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4 Aug, 2007 18:01

Many Russians buying medieval castles in France

Owning a medieval castle in Europe is too expensive for most Europeans, but it seems like a good investment for growing numbers of Russians. More and more are settling in France, where they have the choice of some 12 thousand antique estates.

Olga is the proud owner of a medieval castle in France. Walking around the 500-hectare estate near Paris, she recalls her small lot in the suburbs of Moscow and believes that she's managed to bring a piece of Russia to France.

“My son was baptised in the castle church by a Russian priest who came from Paris. Now you can feel the Russian spirit here,” the landlady said.

But a personal € 5 MLN castle with a moat and chapel can be a much more costly prospect than just making the initial outlay.

If you buy a castle in bad condition and if you don't try to restore it within two years, the state will deprive you of the property.

Lucia Dufont, real estate agent

French legislation has a way of adding on unseen expenses. You may buy a perfect piece of history bedecked with spiked roofs, a special spit for a pig and a dingy ancient cell but you will be obliged to look after it.

“If you buy a castle in bad condition and if you don't try to restore it within two years, the state will deprive you of the property,” Lucia Dufort, a real estate agent, commented.

Also, being the owner of a real castle, Olga cannot even change the windows in her greenhouse without special permission.

But what is even more troublesome is taxation.

“In Paris the housing tax for a hundred square meter flat is around € 4,000 a year, so you can imagine the amount involved for this castle,” explained Aleksandr Kolosovsky, a lawyer .

And Olga's home near Paris is not totally hers. For a month each year, the 15-bedroom castle turns into a museum. Opening a historical estate to the public is tax deductible.

Several dozen Russians have purchased French castles in the past two years. Yet many of them choose not to save on taxes, keeping their luxurious homes for themselves alone, rather than opening them to the public.