Denise and Wendy Barker, from Essex, were left £120,000 as an inheritance and wanted to spend it on something that the whole family would enjoy, including the five children they have between them. “It would be a holiday home where we could all meet up, to spend quality time, but also to pass on as inheritance,” says Wendy, adding “We had originally wanted to buy before the Referendum, but delayed, stupidly, because we thought the rate would improve after a Remain vote!”
Having put their plans on hold when the value of the pound dropped, by last spring they were champing at the bit. “Then we were worried by Article 50, thinking the rate would drop. But we were wrong about that too! We had all these amazing plans and just didn’t want to waste any more time, so when the pound rose last April we went on a viewing trip and agreed to buy a property.” The three-bedroom property is in the Indre region of central France, and is exactly what they had always dreamed of. “It’s an old and beautiful country cottage near a town called Le Blanc, with a garden running down to the river which all the kids can swim in. We can take our dogs down there too. It really is heaven.”
The rate was around €1.16 and they were thrilled with both the rate they got and the house, which was priced at just under €125,000. Adds Denise, “Our absolute maximum was £120,000 but we had to pay buying costs out of that.”
“My neighbour agreed and told us that we were taking a terrible risk. She suggested speaking to a currency specialist.,” – Wendy Barker.
Having paid their deposit of €12,000, the sisters were busy making plans for furnishing the property, when a chance encounter with a neighbour saved their purchase, explains Wendy. “I was telling a neighbour about it all, and mentioned in passing that I hoped the exchange rate didn’t fall before we completed or we would be in trouble. It had been a real worry for me as with the deposit and legal costs we were committed to spending thousands. My neighbour agreed and told us that we were taking a terrible risk. She suggested speaking to a currency specialist.” Denise adds: “To be honest, it had never even crossed our minds that there was another way to send euros to France, other than by asking our UK bank to do it, or doing it via on-line banking. So we went online and found Smart.”
The sisters spoke to a trader at Smart Currency Exchange, explained their tight financial situation. After the friendly chat they opted to take out a forward contract. “We paid 10% to get the rate on that day, agreeing that we would exchange the rest within a year. We thought the purchase would be completed in a couple of weeks.” In fact, the purchase took more time than that, and the sister watched in a mixture of horror and relief as the pound fell like a stone after the General Election.
“Where would we have found another £10,000? I think we would have had to pull out and lose our deposit.”
By the summer it was all ready to complete and pay the balance. “Had we not taken out that contract we would have had to buy the property at around €1.07. Where would we have found another £10,000?” says Wendy. “I think we would have had to pull out and lose our deposit,” adds Denise, “and given that this was an inheritance that would have been awful.”
Nearly a year on, the sisters are happy to recommend Smart: “We use Smart every time now. To think, we used to change money at the airport!” They use a Regular Payments Plan for ongoing payments such as property taxes, utility bills and maintenance, again with a forward contract. “We are not millionaires, and we need to know what things will cost. Without a forwards, how do you ever budget? It would be crazy.”
The sisters agree that their currency forecasting days are over. “It’s safety first from now on,” says Wendy.
(Names have been changed)
Are you planning to buy a property abroad with friends or family? Our partners at Property Guides have a great guide on how to make it a success complete with handy tips and comments from real families who have been through the experiences themselves.
If you are ready to buy a home in France, we will be at Your Overseas Home. It’s a new style of overseas property show, where those serious about buying can get answers to detailed questions, along with introductions to trusted lawyers, agents and currency providers. Click here to apply for FREE tickets to shows in London, Manchester and Glasgow from this March and throughout 2018.