According to our most recent survey, international buyers in France know exactly what they’re looking for: a house or cottage in the countryside, preferably within walking distance of the local boulangerie and bistro. Then again, the seaside would be lovely too, and that apartment in Paris would be awfully nice… Here we pick out a few affordable spots whatever your perfect French property would look like.
The variety of different property types in France and the value for money they offer is clear to see. Whatever you’re buying France for – to establish a business, start a new life or enjoy happy holidays – there is something for everyone.
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Your place in the country
The clear favourite property in France is a house or cottage in the countryside, preferably in or near a village. Well, England has over 400 people per square kilometre and France has fewer than 120, so you can why so many are craving a bit of peace and quiet in France! A French country home offers a real lifestyle change and a move to the “good life”.
The most popular areas for finding this type of property are the departments of the Dordogne and the Charente. However, there are many lesser known locations offering a wealth of choice of this property type in France.
Where to buy in the country
Creuse in Nouvelle-Aquitaine can be the perfect backdrop for a more serene lifestyle. An area of natural beauty and unspoilt nature, it is the second least-populated department in France, with lakes, meadows, forests and hiking trails galore. Of course there are properties too – and a magnificent architectural and artistic heritage – with unbeatable value for money. Average house prices are around €1,000 per m2.
Then we have the glorious Alpes-de-Haute-Provence area, which is one of the largest departments in France, at just under 7,000 km around the size of Devon. With one boder touching Italy, skiing on one side and the Cote d’Azur on the other, this department also offers spectacular opportunities to find that perfect rural setting. Once again, this department is one of the least densely populated, with half of the communes housing less than 200 people. House prices here average just over €2,000 per m2.
Another option is Cantal in the Auvergne, in the heart of the Massif Central. Consisting of only five towns in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings, its name comes from the main mountain range that surrounds it. One minus might be that 20% of homes here are second homes, but that hasn’t pushed up prces too far. Homes cost around €1,400 per m2, a few hundred euros less than in the more densely populated area of the Dordogne.
Beside the seaside
Living by the sea is a lifelong dream for many and in France it’s a realistically attainable one. With over 2,000 miles of varied coastline, seaside homes rank next on the list of most popular locations for the international buyer. The most renowned place for seaside living in France is the magnificent Cote d’Azur. The beautiful Mediterranean coastline of the south-eastern side of France. But Riviera living in locations such as St Tropez, Nice and Antibes is by no means cheap.
There are however many seaside locations that could more realistically work long term for those on a smaller budget.
Searching for seaside properties
Located on the English Channel coast, perfect for those wanting to not be too far from friends and family in the UK, is Boulogne-sur-Mer. This commune, part of the Pas-de-Calais department, is considered the capital of the Opal Coast. There is a wealth of magnificent seaside resorts and with houses priced at around €1,850 per square metre, this is a great choice. For example, it compares to over €4,000 per square metre for a property in Dorset, England (accourding to the UK Land Registry).
If however, your heart is set on the Mediterranean, then Leucate, in Aude could be the place for you. Proud of its reputation of being both rural and coastal, Leucate boasts low population density. Living here is both by the sea and fairly tranquil. In fact, this area could be the perfect pick for setting up gites and guest houses with a guaranteed summertime market. Whilst the Mediterranean setting adds to the price tag with house prices at approximately €2 800 per m2 (half of that in Nice) this is still an affordable option.
The heart of the city
Stunning architecture, small footprint living, high ceilings and balconies offering a view on everything going on below, the draw of the cities is having everything at your fingertips. For some, being in the thick of it, with access to amenities, is more than simply a choice, but a lifeline. Movies set in French cities have helped to fuel the romance, from Amélie to An American in Paris.
For buyers with a large budget, Paris is the most popular location for apartment living. Nice provides not only the benefits of a large city, but the added bonus of the sea to boot. But understandably, this all adds to the already elevated price of living there. For those on a more modest budget, where can you perhaps find more affordable city centre apartments?
More affordable city living
One of the most beautiful cities in France for me, is Lyon. A spectacular city, with its quayside centre on the River Saône, Lyon is the perfect place to be right in the midst of it. Lyon is never boring. Boasting great restaurants, many activities and cultural events and has so much to offer. If the city does ever overwhelm you, there’s the opportunity to take time out within the three hills that surround it. The perfect combination of life when you need it, yet not far from surrounding countryside of magnificent beauty. Apartments in Lyon will cost you over €5,000 per m2, but that’s still almost has as much as the equivalent in Paris.
Toulouse is another wonderful option for those searching for city living without the price tag of the most popular cities in France. Capital of the Occitanie region in France, Toulouse also offers close proximity to Spain. Despite being a large city, inhabitants love the fairly relaxed way of life here. As well as the ease of travelling around by either foot or bicycle. It offers a great climate, with warm Mediterranean summers and mild winters.
Toulouse is also a great place to bring up children, centered around education and research and offering some of the best schools in France. At even better value than Lyon at around €3750 per m2, this is a great opportunity for real city living.