Jacqueline Hanks throws the spotlight on Bergerac to explain why she loves the area around this pretty dordogne market town…
It’s February – the month of St-Valentin and a time for romance. I can’t think of a better place in the world to be than Bergerac, one of the prettiest and most seductive market towns in France.
Those of us who were born in France genuinely feel that we have cornered the market when it comes to affairs of the heart and I hope that over the next few minutes I can cast a spell so that you too fall in love with the region I call home. Who knows… you may even like it so much you decide to join me out here!
Let’s start with Bergerac itself before moving on to some of the surrounding areas. The first thing to say is how easy it is to get to from the UK. It has a small, but practical, airport with five carriers including Ryanair and Flybe. You can take flights to 16 destinations in Great Britain and Ireland as well as the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. If you would rather come by car then there is simple access to France’s excellent motorway system and, of course, there is a railway station connecting to the SNCF network.
Once you reach Bergerac, I would suggest heading to the Notre Dame church and the St-Catherine neighbourhood. The magnificent neo-Gothic church was rebuilt in the 19th century and boasts a bell tower 80 metres high. From here you can stroll down to the famous covered market. Be prepared for an explosion of colours and I’d suggest you take a seat at one of the pretty caf�s and simply watch the locals go about their daily lives.
Continue south down Rue St-James and admire the architecture of the beautiful bourgeois houses. I particularly like number 21, which is a grand Louis XIII house with shops on the ground floor. Of course, you should also make your way to the biggest square in Bergerac at Place P�lissi�re. Don’t forget to have your photo taken next to the statue of Cyrano de Bergerac.
More and more investors are looking at buy-to-let opportunities in Bergerac. Thanks to the airport, commerce and tourists, there is always a strong rental demand in the town centre. French lenders are still offering decent rates – at the time of writing, you could get an 80% mortgage, over 25 years, at 4.65%. Yields vary but are impressive when compared with those available in the UK. If you are looking for a home to live in (either full time or for holidays), you may want to look at some of the surrounding towns and villages so that you can enjoy the countryside while still making day trips to Bergerac or Bordeaux.
I am currently mandated by a lovely young family in Hong Kong who have a budget of €230,000 and are looking for a four-bed farmhouse with pool, views and letting potential. I’m optimistic that I will be able to help them although there is a great deal of ‘average’ property on the market in this price range. It’s currently a buyers’ market and some of the local vendors don’t seem to realise that their houses are overpriced. There was much press comment last year about rising house prices in France, which may well have been true in Paris or on the C�te d’Azur but it wasn’t the case in some parts of the Dordogne, and vendors need to understand this and not charge over the odds.
ABOVE THE PARAPET
Of course, the Dordogne is world-famous for the quality and quantity of its ch�teaux. The most popular on my patch is the Ch�teau de Monbazillac. This is a wonderful Renaissance building and a personal favourite. It is open all year and at the end of your visit you can stroll around the gardens with views across the Dordogne valley then enjoy a complimentary glass of their own Monbazillac wine.
If this gets you in the mood for owning a ch�teau of your own, then how about turning that dream into a reality? A tidy sum of €740,000 would buy you a 700m� ch�teau to renovate on the outskirts of Bergerac. Set in a landscaped park of 75 hectares, it is a beautiful stone house with plenty of character and an abundance of outbuildings. Be warned though that the ch�teau is in need of complete restoration and this is not a project for the inexperienced or faint-hearted.
ON THE RIVERBANK
Perhaps you would be better off looking at a wonderful 17th-century p�rigourdine house that I know in the centre of Bergerac. It was completely restored in 2007 and sits on a plot of 1996m� (around half an acre, which is good for a town centre house). The house has four bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, 60m� lounge with feature fireplace and three bathrooms.
Downstairs, the renovation includes natural stone flooring and the gardens have direct access to the River Dordogne. Indeed, the pretty and secluded garden also boasts a salt-water pool and even an automatic watering system so you can just sit back and enjoy your pre-dinner swim and ap�ritif. The asking price is €545,000.
Another house that I like is a new build-just outside Bergerac. Constructed in 2004, it sits in a large plot of 5,100m�, has direct access to the Dordogne river and is in a quiet location ideal for anglers and nature lovers. Inside, there is plenty of space too (200m�) with four bedrooms, two dining rooms, sitting room and fully fitted kitchen. You don’t need to break the bank with this one either as the owners are asking a most reasonable €263,000.
FIGURE IT OUT
According to the latest figures from the Notaires de France, the average price of a house in the Bergerac area is currently €126,600, so you can see that we have something for everyone here, no matter what your budget.
I said earlier that I treat house price indices with caution but the Notaires de France also give the following figures for house price movement:
• 2006/7 +5.6%
• 2007/8 +4.8%
• 2008/9 -6.3%
• 2009/10 -2.5%
• 2010/11 +7.8%
In my opinion, prices will be pretty static throughout 2012 with properties in good locations selling well. Don’t just rely on the internet for your property search. If you truly want to search the whole market to find ‘the one’, you may have to cast your net wide and use all the means at your disposal.
I do hope that my words have helped paint a useful description of this beautiful and romantic area. The very best way for you to discover it though is to hop on a plane, car or train and come and see for yourself.
Jacqueline Hanks is a private-client buying agent. [email protected]