Ready to take the plunge and move to France? Here’s a guide to the best places to live in France, from Britanny to Alsace.
France is made up of 21 regions, each of which is divided into between 2 and 8 departments. Each department has its own capital city. The property market is stable and prices tend generally to increase and decrease less than in the UK. Traditionally prices are broadly in line with the rate of inflation and property investment is more conservative than in other countries. Prices and types of property do vary between regions and below you will find my estimation of current prices as well as a guide to the different types of property in each place.
The most important factor to determine property prices is location. Naturally large cities and towns are more expensive – particularly Paris. This is largely due to better employment prospects, greater choice of culture and shopping and less choice in actual accommodation.
City suburbs and smaller towns come next in terms of property prices and the countryside will always be the least expensive option. However, property and land in the wine growing regions may be more than elsewhere and close to the coast always demands a premium.
Further considerations to bear in mind are:
- Price per square metre is less for larger houses than for smaller ones
- Features such as swimming pools, land, vineyards and extra buildings such as barns will increase the price
- Older houses are normally less expensive than new-build
It is also important to consider current market trends. Although the property market in France experienced a general rise in prices last year, the last couple of years have seen a slight decrease, in line with many countries during the recession. The most significant price falls were in the eastern side of France. Having said that, if one takes a longer term view, the likelihood is that property prices will start to rise again, albeit it at a slow to medium pace.
Below is a list of prices of property in various regions. Please note this is to give a general idea and each department within a region will have its own slight variations. Prices quoted per square metre are equally intended as a rough guide.
PROVENCE-ALPES – COTE D’AZUR
With its stunning historical towns, quaint villages, lavender fields, not to mention the vineyards and glorious climate, this is the most expensive area of France aside from the Paris area. Provence property is likely always to remain a safe haven and a good investment.
Types of property include old stone farmhouses and modern villas and price per square metre is over EUR 3,000. Expect to pay a minimum of EUR 200,000 for a small apartment, going up to EUR two million or more for larger properties with land and pool.
PARIS & ILE DE FRANCE
Paris speaks volumes for itself. Its surrounding area forms the region known as Ile de France. Glamorous and cosmopolitan, Paris is quite simply one of the world’s greatest cities both culturally and architecturally with a long and proud history dating back some 2,000 years. Outside Paris is a large area of suburbs as well as countryside. Buying in the Paris area is always likely to be a great investment.
Types of property include apartments, typically with wrought iron railings and situated in substantial old buildings in the centre as well as modern villas and mansions outside the inner city. A good sized 3 bed house in the suburbs can be found for as little as EUR 250,000.
However, there are marked differences between the “arrondissements”, the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th being the most exclusive and price per square metre is again in the region of EUR 3,000.
With its strong Mediterranean influence and as one of the more expensive areas of France, it is predicted that the Languedoc-Roussillon will eventually catch up with the Cote d’Azur in terms of property prices. Constant demand for property and a large tourist industry makes this a good time to invest. The larger cities such as Montpellier, Perpignan, Narbonne and Carcassonne as well as coastal areas such as Collioure and Port Vendres are the most expensive and exclusive. Cheaper properties can be found in the inland countryside.
Old stone houses as well as modern new builds are mainly to be found here but it is important to note that many do not have gardens, this being the largest wine growing area in France. Expect to pay at least EUR 150,000 for a small house going up to well over EUR 1 million for larger substantial homes. It is worth noting that prices may increase here with the advent of the new TGV line to Barcelona from Perpignan, currently scheduled to open by 2012.
Price per square metre is approximately EUR 2,000.
Historically a hugely popular area amongst the Brits, this area boasts more monuments and historic artefacts than anywhere else in France. Still high up price wise compared to many other regions of France, the main towns, Bordeaux, Perigueux and Bergerac are the most expensive of the region.
Old stone houses, many with land and separate buildings as well as barns are prevalent in this area. Expect to pay at least EUR 200,000 for a decent sized property with land, more on the outskirts of one of the towns.
Price per square metre is about on a par with the Languedoc-Roussillon, at EUR 2,000.
Consisting of eight departments, this is the largest area of France with diverse landscapes ranging from the Pyrenees in the south to the forests of the Lot & Quercy in the north. There are several departments offering reasonable prices for property, particularly the Tarn et Garonne and Haute-Garonne.
Property types vary: you will find large chateaux, farmhouses and small village houses made of stone and timber, as well as quite a bit of new build on the outskirts of some of the towns. Prices range from EUR 100,000 for an unrenovated large house to well over EUR 600,000 for a fully renovated large property. Prices are slightly cheaper in the southern area of the Gers. Prices are still competitive and this area comes around the middle, price wise, over the other regions in France.
Prices per square metre are approximately EUR 1,500.
Another very large region with many types of property. This is a popular holiday destination with its long sandy beaches and rugged coastline. Types range from old farmhouses, “plain pied” (one-storey) buildings, some with thatched roofs, particularly in the Finistere department, to timber framed properties in some of the medieval town centres.
Brittany is around the middle in the hierarchy of prices of French regions. Unrenovated properties can still be found for as little as EUR 80,000 but expect to pay on average a good EUR 150,000 for a decent three-bedroom-house, more for character stone properties with land.
Price per square metre is roughly EUR 2,000.
PAYS DE LA LOIRE
This is a region which has grown in popularity over the last 10 years or so and as many as 20 percent of properties there are second homes. A landscape of forests, small towns and villages dotted along the River Loire lends itself particularly well to gite tourism. There is an excellent rental market here with a high volume of tourists in the summer months.
The average property price here is around EUR 240,000 but it is still possible to pick up a renovation property with a garden or small piece of land for less than half of this. Small restoration projects can be found quite cheaply starting from around EUR 40,000. At the other end of the scale, a large chateau will set you back from EUR 500,000.
This area consists of various types of property from small chateaux and “maisons de maîtres” (large square built family village homes) to smaller stone cottages and barns.
Price per square metre is around EUR 1,700.
Another extremely popular area with the Brits, offering as it does countryside, coastline and a mild climate. It is really two regions: the coastal area of Charente Maritime and inland Poitou. La Rochelle is a beautiful, albeit touristy fishing village, whilst to the west Cognac is the centre of the brandy industry.
There are renovation properties aplenty here and although prices have increased somewhat more than the average in France in recent years, it is still possible to pick up a bargain starting at around EUR 70,000 for a small renovation property. The area bordering on the Dordogne is the most attractive and in particular, the department of Deux Sevres has many farmhouses offering very good value.
Price per square metre is less than many other areas at around EUR 1,400.
UPPER & LOWER NORMANDY
This is still a cheaper area than many in France and with its proximity to the UK, remains a popular holiday destination. It is even commutable. There is some lovely coastline and countryside too. The average property costs something between EUR 80,000 and EUR 130,000.
Properties close to the coast are more expensive as well as those around the beautiful medieval town of Bayeux. There is a variety of styles here: timber framed houses as well as stone cottages and more modern villas.
Price per square metre is around EUR 1,600.
Lying at the heart of France, this is a prosperous and peaceful area. It is situated quite a distance from the coast and its climate tends to attract those who desire a cooler, less Mediterranean feel although summers can be hot and showery.
The best value for money exists to the west of the Cote d’Or towards the border with Central France. Morvan is also very affordable whilst Dijon is a more expensive, bustling city where buyers tend to be primarily French.
Average property prices are around EUR 100,000 to EUR 130,000 and the area consists of a variety of styles of property from country cottages to small village houses and an array of larger chateau type properties in the countryside.
Price per square metre is around EUR 1,700.
This is still the cheapest area of France and until a few years ago, was rather overlooked by British property buyers. However, there are some beautiful villages here and the cost of living generally is low. There are still some great bargains to be found and the area represents excellent value for money as compared to many regions. It is still possible to pick up a renovation project for as little as EUR 25,000 and the cheapest of the three departments is the Creuse. Old stone properties abound as well as some thatched cottage type properties in the countryside.
Price per square metre is on average EUR 1,300.
This is another very reasonable area of France with good property prices and space. It is in the heart of the Massif Central which is a vast mountain range with some spectacular gorges and caves. The main types of houses are half timbered houses often with beautiful facades, farmhouses often with outbuildings and land and “chaumieres” which are essentially small cottages, sometimes with just one room downstairs.
Average prices here are around the EUR 130,000 mark with price per square metre roughly the same as the Limousin.
An area of mountains and rivers with great investment potential, particularly for winter sports enthusiasts, there are also some thriving cities here such as Lyon, St. Etienne, Grenoble, Annecy, Chambery and Valence. It is a good area for long term rental, particularly in the skiing resorts. The region revolves around two main natural features: the River Rhone and the Alps. The capital is Lyon, France’s largest city.
There is a tourist based economy here with a well-established British community. The countryside is open and beautiful with lavender fields, lakes and mountains.
There is a great variety of prices and types of property and prices have consistently risen by more than the average for France in the last 10 years. The average property price is one of the highest at around EUR 450,000 but a small apartment can be found for under EUR 100,000. Types include wooden mountain chalets, farmhouses and modern apartments.
Price per square metre is high at around EUR 2,000.
Franche-Comte shares its border with Switzerland and is an area of forests and pastures, wide open spaces and mountains. It is a popular area for gites with good short term rental possibilities as it is close to some excellent Alpine ski resorts. The region has many German and Swiss residents. Types of property are mainly farmhouses and mountain village apartments. Prices are reasonable, averaging out at around EUR 85,000.
Price per square metre is around EUR 1,500.
Once a part of Germany, there are still many German influences here and Strasbourg has a multinational population due to its European institutions. The area offers great cultural and architectural interest and the locals consider themselves to be Alsatian. There is great buy-to-let investment potential particularly in Strasbourg and a constant influx of well to do workers ensures profits are made on sales.
Property prices here are reasonable and many properties are generally larger than average for France as a whole. It is seen as an up and coming “hot spot” due to the huge expansion of the train service here. The new TGV link between Paris and Strasbourg opened in June 2010. The Meuse department offers the cheapest property, averaging out at around EUR 1,000 per square metre although taking the region as a whole, prices are slightly above those of the France-Comte, particularly close to Strasbourg. Average prices are around EUR 200,000.
Again, types of property vary but are mainly farmhouses and city type apartments.
Price per square metre is about EUR 1,800.
Although prices have risen fairly substantially here over the last 10 years, property is still roughly 50 percent cheaper than parts of the south of France. Excellent transport links as well as the great drink ensure its continued popularity. The Ardenne is a somewhat overlooked area for British buyers but its main selling point is the cheapness of the properties and the proximity of the Channel. Broken down farmhouses can be picked up cheaply and prices here are at the lower end of the scale across France.
The average price of a three-bedroom-house in reasonable condition is EUR 150,000. Prices are slightly higher in the Champagne area, buoyed up by Parisians buying here and the ease of access.
As well as rural farmhouse and stone built village houses in the countryside, there are townhouses and smart apartments in the main Champagne towns of Reims and Epernay. The areas closest to Paris, the Marne and also the Aube is the most expensive of the region.
Overall average price per square metre is EUR 1,500.
NORD PAS DE CALAIS
This is a triangle of land running with the Belgian border in the north and the English channel in the west and is made up of just two departments, the Nord and Pas-de-Calais. It is near enough to commute to from Britain and Lille as France’s 4th largest city is now just two hours away on Eurostar. Calais offers good resale potential because of its vibrancy and popularity with French purchasers looking to live and work there. It is only 55 minutes from the St. Pancras. As a result, property prices have been steadily increasing.
The average property price is around EUR 250,000 but there are still bargains to be found in the countryside and forest areas of Hesdin. Types of property vary from smart seaside apartments at Le Touquet, ever popular with both Parisians and the British, to farmhouses with outbuildings and lock up and leave holiday properties.
Average price per square metre is EUR 1,800
Picardy consists of three departments, the Somme, the Oise and Aisne. The whole area is dotted with memorials to those who lost their lives in the Great War. The beaches around the bay of the Somme are unspoilt and sandy and there is a great feeling of openness here.
The type of properties here consists of “longeres”, half-timbered houses and farmhouses. The longere is a rural property built in rectangular shape with brick walls.
Average house price is around EUR 160,000 and price per square metre is around EUR 1,800.
With easy access to Paris and the Loire, France’s longest river, running through it, this is a fertile region with an active market in second homes in the northern part, particularly Eure-et-Loire. Although the landscape is largely flat, there are plenty of cultural festivals to make up for the somewhat indifferent scenery. Houses start as cheaply as EUR 80,000 and there are plentiful villas, bungalows and modern style brick built houses available.
Average property price is around EUR 300,000 but there is a wide choice of types and prices across the region.
Price per square metre is around EUR 1,300 making this an affordable area, sometimes overlooked by the British.
France has it all, it would seem: rolling hills, rivers galore, stunning ancient villages, cities of culture, wonderful coastlines and a whole lot more space. Buying in France remains a most attractive proposition for British people. It is a country which takes pride in its traditions, community spirit and family values. Generally speaking most property in France is vastly cheaper than the UK.
For many British people the lure of moving to France will always be there.