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Old stone or modern villa?

As mentioned in my article on the main criteria for buying a house in the country, this criterion is essential for settling into your new home with peace of mind.

Because even if, like us and the majority of city dwellers buying in the country, you are very sensitive to the charm of your home, you need to understand what buying an old house involves. Over and above the extra work to be considered (and I refer you to the previous article to find out what you're prepared to deal with), there are a number of important differences that will change your daily life. Here's a summary of the main differences between the 2 types of home:

  • The purpose of construction

In a modern villa (built since the 70s), the rooms have been designed for modern living, and are well laid out and optimized. Circuits (water and electricity) have been designed for regular maintenance and easy access, in a crawl space or false ceiling. The result: less costly repairs.

As the mas provençal was not built as a holiday home, it didn't naturally have what it took to bring friends for 5 weeks a year, and for everyone to have their own bathroom. So, over the decades, improvements were made to make it more "leisurely", but these were often carried out piecemeal, according to the needs of the owners. It was to bring electricity here, create a bathroom in the attic, create a mezzanine, and so on. As a result, these tinkerings occasionally crack and create surprises, sometimes costly ones.

For our part, we discovered a manhole under the concrete terrace in a veranda and a dishwasher connected to the rainwater in the summer kitchen... I'm looking forward to the rest 🙂

  • Insulation

Older houses, on the other hand, were designed with the region's climate in mind, and even today offer much better insulation. In Provence, farmhouse architecture is designed to protect against the heat, with thick stone walls and small openings.

The building faces due south to protect it from the Mistral wind, and there are no openings on the north side. In fact, they don't need air-conditioning to live well in summer.

Modern villas often have large openings to maximize light, but these necessitate the use of an air conditioner to withstand the summer.

  • Charm

When you buy an old farmhouse to live in, you generally want to sublimate its charm (it's a shame if you don't) and highlight the history of your home, and this means choosing materials carefully. The budget can quickly escalate to buy wallpaper with local motifs, a typical wood-burning stove or any other material only available from THE local supplier. Similarly, not all craftsmen know how to work with traditional materials, which further reduces the range of possibilities.

  • Location

By definition, old stone can no longer be built just anywhere, so it's found in places that are typical of the era in which they were built. Buying an old house also means choosing a type of location. Old houses are mainly found in the heart of villages or in isolated locations (former farms, magnaneries or farmhouses).

Villas have been built just about anywhere, depending on the availability of land, so it's more likely that you'll have a beautiful view of Mont Ventoux, the local valley or the listed village. On the other hand, they are also very likely to be found in residential areas built between 1970 and 2000 on the outskirts of towns.

  • The land

The type of building will directly influence its size: a farmhouse will naturally come with a large plot of land, as it was the farmer's mansion. On the other hand, to find an old stone house with a small plot of land, you'll probably have to look at village houses.

Villas are more heterogeneous, even if the land is proportional to the living area.

Like the living area, the layout of the land will depend on the purpose of the building. In a modern villa, the swimming pool was built at the same time as the house, and has been designed right next to it to maximize its use. There are also adjoining terraces to take full advantage of the outdoors.

In a bastide, pools were generally not originally available, so they were created wherever possible, sometimes at the bottom of the garden. When they haven't yet been built, this can be a real headache when it comes to drawing in water and electricity.

For those who want to have their cake and eat it too, it's always possible to find beautiful old farmhouses that have been completely refurbished, with electrical circuits up to standard, optimized insulation and quality materials that are faithful to the building's history, but you'll have to pay the price in this case or go through a property hunter 🙋


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