Mains drainage is a luxury. Be careful to check the pipework in any property you look at. Even in towns and villages that have a sewerage system (often accompanied by a monument to celebrate the date of installation) older houses may not be piped in. If you’re near a river, ensure that your out-pipe doesn’t excrete directly into the water or if you’re in a street of houses which are all connected to the mains, be sure that your house isn’t the one with an ancient overflowing septic tank beneath the kitchen.

In rural areas, or when engaging in a barn conversion, installing a new septic tank is frequently necessary. The famous fosse septique (septic tank) is not as complicated as it first appears. There are many difficulties for the uninitiated; SPANC the regulatory body can be obtruse and unhelpful and their objections can be myriad. However it is very rare that a solution is not found. Often it’s a case of putting in a more sophisticated tank than the basic model, or of ignoring one of their representatives and dealing with another. It’s sufficient to say that, as with gaining any other permissions in France, the process can be longer than one might expect. Here is another area in which a little good planning and research go a long way. Many French professionals have a good grasp of English, but it is certainly an advantage not to rely on the French to speak your language in their country. Success in all these areas is made much simpler if you can communicate in French. The French are right about what is polite in France. They are always right.