Estate agent interview: Nord-Pas-de-Calais

No-one knows the area like a local estate agent. We asked Gwen Williams, of Hexagone France, for the inside track on this picturesque area of France

What’s the cheapest property you have on your books right now?

Our cheapest at present is a three-bedroom detached house for €49,000. It has a garage but no garden and is in a tiny village on the outskirts of the market town of Hesdin. The house is perfectly habitable but it is in need of refurbishment.

What’s the most unusual property you have now?

At the moment we have an old schoolmaster’s house in a country village near Hesdin. The village council renovated it before putting it up for sale. It is a detached property with a pretty garden, in a nice position on the little village square and is on the market for €106,000, including all fees.

What’s the most unusual request you’ve had from a client?

More than 20 years ago, clients who had just signed a preliminary contract for a village house asked me to arrange for the bus shelter outside their house to be removed as they didn’t like it. It didn’t happen; the bus shelter is still there.

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How much would you expect to pay for:

1. A detached property with land in good condition?

It varies; cities and the coast are the most expensive while the relatively rural, inland areas to the west of the region and the outlying villages are relatively inexpensive. A detached house in good order with some land, in this part of the region, starts at around €150,000.

2. A three-bedroom townhouse?

A habitable, three-bedroom town house in Hesdin would be between €80,000 and €150,000 depending on its size, its age and the size of the garden.

3. A renovation opportunity?

A renovation opportunity could be between €70,000 and €125,000 depending on the size and the amount of work needed.

Is there a typical architecture or style in your region?

Picturesque farmhouses predominate, often white-painted with bricks at the base, which is a very pleasant and attractive style. Traditionally these farmhouses were built with the main house and its outbuildings arranged around a central courtyard.

Why do British people buy houses in your region?

For many reasons: the beauty of the landscape, the milder climate, the quieter pace of life, the seemingly endless coastline with its sandy beaches. It’s close to the UK, road connections are good, and by train Arras is less than an hour from Paris.

What advice would you give to somebody who is thinking of buying in your area?

Follow your dream. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who regretted buying a house in France.

What are your predictions for the property market in your region?

With sterling rising against the euro and prices in the region still low, now is a good time to buy. There are plenty of properties on the market at reasonable prices but this will change rapidly when growth returns. Typically after a recession the property market in northern France picks up about a year later than in the UK, so there is not long to go before prices rise sharply and demand starts to out-strip supply. We have seen this happen several times over the years.

What are the regional specialities?

Some of the regional specialities include local cheeses and beer, chickens from Licques, wonderful fish and seafood. Étaples is the place to go to buy fish direct from the boats.

Describe your region in five words?

Unspoiled, seaside, seafood, agriculture, history.

What’s your favourite corner of the region?

It has to be the seafood restaurant on the beach at Merlimont.

www.hexagonefrance.comRead our Q&A with an agent in Charente-Maritime