Everyone is on vacation. :-)
When I say "everyone" what I mean is that this house has multiple owners. This is because French inheritance laws are very different compared to the U.S. and are designed to protect the rights of the children and not so much the rights of the surviving spouse. No one is completely free to pass down his or her property and assets exactly as he or she wishes. A will (testament) does not change this though there are some legal ways that you can use to (sort of) get around it. This site (and a darn good site it is too) has a good basic review of the law and I'll use their example below to illustrate how it works.
Let's say that a married couple has a house and two children. One spouse dies (you) and you didn't do any estate planning ahead of time. What happens next??
...the [surviving] spouse will receive 1/4 of your estate and the children 2/3 of your estate, with the remaining 1/12th freely disposable, e.g. to your surviving spouse.
So the surviving spouse in our example would get 1/4 of the value of the house and the two children would get 2/3 of the value of the house. Where it gets very interesting is if there is inheritance tax (which is based on the worldwide assets by the way) due to the French government. In the past if the heirs owed something, it was due within 6 months but the site I consulted says that some relief is now possible - a deferral of 5 to 10 years - if property is involved.
I don't know the particulars of the owners' lives (and it's not really my business) but it looks like this is a classic French inheritance situation where there must be a surviving spouse and children, or just several children, as heirs.
As for the house itself, here are a few details. The house is about 100 years old, brick (not stone) and is located in an area of Versailles that was originally working class (quartier ouvrier). The main floor is 55 square meters (592 square feet) and is composed of a living room (salon), dining room (salle à manger), kitchen (cuisine) and one bedroom (chambre). All the rooms are very small but lovely with pretty molding around the ceiling and light fixtures. There are porches off the living room and the kitchen so you can open up the French doors in the summer and make the house seem much bigger. No fireplace (it appears to have been removed) but under the carpet are oak floors that could be refinished. The kitchen is nearly bare and only has one small countertop and one cupboard. There isn't a second story but there is a basement which has two bedrooms. The garden is glorious.
I'd call it a "fixer-upper" but I don't think that does it justice (not to mention that the word would imply neglect on the part of the owners). On the contrary, they did a wonderful job of maintaining it - all the wear (carpets and wallpaper) is simply what one would expect given that a couple and their children spent a lifetime living here. This house feels loved and all the important stuff is in great shape. Here are a few pictures of the ground floor and the garden:
|View of the living room from the dining room|