We've actually known this for a few days now, but we have finally found a new place to live. It's been quite a long process, starting in July when we gave our 3+ months' notice. We focused on a few villages and areas of Angers where we were interested in living and we both had our criteria: I wanted charm and loveliness and Jean-Marc wanted access to outside. We both wanted a place that was bigger, closer to work and affordable.
Before we took off for Holland, my yoga teacher emailed to say that he was moving out of his great apartment in Angers. It had 3 bedrooms, wood floors, lots of windows and some (non-working) fireplaces. It felt meant-to-be because he was moving out exactly when we needed to move. It had the loveliness I was after but there was no access to outside, it was a bit more expensive, and the kitchen was tiny. It was an option that we kept in our back pocket while we looked at other houses and apartments, most of which were in the 600€ price range.
In the meantime, I went to a few mairies (town halls) in our preferred villages and asked about any rentals that they might know about. When I was in Savennières - our first choice for a village - the helpful secretary at the mairie asked if I had applied for social housing. I had heard of it and knew that it was widely available even for those with a regular income but I had never applied. She gave me the form and explained how the process could take a number of months or years (!). I filled out the form, attached all sorts of paperwork (tax returns, pay stubs etc.) and within a week we had a applicant number. One week later, a social housing agency, of which there are many, called to offer us a 3 bedroom 1000 square foot apartment in Savennières. We had a look and we decided to take it.
The apartment is in a building that was once a manor and then a retirement home. It was redone about 4 years ago. The building is set back from a tiny winding one-way street and it has a large piece of land around it, so it's quiet. We are on the ground floor, with access to outside: the front has a shared outdoor courtyard and the back has a more private large patio surrounded by trees. They say it's 3 bedrooms, but it's actually got more rooms. It's airy, bright and neutral. The kitchen and two of the bedrooms have windowed doors that lead to outside. There are a few downsides: no actual garden - just paved courtyard and patio - the whole place is tiled in cream tile (Why, oh why? I'm writing my rug list!), and the charm is a little lacking but not completely missing. As I mentioned, it's neutral and I think I can create something lovely with this blank canvas. The real clincher for us was the price: 415€/month. That's less than we are paying right now! Plus it's in a charming village a stone's throw from the Loire, in a wine-making area with lots of walking and cycling trails, and only 5 km from Jean-Marc's work and 15 km from mine. It's pretty much win-win with just a few compromises.
Our notice was for November 1, but we will get the keys on October 1 and get two weeks free. It means paying two rents for the last two weeks of October, but the amount that we are saving (real estate agency fees which are normal for rentals) and the ability to move in slowly makes it worth it.