Having owned an apartment in France in the past, Linda Bethell is glad she and her husband now have a mobile home – the ideal French property for these uncertain times
Some 30 years ago we bought a small holiday property in France. We knew France well, through our tourist business, so there was no question of where we wanted to buy. Collioure, in Pyrénées-Orientales, is the most beautiful port town. The location was ideal for us, at the end of the French motorway system with easy access to Spain and the Palafrugell area, where we had our Catalan contacts.
Our one-bedroom apartment was ready to move into, with a small balcony looking south to Port-Vendres and out to sea. The residence had a pool and communal gardens with a caretaker. The property also had an active rental business, with mainly French customers.
We had many enjoyable years in Collioure and as time went by, we increased the rentals to cover the British market and also the Dutch and Belgians. In fact, the business was so successful that we were unable to use the apartment ourselves when we wished! Also, Collioure had become very busy. Reluctantly, we decided to sell up as we had been contacted by a French family who were looking to buy a property in our residence.
A MOBILE HOME
Fast forward to five years ago and we were once again thinking of a second home in France. Our business had expanded and we needed easy access to France, Catalonia and Tuscany. We still wanted to be near the sea but apartments along the Mediterranean were now out of our price range, so the idea of a mobile home came to mind.
We were pleasantly surprised by the quality, build and range of facilities on offer. Our first choice of location was around Fréjus, a port town on the Côte d’Azur, but the mobile homes we saw there just weren’t suitable for us. We started to look in Hérault around Pézenas, ideally positioned between the Italian and Spanish borders.
Between Pézenas and Béziers, 30 minutes from the sea, we found a small mobile home site in the middle of a vineyard. Two homes were available, both with two bedrooms, sleeping up to six people, one of which was ideal for us. The previous owners had left it in excellent order with everything we needed, including a large wooden terrace with sun awning, a garden and amazing views across the vineyards. All the furniture was included, and we already had our own linen and crockery from the apartment. All we needed was an air-conditioning unit, which we bought locally. The site also has a heated pool, open from mid-May to mid-September, with a pool attendant in July and August.
THE RIGHT MOVE
Our mobile home has many advantages over our old apartment, from the peaceful surroundings to the low annual fees and the amount of private space on our plot. The location is ideal too, just 20 minutes from Béziers airport and a little further to the nearest TGV station.
One of the main financial advantages is the annual fees; we pay a small annual rental of under €3,000, plus gas, electricity and water, all paid at the end of the year. Space was a priority – here we are able to park our car alongside the property and also have a good-sized garden, hedged to provide privacy.
We bought our mobile home for about a quarter of the price of the apartment, but we can enjoy a far greater range of facilities. The site has a large pool with sunbeds, boules courts, regular fun competitions and shady communal areas. And then there are the vineyards, offering an excellent choice of vintages.
Another reason for choosing a mobile home is that we had the option of buying it in either sterling or in euros. Plus there were no notaires’ fees nor are we subject to French property tax systems. When we can visit France again, we will only have to make the beds ready for our stay.
As regards the location of the apartment versus the mobile home, the attributes of Collioure have been well documented. The area between Pézenas and Béziers, however, has its own delights. There’s the Étang de Thau with its charming small towns, Marseillan, Mèze and Bouzigues, offering plentiful local shellfish, especially the famed oysters. The Canal du Midi cuts a leisurely swathe across the area, lined with attractive villages like Villeneuve-lès-Béziers, Poilhes and Capestang.
Pézenas, just five minutes away, has a beautiful old centre and is known throughout France for its association with the playwright Molière. And Collioure is still within easy reach for a visit or perhaps a leisurely lunch.
The apartment had been right for us at the time but it would be wrong for us now. The management costs were high, there was the additional journey down to Collioure, and we didn’t have a garden, just the small balcony.
Nowadays, the mobile home is perfect for us. It is in the closest area on the Mediterranean from the Channel ports so we can travel from the UK in several ways, space is not an issue, and as our nearest neighbours are behind hedges there are no noise problems.
Although we cannot enjoy our mobile home at present due to Covid travel restrictions, we are in the enviable situation of having low costs of just the plot fee plus any additional bills, such as the servicing of the gas boiler, and our garden is virtually maintenance free.
For now, while there are many questions and few answers, perhaps a mobile home could provide a cost-effective way to visit and stay in France – a temporary insight into an unknown area with a view to possibly buying a property next year, or just a place to call one’s own until the trials of this year lessen.