How to get the most from your winter househunt in France

How to get the most from your winter househunt in France

With a flask of café and a map in hand, Nav Vilain suggests now is a great time to get out on the road while the househunting hordes hibernate for the winter

Winter has certainly arrived across Europe and as usual it is on time, in some places ahead of schedule. However, do not allow the colder months to stop you from visiting properties in France. On the contrary, there is a lot to learn from viewing a property in winter and it can also be a very pleasant experience.

The most obvious disadvantage is the weather. Conditions vary across the country – colder altitude regions experience large variations between seasons such as in the Alps, Pyrénées and parts of the Massif Central, contrasting with the milder and more temperate conditions of the coastal areas.

Although the weather itself is not the showstopper, the shorter days can leave a day’s worth of viewings cut short by around 3pm, so make sure you factor this in. If you have a large list of properties to view, do leave enough time as driving distances can sometimes be considerable between rural properties.

A weekend trip to view 10 properties would be very ambitious over winter and you would return home feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Therefore, if you can try and book a good few days off you will have a more rewarding property viewing experience as a whole.

Getting to France over winter is not a problem, although you should be aware that some flight schedules and ferry crossings are reduced over the winter months with some airlines cancelling winter flights altogether. There is often an alternative airport, however, so it is usually simply a case of altering travel plans.

France is blessed with a wonderful selection of character properties. However, some larger domaines and châteaux come with a lot of land. Although it is unlikely that the estate agent will walk each and every patch of land you may want to equip yourself with suitable footwear. Yes, it’s a great excuse to go out and buy some lovely new wellies!

Naturally, there are far fewer tourists visiting rural France in winter which means that you will have a greater choice of accommodation and often at cheaper rates. There can be considerable savings to be made, so if you are flexible, an autumn or winter break could be a good option. If you are thinking of travelling by plane you may also benefit from considerably cheaper flight deals, especially with the low-cost carriers.

With its long school holidays, summer is a practical time for families to organise property viewing trips, which makes it is a busy period for agents. Plus, summer property visits with kids in tow can sometimes be counterproductive. It is great in theory to tie your trip in with a family holiday and throw in a few property viewings here and there, but it is not always the ideal scenario as not many children, especially the younger ones, take delight in driving around from property to property. Do also take into consideration the time between properties as this can very easily take an entire day or more.

Househunting over Christmas can be a truly enchanting experience. If you are visiting during the festive season be sure to see if there are any Christmas markets, always full of charm and warmth. There’s nothing more comforting than sipping a chocolat chaud or vin chaud after a long day of property viewings.

And don’t forget to partake in the various local delicacies. My favourite is the galette des Rois (king’s cake), a puff pastry cake or pie traditionally made with frangipane. Hidden inside the galette is a porcelain figurine. The person who finds it becomes the king or queen and gets to choose their partner and wear the crown, for the day at least. From the beginning of the new year you will see les galettes displayed in boulangeries and pâtisseries throughout the country.

So, wrap up warm and enjoy la France in the chilly wintry months. You might find that you fall in love with the country more than ever. One thing is for sure: if you like a house in winter, you’re sure to love it in summer.

Nav Vilain is marketing director at Selection HabitatTel: 0033 (0)5 65 70 10 49

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