the region, also a mix of nationalities, exhibited their works in a gallery over a restaurant owned by Brits. I was surrounded by English speakers at one point and became confused…wasn’t I supposed to be in France this weekend and London the next? Or was it the other way around?
Property prices in the Dordogne have climbed over the years and good properties are more scarce than ever, but there are still good bargains to be had. Audrey’s chteau cost her the same price as my 70 square-meter apartment in Paris! Of course, she invested five times more to restore it…but when you compare price per square-meter, the Dordogne still comes up as an amazing deal.
In today’s issue, we’re taking a much closer look at the Dordogne and Audrey’s 15th-century masterpiece as well as some interesting properties on the market today.
We also are offering two new Leaseback properties — one in the Alps the other in Burgundy — and answering more of the questions you’ve posed about the Leaseback program.
Editor, French Property Insider
Email: [email protected]
P.S. Space for the Living and Investing in Franc Conference has begun filling quickly since registration began. Don’t wait until it’s too late to sign up! Contact Schuyler Hoffman today at [email protected] or toll-free at 1-877-IL PARIS (1-877-457-2747). See the conference information below for details!
Volume II, Issue 31, July 29, 2004
In this issue:
* Your Questions, Our Answers…About Leasebacks
* Living the Life of a Chatelaine in the Dordogne
* Going for Baroque in the Dordogne
* What’s to Love About the Dordogne
* Claim Your Space for LIF D.C.
* Currency Exchange Update
* Hot Property: Leaseback Properties in South-Central France and the French Alps
* Property For Sale: Fabulous Homes in the Dordogne
* Classified Advertising: Vacation Spots
FPI Subscribers: To read the issue in its entirety go to
To access this password protected page: username: fpiuser and the password: paris1802.
LEASEBACK PROPERTIES… YOU HAVE THE QUESTIONS, WE HAVE THE ANSWERS
By Adrian Leeds
In spite of an emergency chez Miranda Junowicz and Jocelyn Carnegie’s timing of landing by ferry at Calais on the stroke of 8 p.m., we persevered and held the last conference call for FPI subscribers with the theme of THE FRENCH LEASEBACK: A HASSLE-FREE INVESTMENT WITH A GUARANTEED RETURN.
A recording of the call is at: http://www.adrianleeds.com/frenchproperty/insider/subscribersonly/confcallinstr.cfm
The questions were mostly centered around financing issues and if these properties would eventually make good residences. Some questions required a bit more research to answer in full. Miranda Junowicz answers them:
(1) Is there a problem for a 65 year-old to get a mortgage for a Leaseback property?
This is not an inherent roadblock, as long as the source of income is
not from a paycheck. That is, banks are going to be concerned about default if the income level will not be maintained after retirement. However, if the source(s) of income are from investments or other revenue, this will be less of a concern. Of course, one bank or another might decide that they want to loan less than the they normally would. But there is no hard and fast rule that says they wont make the loan.
(2) Can a property be owned by a US partnership — US LLC or INC, and how does this change the calculation versus holding as an SCI?
There is nothing inherently preventing this, though we have not seen an attempt to utilize such structures yet. Obviously the banks would want to have income and credit information for all the owners in the partnership, which might logistically make the loan more difficult to manage. Higher taxes are also paid by a US. entity vs an SCI.
(3) Has a management company ever gone bankrupt? What would happen if so?
This has not happened! Nor is it likely to since the income works out quite well for these companies in light of the strong demand for residences in the areas where the Leasebacks are being developed. Moreover, the management companies that are involved in the properties we work with are reputable companies that have been in the business a long time. In the unlikely event that they did go bankrupt, like such any property, the owners association would have to come together and decide if they wanted to find another management company collectively. In any case, each owner would have the right to do what it wanted. Alternatively, the management company could assign its management rights to a third party. Plus, management firms have the appropriate financial backing and/or insurance policies in place, thereby allowing them to register with the state as Leaseback property managers.
(4) Is the income from the property included in the banks assessment of your “net rental income” for purposes of assessing the amount they will loan you (30% of your income)?
It is best to go with the rule that the annual mortgage repayments for the property do not exceed one-third of your net annual income after tax and other mortgage/loan payments. Some banks do take the rental income into account, but this can not be guaranteed.
(5) Whats the story with the life insurance on the loan — how does that work?
Every borrower must take out a life insurance policy so that, in the case of death, the loan will be paid off, out of the insurance policy proceeds. It amounts to approximately .3% of the loan amount/year (but it also depends on your medical condition. For example, if you have had major operations in the past 5 years, or have diabetes, or are grossly overweight…).
BUYING A LEASEBACK IN FRANCE
Q’s by Miranda Junowicz, A’s by Sam Okoshken, Attorney at Law
Q: The purchase of Leasebacks through IRA’s is increasingly of great interest. What restrictions are there on their use and how would one qualify for a loan?
A: The IRA is certainly a possible and attractive vehicle, all things being equal. It equates the capital gains result in the U.S. to the French result (when the 15-year holding period requirement is met). There are some complications with respect to “debt acquisition financing” that can almost certainly be solved if the IRA is a rollover from an employer or self-employed retirement plan. I plan to offer an opinion concerning that aspect, with request to the client to have his or her own tax advisor sign off on it. I am still looking at the IRA rules, to see if perhaps a non-rollover IRA might also escape adverse tax consequences under the acquisition indebtedness rules.
Q: In what situations (or not) should a client be looking at setting up an SCI to hold the properties? We had one inquiry regarding whether two or three people could set up a partnership in the US that would hold properties, rather than a French entity (which has costs and other formalities not associated with a US partnership).
A: The when-to-use-SCI question comes up almost every time. There can be no standard or pat answer, as it may involve forced heirship rules, multiple purchases, partnership-type sharing, as well as the SCI holding serving as a first layer in a multi-layered estate plan. The use of a partnership is possible, as is an LLC. Each has to be analyzed in terms of the clients needs as well as possible adverse French tax consequences. A limited partnership is clearly ill-advised, as limited partners are treated under French law as corporate shareholders (i.e., dividends rather than pass-through tax attributes), but a general partnership is possible.
Editor’s Notes: Miranda Junowicz is part of the IL team of property professionals. For more information on Leasebacks and other properties, contact her at [email protected].
Samuel H. Okoshken, an American, is a U.S.-educated tax lawyer, and has been practicing law in Paris since 1974. His practice is devoted to the various legal and tax problems of Americans and other foreign “Expats,” and to the issues that non-residents of France encounter when contemplating buying property or setting up business in France. He will be speaking at the upcoming Living and Working in France Conference in Washington, D.C. this September (http://www.adrianleeds.com/parlerparis/liveinfrance/LIF_DC/LIF_DC_home.html) His website is: http://www.okoshken.com.
BEHIND 15TH-CENTURY DORDOGNE WALLS
By Adrian Leeds
Five years ago Audrey Friedman bought a shell of a chteau named Chteau la Cellette, in the heart of the Dordogne (postal code 24600) — centered in “un petit village” (population 597) called Celles, next to the church whose bells toll on the hour. The cost of the house in ruins, the grounds and the outer buildings was, at the time, about the same price as my 70 square-meter apartment in the Marais in Paris. I was shocked at the stark comparison — even knowing how much time, effort, care and expense it would take to restore the ruin to proper habitation.
The family who built the chteau was Dulau d’Allemans, whose name is identified in the letterpress edition of the papers of George Washington. With a master architect from the region who fully understood the character of the house and whose inves
tigative powers led him to find the hidden massive stone fireplaces and secret stairwells, he and Audrey, who invested five times the price she paid, restored the 15th-century manor into a 21st-century splendor.
It took a mere year to complete, an amazing pace considering the breadth of the project and the perfection to which each detail was paid attention. Audrey is clear in her conclusion that if she had attempted to renovate the house on her own, as many new Expat landowners do, it would have taken her eons more time and wouldn’t have been so true to form and style. She values her architect as one would any great artist.
The entrance to the chteau was originally next to the church on the main street through a small garden, but Audrey reverted the entrance to the back side of the house and added a circular pebble driveway you enter through electronic iron gates from a small road. The full length of the house is visible from this vantage point along with a detached “orangerie” and a tool shed at a right angle on the left, a large pool and grassy plane on the right several steps lower.
Behind the ecru gauze drapes added to the orangerie arches lies a long dining table and cane chairs for cool repasts sheltered from summer showers. The tool shed was transformed into a detached cottage and now comprises a living room, kitchenette, bath and three bedrooms on two levels. Between the main house and these two structures is a small courtyard grounded by round stone table and curved stone benches, protected by an ivy-covered wall and the towers of the chteau — a perfect corner for reflection, meals or casual conversation.
While the main entrance is on the same level as the driveway on the left side of the house, most visitors seem to want to climb the few steps to the inviting and spacious kitchen behind the glass French doors. This is the room where everyone gathers. A square table for eight is the center of activity, and along with the warm golden cabinetry (“antiqued” with a touch of burnt sienna) makes you feel right at home. The black iron six-burner French stove/oven just begs to be lit and utilized and the black “Subzero” refrigerator with ice maker begs to be filled with fresh produce from a local market.
An adjacent formal dining room is absolutely elegant and fitting for the finest of parties. Further on, across the entry foyer and down a few steps, is a cozy living room filled with overstuffed sofas and chairs. The focal point is a massive stone fireplace fit for a king — and several roasting pigs. In the corner sits a large armoire that a “trompe l’oeil” artist created for the room in a hand painted motif, using objects symbolic for Audrey and the names of her friends.
On that side of the house, a stone spiral staircase leads to three suites. One is Audrey’s master suite consisting of bedroom with large stone fireplace, bathroom with footed tub next to a table of bath oils and scents, a separate shower room with toilet and bidet and a closet/dressing room. In the corner of the room within the round tower sits a small reading nook furnished by two silk brocade arm chairs and table. It speaks of an era long ago.
The highest bedroom was introduced to us as “la chambre la plus belle dans le chteau” by Audrey’s caretaker — under the eaves of the house, with high ceilings, wood beams fully exposed — the room is masculine, spacious and charming. In one corner, there is a round tower with a gaming table and two chairs. A full bath and dressing room is hidden by a wall with no doors, entrances at both the right and the left.
There are another three bedrooms on the opposite side of the house, each stacked over the other, off a wooden staircase, each with its own private bath. Fitted with either a double bed or twin beds, each is decorated sweetly in traditional decor, each with a fireplace. The baths are all contemporary and tastefully appointed.
Throughout the house, the furniture style is harmonious and in perfect keeping with the rustic period of the chteau. Every corner has some beautiful “objet d’art” and the walls have interesting original paintings. I was certain, just from the pristine appearance, Audrey had decorating help to have so skillfully found the perfect pieces, but she claims to be the “author” of the work. We commended her on her good taste and sharp eye for creating such a sumptuous environment for herself, her friends and family.
When Audrey is Stateside, the house is left to the care of the “gardienne,” who lives just opposite the chteau, and a rental agent who rents it to small families in its entirety. If you’re seriously interested in having La Cellette for yourself, write me at [email protected]
GOING FOR… BAROQUE
By Adrian Leeds
It takes an old friend with an old friend who has a chteau in the Dordogne to pry me out of Paris for a long summer weekend. To reach the little town of Celles, we took the TGV (Train Grande Vitesse) to Angoulmes (about 2.5 hours), then Texan Audrey Friedman, also known as “la chtelaine” (chteau inhabitant), picked us up at the station for the 45 minute drive down tiny departmental roads to Celles. The fields lining the route are filled with sunflowers and corn. There is no question why the inhabitants of the Dordogne think it is such a special corner of the earth — its beauty is overwhelming with rolling hills, solid fields of agricultural life and quaint stone villages reminiscent of centuries long past.
Audrey invited us to spend the weekend with her long ago, not realizing that the same weekend would be a reunion with her New York resident daughter, her two teenage granddaughters, a traveling companion of one granddaughter and the companion’s father. A French friend from Paris joined us and we filled almost all of the nine bedrooms.
The timing was in perfect coordination with a weekend-long music festival entitled “Itinraire Baroque en Prigord Vert” (http://www.itinerairebaroque.com/). Under the artistic direction of Ton Koopman, organist, harpsichordist and conductor of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, a professor in the Royal Conservatory of the Hague and an Honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in
London, this third edition offered a series of Baroque concerts graced by the “castles, ancient villages, peaceful valleys and wonderful quality of life” in the Dordogne performed in Romanesque churches by renowned musicians.
An ensemble of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra opened the festival on Friday evening with a concert at the Eglise de Cercles with Ton Koopman on harpsichord and other musicians on baroque violin, traverso, viola de gamba with a soprano singing three arias. The ancient church had been beautifully restored to a clean, white stone and all sides were filled with patrons of the musical arts from the area and beyond.
On Saturday, one could attend six consecutive concerts in six churches not far from one another. Each concert lasted approximately 30 minutes. We chose to attend only one other at the Eglise de Grand-Brassac with four musicians on cornetto, trombone, dulcian and harpsichord. Again, the church was splendidly restored Romanesque and the setting perfect for the soft harmonious sounds of these rarely heard instruments.
Saturday evening we attended an art opening at Galerie Verticalle, on the upper level above the Bistrot Verticalle in the center of Verteillac of works by local artists, mostly British living in the Dordogne. Little French could be heard among those perusing the art — clearly their compatriot friends who have transplanted themselves in this part of France. Following that, we were invited to the home of the President of the organization, Robert-Nicolas Huet, whose large centuries-old estate afforded more than a dozen round tables set outside on the lawn for a sit-down dinner. During dinner, an aria was sung from an upper window and an attempt to light fireworks topped off dessert.
We had time on Sunday over a copious brunch to talk with Audrey about her time spent in the Dordogne. She feels very special about this “petit coin” of France — totally at home among both the French and the Expats who have settled there. She is not wont for things to do — there are endless invitations to people’s homes for dinners and other events keeping her hopping from one tiny town to the next. Sitting there at the large square table in the center of her spacious kitchen with a view on the chteau gardens, we could understand her contentment with her life there.
DISCOVERING THE DELIGHTFUL DORDOGNE
A compilation of information from guides to the Dordogne
The Dordogne is where Sir Lancelot was exiled from the court of King Arthur, where the Hundred Years’ War was fought, and where human pre-history seems more present than past in the stunning cave galleries of Lascaux (dating back 400,000 years). A visitor can peel back the layers of history, walk forested paths and country lanes and discover that every path reveals a fantastic scene from traditional France — timeless villages of golden stone, hilltop castles shining like visions from a medieval tale, towering oak forests where a knight on a white horse might not look out of place.
There are 557 communes in the department of the Dordogne and the region is divided geographically in four parts:
* Black Prigord: Earth of oaks and forest, a town develops around the Grande Abbey Benedictine in the 9th century
Actually it is not named for its truffles. In fact, black is the color of the abundant live oaks which cover the high hills around Sarlat and whose dark silhouettes can be seen from miles away. It is the best-known part of the Prigords thanks to its prehistoric and historic remains such as its painted or sculpted caves (Lascaux, Font-de-Gaume…), its medieval castles (Beynac, Castelnaud, Montfort…) and its picturesque towns (Sarlat, Domme, Les Eyzies…).
* White Prigord: Earth of the chalky stone, capital of the Gallic Pretocores, seat of the Roman city and after of the Means Age.
It cuts the Dordogne in two from East to West following the course of the river Isle. Centrally situated, it is a region of limestone plateaux rich in quarries which produced the noble white stonework of which the ancient buildings of Prigueux are made. We can also find wide valleys, rolling meadows and forests. From Hautefort to Montpon including Prigueux, the region also features towns of interest such as Savignac-les-Eglises, Sorges (with its truffles), Saint-Astier, Neuvic and Mussidan.
* Green Prigord: Earth of agriculture…
To the north, this area is aptly named. Indeed included in the Natural Park Regional Prigord-Limousin, the Nontron region and the Dronne valley offer a landscape of trees and meadows crossed by a myriad of rivers and streams. It is also the least known to tourists. Yet, interesting places are worth visiting such as Brantme, the “Venice of the Prigord” or Bourdeilles and Mareuil castles, two of the ancient Prigords four baronies.
* Purple Prigord: Wine Earth, known also for the redoubtable Cyrano.
This new “appellation” strictly “contrle” of course is the name given to the area around Bergerac and its bastides or fortified villages. It is the main wine-growing area. The wines of Bergerac, Pcharmant, Montbazillac, Saussignac are kings. The French and English bastides built in the 13th century, all on the same pattern surrounding a central market place, recall an important page of our history: the Hundred Yearss War.
Mark your calendar for the exciting upcoming conferences sponsored by the International Living Paris Office!
Living and Investing in France
September 10 – 12, 2004
Dinner and Virtual Tour of Paris with Thirza
Walking Tour of French-Speaking DC
LIF_DC Walking Tour
Single in the City of Light
(And Loving It!) with Adrian Leeds The Westin Grand – Conference Site
LIF_DC Single in the City