France is a huge country, twice the size of the UK, with different regions with different attractions and climates. So how are you going to choose where to buy your house. Here are some tips.
One factor must be accessibility. If you are intending to live in the UK and come across for weekends throughout the year, it makes sense to choose a location near an airport, port or station. Most budget airline routes tend to go to airports on the Western side of France and it is no coincidence that this part is so popular with British house-hunters.
A second factor must be price. Over time in France, the population has drifted away from the agricultural parts of France to the big cities such as Paris, Lyon and Marseilles. This has meant that property prices in the rural departments are much cheaper than those near the big cities. In addition, property in the main tourist zones of the beaches and the Alps will be at a premium. You are likely to find the best bargains in the parts of France where many French people have left.
A third factor is the quality of your DIY skills. If you take on an ‘old wreck’ you are going to have to spend a lot of time and/or money getting the house as you want. Do you really want to spend all your holidays for the next couple of years knee deep in dust? Do you want to project manage local workers whilst you are in the UK?
A fourth factor is the climate. Make sure you visit the area at different times of year before you buy. Some places can get unbearably hot in summer. Other places can be freezing in winter. Other places get as much rain as the UK.
But what if you want to move out permanently? If you are retired, this will be no problem but what if you are looking to work? How can you find a job if the local young French people cannot? One idea that many people do successfully is to offer holiday accommodation. Could that outhouse be converted into accommodation you could let six months a year? Another idea is to provide a service for other English people in the region. Could you take a van across to England every week and then run a market stall in your town full of English products? (Don’t underestimate the demand for baked beans amongst the expatriate community!) Have you got a trade, particularly in the building industry, that other English arrivals are looking for? Could you run an Internet business from your home (in which case you have to make sure your chosen house has access to ADSL)?
If you have children, you will have to consider schooling. Many young English children get on really well in the French system. However, many others do not. Where is the nearest International school? How easy is it to get a place there? Two of my children ended up going to boarding school in England for their sixth form so I’d advise you to think about this problem seriously.
Finally, don’t be greedy. You can get a much bigger property for the same price as in the UK for the same money. But large houses with big grounds need a lot of looking after. You don’t want to spend half of your lovely life in France dusting and mowing.