Wednesday, January 17, 2018

For sale: One deserted French village, pool included

COURBEFY, France — The village of Courbefy has rustic buildings with fireplaces and exposed beams, a horse stable, a tennis court and a swimming pool.

Sound nice? It's for sale.

The saga of the abandoned hamlet is a story of flight from rural France, bad economic times and real estate schemes gone awry. It has turned the mayor of the village next door into a minor celebrity whose office fields inquiries from places as far-flung as Qatar and China.

The village in Limousin, about 280 miles southwest of Paris, was put on the block last week because its latest owners, who had run it as a luxury hotel and restaurant, had long stopped paying their mortgage.

The entire hamlet carried an asking price of just $400,000 — about the cost of a studio apartment in Paris.

But nobody bid.

That meant the village fell into the hands of bank Credit Agricole, which holds the mortgage. The bank hopes to put it up for auction again, and this time the odds are more promising: Since word leaked out to the media that an authentic French village was up for sale, Courbefy has swarmed with potential buyers, joined by curious hangers-on.

This past Sunday more than 50 cars pulled onto the grass that serves as a parking lot just inside the gated entrance to Courbefy.

Among those who are considering the place: a band of former college friends who always promised to live in a commune together, a group of retirees looking for a place to settle down, people interested in setting up a center for the handicapped, others scouting locations for a film set and studio.

"It's a real media phenomenon, it's crazy," said Bernard Guilhem, mayor of Saint Nicolas Courbefy, just down the hill from Courbefy.

Who wouldn't, after all, want to own a French village?

Well, Credit Agricole, for one.

The bank, eager to unload it, gave suitors a Thursday deadline to express serious interest by leaving a deposit of $440,000 — by law 10 percent higher than the original asking price. A new auction date will then be set.

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