So, you know you want to buy in France, but how do you narrow down your househunting area and decide what kind of property to buy? Karen Tait reports
Hopefully over the last few pages we’ve established why you would want to own a property in France, but it’s a very big country with hugely varying scenery, cultures and climate, so deciding exactly where you want to be isn’t always easy. Here are a few pointers to help you choose.
Room with a view
You have over 640,000 square kilometres to explore, offering a vast range of landscapes, with over 5,000 kilometres of coastline, mountain peaks, gently rolling hills, dramatic valleys, vast plateaux, vineyards… you name it, you’ll probably be able to find it in France. Even if you’re set on mountains, you have several ranges to choose from (Alps, Pyrénées, Vosges, Jura), while the coastline goes from rugged inlets to never-ending sandy beaches, and windswept headlands to glamorous seaside resorts. Some areas are full of lively market towns; others have mile upon mile of unspoilt and tranquil vistas. There’s no better way to decide where you want to be than to actually visit the various different areas of France, and at all times of the year if possible. The summer holiday periods will offer a very different experience than the quieter winter months, so it’ll help to have the complete picture.
Town or country
The French countryside is stunning, so it’s easy to see why rural homes are popular with Brits. But consider too what towns and villages have to offer, and whether you’d be better off with easy access to shops, restaurants, doctors and other amenities. An edge-of-town location can be a good compromise. Your needs may vary depending on whether you’re buying a holiday or permanent home, and also if you’re considering running a B&B or gîtes. Towns tend to offer more year-round business, and although many people want a rural idyll for their holidays, they often want to be close to a bar or boulangerie. Then there’s a city pied-à-terre to consider, with all manner of culture, heritage, entertainment and retail therapy on your doorstep, not to mention work opportunities for those moving to France.
Whatever the weather
While parts of France definitely offer hotter, drier summers and milder winters than the UK, a country with such vast geographical differences will clearly have different weather patterns too. The climate close to the Channel will be similar to Britain, while the south of France has warmer Mediterranean conditions. It is said that the weather changes for the better south of the River Loire, but what you consider ‘better’ will differ too. It can be too hot in the Midi for some people, for example, while others might be put off by the rain in northern Brittany. To study the climate across France you can consult the French weather website meteo.fr.
Access all areas
This isn’t just important for those seeking a holiday home as even if you’re making a full-time move you’ll probably want to return to the UK from time to time, not to mention visits from friends and family. Ease of access is crucial for holiday accommodation too. There are many ways to reach our nearest neighbour: hop on a plane, drive onto the ferry or let the train take the strain. Over the years new flight routes have opened up once cut-off parts of France to British holidaymakers and househunters. To future-proof your journey, it makes sense to have more than one travel option, just in case a flight closes or driving becomes too much of a strain.
How you want to spend your time in France is also part of the equation. Regardless of whether you’ll be using your property for holidays or living there full-time, consider what you’ll do while you’re there. Do you prefer outdoor activities or the theatre and other nightlife? Some purchases will be determined entirely by this choice, for example, a ski apartment or chalet, while others, especially permanent homes, are more likely to be a mixture of practical and desirable factors. Don’t forget to consider the wishes of all the family too.
How much you have to spend on a property will also affect your choices. While €100,000 will buy you a habitable home in many parts of northern, western and central France, you’ll be lucky to find a tiny studio for that price on the Côte d’Azur or perhaps a garage in Paris! Before you set your heart on an area, make sure you can afford it – or if you simply have to buy there, be prepared to compromise on the kind of property you can buy. You can compare average prices online at www.immoprix.com or www.vendre.seloger.com, while property portals like www.francepropertyshop.com and agency websites will give you a good idea of the typical prices asked for the kind of property you want in your chosen area. When deciding on both the location and property, it helps to make a wishlist, including the aspects that are absolutely essential as well as those you would ideally like to have.
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