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COURBEFY, France — The village of Courbefy has rustic buildings with fireplaces and exposed beams, a horse stable, a tennis court and a swimming pool.
In the 1970s, running water was brought to the last corners of France but many people ended up leaving villages where hooking up to the grid was too difficult and expensive
Other villages were abandoned as farming became industrialized and small plots like those in Courbefy didn't lend themselves to mechanization. Anywhere that manual trades predominated risked being emptied out, as children sought better education and easier lifestyles in big towns and cities.
Courbefy followed the former path for many years, passing through a series of hands — many foreign — becoming variously a summer camp for children, a property to rent for vacations and conferences, a luxury hotel and restaurant.
But folly seemed to lay at the end of every road.
Guilhem says the people who scooped up the village always seemed to be amateurs in their chosen field, running the place more on love than know-how.
Its latest incarnation began at the start of the last decade. Sometime in 2008 or early 2009, the owners abandoned it, according to Guilhem, who says they may have been done in by an overly ambitious plan to renovate — a familiar story of property bought at peak prices whose owners are unable to keep up with interest payments once crisis hits.
The village, which includes 19 buildings and a swimming pool, was once home to about 200 people.