How to find a home in the suburbs of Paris or further out in the French countryside surrounding France’s capital city.
If you work in Paris, you don’t necessarily need to live in the heart of France’s capital. Good connections to outer suburbs and towns make living outside of Paris a feasible option, particularly for those who are seeking more space and cheaper properties to buy in France.
Living outside Paris but close by
If you’ve got a young family to raise, you might find living outside the city walls more attractive than buying a home in the centre of Paris: property is cheaper, children have access to green spaces and the city’s noise and air pollution problems are left behind. Because Paris is small compared to other European capitals, living outside does not inevitably mean travelling vast distances; transport links are well developed and reasonably cheap. Some important points to consider when looking at different areas are:
- Check proximity of schools or crèches.
- Make sure the metro/train links with Paris don’t involve complicated, lengthy changes.
- See which RER express train stations link into the centre of the capital.
- Enquire about local town taxes, known as the impôts locaux, which you will pay every year.
Understanding the map
Excluding the overseas territories, France is administratively divided into 95 départements, each of which has a number as well as a name.
Paris is number 75, and its immediately surrounding départements are:
- Essonne, 91 (south),
- Hauts-de-Seine, 92 (south-west and west),
- Yvelines, 78 (the outer south-west),
- Val-d’Oise, 95, (the north),
- Seine-St. Denis, 93, (north and north-east),
- Val-de-Marne, 94, (the east and south-east).
The départements further away but still within commuting distances are the Seine-et-Marne, 77 (south east), and the Oise, 60 (north).
Living closest to Paris
The west and southwest (92 and 78) and the east (94) are great if you want a green and pleasant area close enough to get into the city for dinner appointments and back in time for the baby-sitter.
The hilltop towns of St-Cloud, Sèvres, Meudon and Ville-d’Avray (92) are surrounded by sprawling, tranquil forests and only 10 minutes into central Paris by train and, outside of the rush hour, less than 30 minutes by car. Prices are relatively high. Houses are exorbitant – you can easily spend over EUR 1.5 million on a large house in St-Cloud for example – but there are tasteful apartment buildings with private parks for around EUR 350,000.
East of Paris offers the only other sizeable patch of green, around the Bois de Vincennes (94), and among the towns of Nogent and Joinville. Prices are generally reasonable (a nice three-bedroom house can be around EUR 175,000) and the area is well-served by train, although accessing central Paris by car is slightly less convenient than from the south-west.
Head for the country
If you’re looking further afield, look closely at a transport map of the Paris region to check out the RER express metro links which go right into the centre of the capital. Being beside one can mean all the difference between a 30-minute train hop and a gruelling one-hour car trip.
West are Versailles and Saint-Germain-en-Laye (78), surrounded by the Saint-Germain forest. Both are dormitory areas and well-served by train, but far enough out to feel a world away from Paris. Home of the Sun King, Versailles is not cheap: a modern, four-bedroom apartment can cost around EUR 400,000.
Further out, and south-west of Paris, the up-market area of the vallée de Chevreuse (78), with its modern housing estates and country villages with old stone houses, is just 45 minutes from Paris by public transport. A renovated traditional four-bedroom house in a hamlet surrounded by forest could set you back around EUR 400,000.
East of the Chevreuse valley, south of the capital, is the vallée de la Bièvre (91), with modern housing, much of it surrounded by countryside. The university town of Orsay and dozens of technical research centres are here. The greater south and west has a high-speed TGV train station at Massy, independent of Paris, and reasonable access to Orly airport.
East of the capital (94 and 77) are leafy areas surrounding the river Marne, with grand old houses and modern housing estates. A renovated, five-bedroom stone house costs under EUR 250,000 around here. The area is also home to Disneyland Paris and is well served by public transport. Charles de Gaulle airport is also not far away.
The outer north-east region offers pretty countryside but transport can be a problem. It’s worth a look, but surrounded by areas of ugly modern buildings, are the towns on the southern end of the forêt de Sénart, and near Melun, (91 and 77), southeast of the capital.
If you’re looking for something truly away from it all but within an hour or more from the capital, look at the south and south east, drawing a line west to east between Dourdan (78) and Fontainebleau (77). You’ll find pretty villages with charming old properties and big gardens but you’ll need a car to help you get into Paris. Fontainebleau itself is surrounded by the impressively huge Fontainebleau forest and is an hour from Paris by train – you can buy a pretty, four-bedroom townhouse there for under EUR 200,000.
Close to the forêt de Montmorency are a number of pleasant small towns, including Auvers-sur-Oise (made famous by Vincent Van Gogh), and I’Isle-Adam, both on the banks of the river Oise (60). Around EUR 300,000 will get you a pretty house and garden in Auvers-sur-Oise. The town of Senlis (60), north east of Paris, has good rail and motorway links and wonderful surrounding countryside, including the forest of Halatte.
How to find a property
While there are over 3,500 agents immobilièrs (estate agents) in Paris, almost all of them operate completely independently, without any co-operation (with the exception of a couple of companies like Orpi), and there are almost no multi-agent agreements. It’s also been estimated that about half of all Parisian property is sold direct by the owners. So property hunting can be a bit of a nightmare, which is why many people choose to use property finders. Here are a few English language property and property finder websites to get you started on your search:
A final tip
Property tends to move fast in Paris: sometimes a property is sold the same day it goes on the market. Once you find a place you like, you may have to act fast. So:
- Do your research into the different arrondissements and know what the price per metre is for that area.
- Make sure you know what you’re after at the outset.
- Remember that making an offer is legally binding (see our guide to buying property in France).
- Have your finances sorted (get a French bank account).