Alexis' advice - Choosing the right location

Choosing the right location means first of all deciding what is important for you

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I often think people forget that France is actually a huge country, offering diverse attractions. One of the many features about France that appeals to us Brits is the space, of course: the population of France is only slightly more than that of the UK, but the country is almost 5 times bigger! This is very noticeable when driving through France: it is quite simply less crowded.

Choosing the right location means first of all deciding what is important for you in terms of location, distance from airport/train station, climate, general ambience of the area, and of course, the prices of property in that area. Consider whether you wish to be close to the sea, the mountains, a large town or city. It is a very good idea to arm yourself with a map and take a brief look at each area – there are 22 of them, so give yourself some time for this exercise!

Of course, you may well have travelled far and wide in France and have a good idea of those areas which really “do it” for you, in which case you are well on the way to achieving what you want. When my husband and I were looking to buy our house in France we narrowed our search down to 2 areas: the Dordogne and its surrounding departments, and the Languedoc Roussillon. We made several visits to each place, and finally the Mediterranean won! We love this area and feel it has so much to offer: mountains, proximity to the sea and Spain, near to no less than 5 airports serving the UK, and the climate.

In a nutshell, give yourself time to think about area and geography: if you adore the sea for example, there is no point holing up in the middle of the Auvergne! If you love rolling hills, there is no point looking at the Vendee or Charente, which are largely flat… 

If you like a bit of life and buzz, check out where the nearest large town is and how you are going to get there. Be practical. Invest some time into researching your preferred location and going there to experience it for yourself. Find out as much as you can about what each season has to offer. The atmosphere in the summer can be so very different from that in the winter in more rural locations, with often a tangible difference in the seasons.

Bear in mind also that the regional structure of France is going to change soon, as a result of an impending major overhaul of local government. Reform has been on the cards for many years, but President François Hollande is determined to see it through - and as fast as possible. Indeed, the plan to reduce the number of regions of Metropolitan France from 22 to 13 was adopted by the French parliament in December 2014, and the change is supposed to come into effect at the start of 2016.

Right now however, you have 22 regions and 96 departments to choose from. If you are looking for an expat community, you are best off considering Normandy, Brittany, Dordogne, Languedoc Roussillon and Provence. The Loire valley is also very popular amongst us Brits. If good, sunny, warmer weather is one of your major criteria, you will need to look somewhere south of the river Loire. Areas such as Brittany and some parts of Normandy do get plenty of sunshine, but being farther north, the climate is not really that much different from the UK. In short – the further south you go, the more sunshine you will have!

I mentioned property prices: France still has some tremendous bargains in terms of what you can get for your money. The most expensive areas are Paris, Provence, Alpes and the Cote d’Azur. Provence’s little – well not so little actually! – sister is our area of the Languedoc Roussillon, which has pretty much the same features geographically and climate wise, yet prices here are up to 40% cheaper than its neighbour. The cheapest area is still the Limousin, which consists of three departments: Correze, Creuse and Haute Vienne. Although this area can get bouts of heavy rain in all seasons, it is nevertheless very pretty, with a lot to offer in terms of history and wonderful ancient architecture. Another area which is fast becoming popular is the Auvergne – also one of the cheapest and offering some spectacular scenery, forests and woodlands. Sometimes it pays to think big and not necessarily plump for one of the better known areas of France – as I said at the beginning, France is a big country and one of the joys of deciding where to buy your property is literally the wealth of choice of different areas!

One of the big advantages of being in the north of France is that one can very quickly and easily get back to the UK by car. Indeed, we have friends who do a weekly commute between Boulogne and the south east of England. We also have friends in the UK who have just bought a small flat in Deauville in Normandy. They intend to use it for weekend jaunts. You can of course go further afield in France and still have your weekend getaway by aeroplane. France has many regional airports now and nowhere is more than about an hour and a half away by plane! Bear in mind however that some airlines change their schedules serving regional airports in the UK in the winter months.

FranceBuyingGuide.com has a wealth of information on buying in France, including a detailed overview of each area. 

In summary, take time to discover all that France has to offer. The journey you take to buy your property in the right location for YOU should be just as enjoyable as getting to your destination. Happy French house hunting!


Further reading for Buying In France

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Viewing Guide

Finding the right property and can be a challenge. What do you need to think about early on?
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Legal Matters

Buying a property in France has very different legal requirements to the UK. 

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Hidden Costs

Spending tens and even hundreds of thousands of pounds on a property in France is a HUGE decision.
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Currency Zone

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