Beth Nicholson had dreamed of moving permanently to France since her time as a university student in Grenoble. Although life got in the way, in 2017, she decided it was finally time to go back to France. With expert support and local knowledge from Beaux Villages Immobilier, she soon found a beautiful house with land in the charming hamlet of Deviat, Charentes. The only hurdle was the changing exchange rate – and, as she discovered, it was easy to control. We spoke to Beth about how Smart Currency Exchange helped her to protect her budget and take the final step in making her dream a reality.
We hear that this has been a long-held wish of yours to live in France – how did it start?
I did one of my degrees in Grenoble in France and I intended to finish my degree – it was a sandwich one to my other one in the UK – and then to always come back here. Of course, I didn’t. Life happens in one way or another.
The thing that worried me was transferring the money. I was worried about having no control over the exchange rate and not being informed enough about the markets to choose the right time.
I’d always lived in a big town in the UK and you can see how, over ten years, places deteriorate. I was working longer hours and living in a small house. Then Brexit happened and that was absolutely the final straw.
How was the process of finding and buying a home abroad?
I was looking for the house for a year or 18 months. I was actually coming over every three months and spending two or three days looking at houses, generally in the Charente and Dordogne because I spent a lot of time here when I was younger.
In the end, it was the house that dictated the area. I’m further north than I was originally looking, but it was the right house, the right place, the right village and the right time really.
You were referred to Smart Currency Exchange through our partner, Beaux Villages Immobilier. How did you find working with us as your currency company?
I really did find it a positive experience. I was selling my house in the UK, leaving the country, leaving my job. The thing that worried me was transferring the money. I was worried about having no control over the exchange rate and not being informed enough about the markets to choose the right time – I’m terrible at maths and hate finance.
With Smart, I had my dedicated personal trader, Barney, who was ever so patient and knowledgeable. I could ring him any time to ask questions or for advice.
Smart really helped me to control the risk and safeguard my budget. It was just before the Bank of England was or wasn’t going to hike interest rates up. It could have made the difference between my house costing £83,000 – which it did – and £87,000. It’s a massive indication of how important what you at Smart do is.
My personal trader Barney was very patient and very kind. Above all, he wasn’t trying to push you into doing anything. You did feel like it was not for his benefit but for my benefit.
As you mention, everyone working with Smart has their own personal trader. Was this something that helped you with the process?
Absolutely, Barney was very patient and very kind. Above all, he wasn’t trying to push you into doing anything. You did feel like it was not for his benefit but for my benefit.
I spoke to two other currency exchange businesses before Smart and there was a definite air of ‘hard sell’, which I didn’t like.
As we get closer to Brexit – and the exchange rate becomes more and more unpredictable – are you concerned?
When it comes to finances, people out here are still terrified about what will happen. Of course it’s worrying. That’s why it’s so important to have someone helping you who really understands how to the control the risk.
It’s been a while since you purchased your house now – have you settled in well?
Oh yes, I’m very well integrated! I’ve got the neighbours bringing me vegetables every morning, I’m on the Festival Committee and I write for a magazine here.
I have people come and visit me from the UK, which is always lovely, and then the home is my retreat for the rest of the year. I’ve got my sister and her partner coming soon. I’m only just over an hour and a quarter from Bordeaux Airport but I prefer to drive back up to the UK. It’s a really pretty drive and takes two days on my own (the dog’s not much help at driving!).
Sounds like it’s been a complete success! Do you have any resources you would recommend to anyone just starting the process to help make the move as smooth as yours?
When friends see I’ve bought a property eight times the size (with land) some think of doing the same themselves. There are certain things I always say. I recommend estate agents I know, and of course Smart Currency Exchange. France Property Guides was a really useful resource for me. I was downloading and printing out a lot of articles and bringing them out here. The most useful ones for me were the Viewing Worksheets. I literally just took them out and checked off each point when I was doing my viewings.
If you’re looking to move overseas like Beth, Smart Currency Exchange can help cut the risk of volatile exchange rates. Keep up to date with our daily market update to stay informed, and explore our guides for detailed information on controlling risk when buying property.