We all have an image of our picture perfect French house, don’t we? With brightly coloured shutters, lavender in the garden, maybe a goose on the pond… Or perhaps you were thinking more along the lines of spiral staircases, turrets, a west wing, a moat, and stables?

If your ambitions are just that bit bigger that most people buying in France, then you’re in luck. The French government, saddled with more than two trillion euros of public debt, is selling off some of its state properties. Several thousand properties, in fact, out of a portfolio worth some €190 billion in total. State treasures already sold include one of Louis XV’s hunting lodges, a chateau on Lake Geneva with its own “private port”, a convent, a barracks in Paris’s 7th arrondissement (that one went for €77million). You can even buy a part of the Palace of Versailles, priced at €5,500 per square metre.

As it seeks to cut its debt, the French government is selling some historic houses, including castles and country mansions.

The sales have not been limited to France itself. In November, Monsieur Hollande’s government sold a neo-classical palace built in Vienna in 1834 to the Qatari government for €35 million and its UN ambassador’s New York apartment for €48 million. It’s not just that they need the cash, insisted a French government spokesperson; the cost of upkeep is another reason for the sell off, along with security concerns that mean many government buildings requiring round the clock armed protection – which isn’t always popular with the neighbours. However, don’t expect too much of a bargain, said the spokesperson: “we are not here to dispose of state heritage at any old price.”

The properties are on sale via a French government portal: economie.gouv.fr/cessions. It is not the easiest site to navigate, however, and many are being sold via estate agents too, feeding through unawares to international buyers. Our partners also have several distinctly classy French properties for sale.

The house with it Arles
You could think about swapping your north London terraced house for this 17th century chateau in the beautiful southern town of Arles.

Castles - Arles

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It has 18 bedrooms spread over a 450-square-metre main house and separate buildings. The chateau has several baronial-looking reception rooms, stone spiral staircases and fireplaces and a vaulted cellar. Outside are stables and paddocks, a formal garden with conical bushes, plus 100 hectares of pasture, orchards and woods. All for €5.95million, in Provence.

Montpellier mansion
Close to one of France’s most exciting cities, Montpellier, in the Languedoc region near the south coast, this castle dates from well before Asterix the Gaul and comes with Celtic and Roman ruins. It has two separate houses, refurbished in 2010 and more than a dozen apartments. Everything is ready for a rural tourism business.

Castles - Montpellier

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Spread over two wings are over 13 apartments, two detached houses, a church, barns, tennis courts and a large, heated infinity swimming pool. It covers 1,700 square metres restored since 2002 and 300 square metres still to be renovated. Sold fully-furnished with a restaurant, the grounds include a working vineyard with its own label.

Buying a House in France Guide.

The France Buying Guide walks you step-by-step through each stage of the property buying process in France. Additionally, there are also practical recommendations from our experts who have been through the process themselves. The guide will help you to:

  Understand Brexit
  Find your property
  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying in France

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