House prices are gradually going up in the French countryside
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Rural house prices in France rose by 2.1% last year – exactly the same as the increase in house prices in the UK and more than house prices in England
The average price of an old farmhouse or similar country home is now €168,200 (equivalent to £148,300) in 2018, according to data from the national rural land agency Safer.
By contrast, an average home in the UK cost £229,800 (equivalent to €260,217) by the end of 2018, 2.1% more than a year earlier. Over the same period house prices in England rose by 1.8% - slightly less than in the French countryside.
Rural house prices were roughly static in Dordogne (€147,000) and Charente (€111,000) last year but jumped significantly in Morbihan (€149,000), Côtes d'Armor (€122,000) and Pyrénées-Orientales (€228,000) and Hérault(€231,000). However, much of this is due to the desirability of the coastline, which pushes up prices, as does proximity to cities, major towns, ski resorts and other tourist hotspots.
Come inland and the prices drop. Central Brittany, for example, remains one of the cheapest places in France to buy an old farmhouse. So too is the area of southern Normandy and Mayenne around Vire and Alençon, as well as the Limousin and Auvergne in central France, and the rural parts of Indre, Cher and Nièvre. The south of Ariège in the central Pyrénées is also one of the most affordable areas. Average prices in all these regions are less than €107,000. Creuse remains the cheapest department of all; in fact rural house prices have fallen slightly here from an average of €64,000 in 2017 to €57,000 last year.
The most expensive places in mainland France to buy an old farmhouse are the Provençal departments of Bouches-du-Rhône (€441,000), Alpes-Maritimes (€326,000), Var (€325,000) and Vaucluse (€356,000), as well as Yvelines, the countryside west of Paris.
Safer defines a rural home (maison de campagne) as a dwelling with agricultural or natural land of less than five hectares bought by non-farmers. It is these old farmhouses and converted barn, with generous parcels of land, that British buyers love so much. Indeed Brits probably account for the biggest proportion of the 5% of foreign buyers who snapped up a rural French home last year, although their number has fallen somewhat since 2004 when international buyers as a whole accounted for a whopping 14% of rural house sales.
The data, published in Safer's annual Les Marchés des Fonciers Ruraux report, are known because the agency is notified when an offer has been accepted on an old agricultural dwelling that might be of use to the agricultural sector. The agency is then given the pre-emptive right to buy the property at the same price as the accepted offer, although the vast majority of sales go through without Safer exercising this right.