Do you really want a holiday home?
Are you thinking of buying one? The question says it all: THINK. Think long and hard before you jump in your car with your hard-earned savings to buy that beautiful cottage high in the hills of Provence. I’d recommend that you don’t even start thinking about booking a trip over until you’ve thought about WHY.
Why is probably the most important question. Do you want a place simply for the holidays or maybe you are thinking of relocating or retiring there eventually? Or is this second home really just an investment?
If it is just a holiday home then you have to ask yourself who will be using it and what sort of holidays they want. It is a waste of money buying a pretty cottage lost in the lavender fields of Provence if you like holidays packed with adventure or nightlife. The next question to ask is how often you will use the property. Investing in a second home, with all its hidden costs, is just not worth it for two weeks a year. And don’t forget that those two weeks will probably be spent fixing up the house or garden, not what I call a holiday!
Another fundamental question to ask is if you really want to go to the same place every holiday? Personally I wouldn’t, but I do have lots of friends who have been going to the same place, even the same rental cottage, for many years. If you have fallen in love with a place and do want to go back again and again, is it really worth buying property? I’m sorry but you’re going to have to do your maths and calculate whether it would be cheaper, easier and less of a headache, just to rent somewhere for those two weeks. That would give you the flexibility to have different types of holiday when you felt like a change or when the children get older. It would also take away the stress of worrying about the property when you weren’t there.
Of course you can rent out your property when you don’t want to use it but then you have to factor in management costs, cleaning and repairs. There will always be something that needs your attention. And don’t forget, you’ll have to deal with all this in a foreign language!
Do you see your holiday home as an investment? True, property is usually a sound investment, prices do generally rise but then, over the years, so does the stock market. Are property prices going to rise in that lost village in the Dordogne as fast as a flat in London? So think about whether to buy that flat in London, rent it out and use your profits for holidays all over the world.
Once you’ve considered all these options and decided that buying a second home is what you really want to do, you need to look at where. That’s what we’ll look at next.
France is a big country with so much to offer. When you are looking to buy a home there, the choice is enormous. Where you buy will ultimately depend on what you want from your home. However I would suggest that there is one criterion that is common to all situations, no matter why you are buying. That criterion is access.
Whether you are simply using your property for holidays, renting it out, retiring there or relocating the whole caboodle, access is vital. Although France is relatively close to home, some parts are very hard to get to.
If it is your holiday home and you are going there for three weeks in the summer only, it doesn’t matter if it’s a twenty hour drive from your permanent home, but to make the purchase worthwhile, you’ll want to go there much more often. That means somewhere within a short drive of an airport with regular flights or just near a mainline TGV station.
If you’re planning on renting it out, access becomes even more important. One of the first things potential renters look for, after the swimming pool for summer holidays, is ease of access. And don’t forget that you may have to go out at the last minute to sort out some problem.
If, however, you are planning on retiring or moving the whole family out there, access becomes an even more important question. You may think that you are going to build your whole life out there but you will still want and need to come back on a fairly frequent basis.
I lived permanently in France, had my business there, had my children there (great child benefits etc!) but we frequently travelled back to the UK to visit friends and family or they came to see us. As grandparents got older, this became more difficult. As the children grew up, they wanted to do some of their education in the UK. I was very happy we lived near the international airport in Lyon with both British Airways and Air France doing several flights a day. Recently no-frills airlines have greatly improved the choice and price but you can’t guarantee they will fly all year round to very small airports. Because you can get there today for £50, doesn’t mean that airline will still be flying next year or at that price.
There are many different regions with a great range of things to offer. Next we’ll have a look at some so you can choose the one that will give you everything you’re looking for.