Buying a new property can be a stressful experience for anyone, especially if you are buying in a foreign country. France is the top choice for many British property buyers, due to its proximity to the UK, great weather and laid-back lifestyle.
Brittany | Normandy | Nord-Pas-de-Calais Picardy | Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine | Île-de-France | Burgundy France-Comté | Centre Val de Loire | Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes | Languedoc-Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées | Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur | Auvergne Rhône-Alpes| Top Tips for Moving to France
However, there are some important things to consider before taking the plunge, and our complete guide to buying property in France should give you all the information you need.
Popular Regions in France
France is one of the most popular destinations for people looking to buy property abroad. From the fantastic food and drink to the beautiful countryside and coastline, it’s easy to see why France is such a popular destination with those looking to buy property overseas.
The country is made up a number of different regions, each with its own unique features, climate, culture and characteristics. From the medieval towns of Brittany to the beautiful scenery of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the country offers something for everyone. To help you choose the right area of France in which to buy a property, we’ve picked out the most popular regions with British property buyers.
Popular for its 1110km of rugged coastline, Brittany’s close proximity to the UK has long made it a home-from-home for the British. Its spectacular sandy beaches and warm waters make it a popular destination for watersports enthusiasts and young families, while its largely unpopulated inland areas are perfect for those seeking a quieter life.
The average temperatures in Brittany range from 8 degrees to 25 degrees, making it warmer than the UK while still remaining seasonal. While other popular destinations for buying property such as Spain and Portugal remain consistently hot for long periods of the year, Brittany offers the kind of variable climate that British expats often enjoy.
The way of life is what attracts the vast majority people to Brittany. There are numerous rural spots for those in search of a country lifestyle, and there are thriving commercial areas such as Nantes and Rennes for those who are seeking a city life or who still need to work after buying a home in Brittany.
The area has always been attractive to the expat buyer due to the low house prices, and house prices in Brittany are some of the lowest in France. There are four departments in Brittany – Cotes-d’Armor, Finistere, Ille-et-Vilaine and Morbihan – with average house prices ranging from around €156,000 in Cotes-d’Armor to approximately €204,000 in Ille-et-Vilaine. The best bargains to be had are in Finistere, with properties in good condition in rural areas being sold for as little as €50,000. If you’re looking to buy property in France but you’re on a tight budget, Brittany may be the ideal destination.
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Like Brittany, Normandy is very popular with the British due to its accessibility. It’s very similar to the UK in terms of both its countryside and its climate, and as Normandy was part of England in the Middle Ages it’s no wonder it has the feel of home. Generally the landscape is one of rolling fields, rugged coastline, deep gorges and small peaks.
With its unrivalled cultural and historical heritage, Normandy is a wonderful location for overseas property buyers looking for something a little different. The region became synonymous with the D-Day Landings by Allied Forces on June 6th 1944, but Normandy is now becoming almost as well known for its sandy beaches and seaside resorts.
From the glamorous style of Deauville to the enchanting harbor of Honfleur, Normandy’s coastline consists of tourist resorts, fishing towns and villages, and is a lure for anybody looking to buy property in France. Normandy also boasts equally attractive and totally unspoilt areas of countryside, such as the Nez de Jobourg headland. The Bayeux Cathedral, the famous Haras in Orne and the Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen only add to Normandy’s historical and cultural importance.
In terms of average house prices, properties on the coast or those with a sea view generally command premium prices, while properties situated inland are generally much lower in price. The following house prices are from the French notaires index (French land registry) between 01/04/2013 and 31/03/2014.
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Nord-Pas-de-Calais is one of the smallest regions in France and is located in the far north of the country. It shares a border with Belgium and is home to the beautiful Opal Coast, a series of immaculate sandy beaches that stretch from Bray-Dunes near the Belgium border to Berck-sur-Mer in the Pas-de-Calais.
With its beautiful countryside, quaint villages, and regular festivities, it’s not difficult to see why so many people are buying property in Nord-Pas-de-Calais Picardy. Widely regarded as one of the most upbeat regions in France, Nord-Pas-de-Calais Picardy boasts a busy calendar of festivals, flea markets, carnivals and cultural events. And being so close to the UK, the climate is not too dissimilar to that of Southern England.
The region enjoys excellent transportation links, although only Touquet airport offers direct flights to and from the UK. As well as the Channel Tunnel, there are frequent ferries to and from the UK, and the road network makes driving to Paris and other areas extremely easy. For those who prefer public transport, the fast and efficient TGV trains make getting around a hassle-free experience. If you’d rather leave your car at home then don’t forget the fast and efficient TGV trains.
Property prices have been steadily increasing over the past 10 years, but there are still some bargains to be found if you do your research before purchasing a property in the area. The following house prices are from the French notaires index (French land registry) between 01/04/2013 and 31/03/2014.
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Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine
Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine in the North East of France are famous for their gastronomic food and delicious wines. As much loved for its dramatic landscape and UNESCO World Heritage sites as it is for its gastronomic delights, Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine boasts some of the most enchanting towns and villages in the whole of Europe. Whether visiting the region’s many vineyards or exploring its ancient castles, Alsace Champagne-Ardenne Lorraine is a delightful place to be.
Alsace’s fruity, white wines are famous the world over, and its gorgeous vineyards, situated between the Vosges Mountains and the River Rhine, are one of the many reasons why British expats look to buy property in Alsace. Covering less than 125km, the relatively small size of Alsace’s vineyards means you can explore the area from a single base.
This prosperous region boasts many picturesque towns and charming villages, but Colmar is arguably the most beautiful of them all. A magnet for art lovers, Colmar is notable for its many canals, half-timbered houses and Christmas markets. Frederic Bartholdi, the designer of The Statue of Liberty, was born here and several parks and gardens have fine examples of his work. But despite Colmar’s association with the great sculptor, it’s the remarkable Issenheim Altarpiece in the town’s Musée d’Unterlinden that has truly cemented Colmar’s place in international art history.
Alsace’s most famous landmark is the imposing medieval castle Chateau Haut-Koenigsbourg. This imperious fortress, located high on a crag at the northern edge of the Vosges Mountains overlooking the Upper Rhine Plain, the castle looks especially dramatic in autumn and is well worth a visit if you happen to be in Alsace for the wine harvest.
Average Prices in Alsace
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*Not enough transactions to determine a reliable price
Île-de-France – the Paris region is the most popular tourist location in France and the Eurostar makes it easily accessible with train journeys taking less than 3 hours from central London.
Versailles and Chartres are easy daytrips from Paris.
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Burgundy France-Comté – famous for its wines. Rich in places to visit including Dijon and Beaune.
The Saône plains are fairly flat with lots of lakes and rivers, perfect for anglers and bird watchers.
The rest of Burgundy is hilly with small towns and villages steeped in history.
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Centre Val de Loire – the Loire is the longest river in France and covers the area from the coastal plain of Vendee with well-known sandy beaches through to the Loire Valley famous for its mild climate, chateaux and vineyards.
The countryside has gentle undulating hills and flowing rivers.
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South West France
Is a very popular tourist region. From the Atlantic coastline through to the Mediterranean.
Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes – or Nouvelle-Aquitaine as it is sometimes known – is a region of south-western France. Covering almost 33,000 sq mi – or 1/8 of the entire country – and with approximately 5,800,000 inhabitants, Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes is the largest region in France. The region is split up into 25 major urban areas, the most important of which are Bordeaux, Bayonne, Limoges, Poitiers, Pau and La Rochelle.
The rapid growth of Nouvelle-Aquitaine has made it one of the most attractive regions in the whole of France for British expats, with a growing number flocking to the region each year. The bulk of its economy driven by agriculture and viticulture, tourism, the aerospace industry, digital design, finance and pharmaceuticals, Aquitaine Limousine Poitou-Charentes is among the top regions in France for employment opportunities. The burgeoning job market, combined with the stunning scenery and rugged coastline, makes it a popular choice for people looking to relocate to France.
Blessed with 250km of Atlantic coastline, 145,000 hectares of vineyards, 200km of pine forest, 110km of Pyrenées mountains stretching from the Basque country to Pau and over 400,000 years of history, it’s easy to see why Aquitaine is proving to be so popular with British expats who are in search of open countryside and a more relaxed way of life.
Over 3,000,000 people call Aquitaine home – 6,300 of whom are British. More than half of the population of Aquitaine live in the Dordogne area, where Bergerac Airport provides easy access to the rest of Europe and the UK. Agen, Arcachon, Bayonne and Bergerac are widely regarded as the most picturesque cities in the region – and indeed the whole of south-west of France – and these cities are often the most attractive to people looking to move to the area.
The Conseil Régional de l’Aquitaine, the local authority for the region, wants to improve the region’s railway system in order to bring more people into the region and take freight off of the roads. It has called for €10 billion to be invested by 2020 in order to increase rail freight tenfold along the Atlantic route to Spain and Portugal. It’s estimated that this could reduce the time it takes to travel from Bordeaux to Paris to under two hours.
Whilst the future looks extremely bright for those living in the Aquitaine region, the area’s rich history stretches back far beyond the Hundred Years’ War and Eleanor of Aquitaine. There’s the Grotte de Lascaux, with its 17,000-year-old cave paintings; Le Moustier archaeological site with its fossilised bones and flint tools dating back 100,000-45,000 years ago; the nearby village of Cro-Magnon, where the first remains of modern day man, dating back 40,000 years, were discovered; and last but not least there’s the Magdalenian era and the painters of Lascaux itself.
The Atlantic coast stretches from the Pyrenées-Atlantiques, along Les Landes and up to the Gironde (where a new sand island has formed at the mouth of the river near the Cordouan lighthouse). This magnificent region offers world-class surfing at Biarritz and the Unesco World Heritage site in the riverside medieval architecture of Bordeaux.
With over 2,200 hours of sunshine per year, it’s easy to see why viticulture is a huge part of the local economy. Almost 39% of all farm production in the area is through viticulture, and it also plays a signifant role in attracting tourists to the area. Aquitaine’s vines and wines bring in visitors and buyers, who in turn bring in business for gites and hotels, which then brings in work for artisans and household staff in the nearby villages.
Food and drink is at the heart of Aquitaine. The traditional cuisine of the Basque Country consists of tasty, colorful fish and shellfish, which are often red as if rubbed with a piment d’Espelette (a pepper). This pepper is the main ingredient in a local pepper dip as well as in piperade, where it’s cooked with tomatoes and onions.
Ham and foie gras are also popular with the residents of Aquitaine, while magret de canard (duck breast) is one of the culinary delights of the region. Another traditional and equally delicious dish is poulet basquaise (Basque-style chicken). Sautéed pieces of chicken are served with a savory sauce of tomatoes, onions, and peppers, all simmered with a glass of white wine.
Above all, most people move to Aquitaine for the quite life. The stunning scenery, rich history, thriving economy, convenient transport links and low crime rate also help to persuade people to move to the region, but it’s the relaxed way of life on offer that really encourages Brits to move to France.
Average Property Prices in Aquitaine
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Languedoc-Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées – the inland part of this region is famous for its medieval fortified towns with the Pyrénées providing high mountain terrain to the Spanish border, offering ski resorts through the winter months.
In areas of the historical Languedoc some locals still speak Catalan. The coastline is characterised by long sandy beaches, (except where the Pyrénées meets the coast) and old coastal villages built around rocky cliffs and small coves.
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Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – one of the famous regions of France renowned for its lavender fields, olive trees and dry rocky coastline that winds its way through Cannes and Nice to the Italian border.
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Auvergne Rhône-Alpes – Lyon, France’s 2nd largest city makes this one of France’s most populated regions.
This area is characterised by the high peaks of the Alps with its outdoor pursuits as well as old towns and villages and rich historic heritage.
If you are not in a rush to buy, keep an eye on the property market over a period of a few months to see if houses sell well in the area you have chosen.
View properties for sale in The Alps
Top Tips for Moving to France
Understand the whole buying process
Buying a property abroad can be an exciting but also stressful time. Because of this it is important to understand the whole process of buying a house in France before embarking on your journey, as it can differ from buying in the UK.
With so many regulations to help protect buyers, it is worth researching so you have a clear understanding and don’t go in blind.
Having a clear idea of each stage of the process can stand you in good stead as you will be aware of all the differences to English law when buying a property.
Knowing the process well should make it more straightforward.
The French buying process is so strictly regulated and clear cut that unlike the UK, you can secure a house much earlier by signing a binding contract soon after viewing a property.
This means that the whole process can take up to three months unlike in the UK where you are lucky to complete before eight months.
Buying a house is quite time consuming, so by having researched in detail the whole process, this will help speed up the buying process and will help you make your property buying adventure a less stressful and more successful process.
Don’t buy on impulse
It is important to have fully explored and researched not only the buying process in depth, but also your properties of choice.
Buying a house, especially a second home, is a lot of money to part with, so you would want to make sure everything is right and up to the standard you expect and want before buying.
This will reduce the amount you will have to spend on the property renovating it or moving in, as you shouldn’t have any hidden costs or surprises to deal with.
Also by not buying on impulse, this means you can keep your options open, especially as the property market can be quite volatile. Another factor that can influence when you buy, is the currency market.
This can impact on how much you have to offer and what you have available for all the extra costs that come with buying in France, such as estate agent fees.
With such a big decision ahead of you when buying a property, it is important to research, know all the facts and not buy on impulse as this will help you in the long run find the house that is right for you.
Research the market thoroughly
The property market is always fluctuating and it can be frustrating when trying to buy a property if the prices are not what you are willing to pay.
This can limit your choice of property or push you back on your search, making it a frustrating process.
As well as looking at the property market as a whole, it is also important to look at the local property market in the area you want to buy in.
Research the asking prices for the type of property you want but also if you can, find out what the properties are really bought for in that area.
This will give you more of an idea of what you can afford, but will also help you when it comes to negotiating an offer as you will know for a similar property in the same area what the asking price for that is, so you may be able to alter the asking price for the property you want to buy.
Research is key to every step of the buying process and having this knowledge will benefit you greatly when buying your property in France.
Use a great property portal
Using independent estate agent websites are great if you know exactly what you want, where you want it and who you want to buy from.
However, if you haven’t yet decided then it can be quite a disheartening search and a bit of a chore. This is where property portals come in and are great for buyers looking to buy a property, but are unsure on all the details.
Property portals have thousands of listings from estate agents, developers and private sellers, giving you a wide range of properties and sellers to choose from.
You can also use the search features to narrow down your search and help you find properties that you are interested and give you a greater choice.
Property portals are a great tool for showing you more of what is available in France with the details you want, as well as offering further information and services to help you with your buying process.
Foremost Property Group is a property portal with over 75,000 listings worldwide from credible estate agents, developers and private sellers.
We were set up in 2007 to help these sellers find buyers for their properties by giving their properties exposure to buyers on a larger scale.
This benefits you as the buyer, as you have a greater range to search through and choose from.
Select an estate agent you trust
It is really important that you choose an estate agent you trust, because they need to understand what you need and want from a property, be reliable and have good customer service.
It is also important that you find out as much information as you can about the estate agent, such as how many employees do they have, how many offices they have, are they part of any associations and what qualifications do they have.
You can then form a picture of what the estate agent and the estate agency are like and this will help you trust them more and make you feel more comfortable as you know their background.
It is also worth visiting their office if you decide to view properties that they are selling, so that you can look through their portfolio, see their qualification certificates and get more of a feel for what their work ethic and working environment is like.
Also trying to meet face to face will help with relations.
If you are not able to meet the estate agent in person and you are unsure whether to use them, make sure you are in constant contact with each other and gauge by their communication with you whether they have your best interests in hand.
Finding an estate agent you trust is critical part of the buying process, as they are the ones who are going to help you find your property but also have the experience in the French property market.
Engage a notaire who is independent from the seller
A notaire is a public official who is highly qualified in the French legal system and impartial to the transaction.
The French legal system can be quite complicated, so to make it more efficient and quicker, you use a notaire as it is their job to administrate the property purchase.
They will manage the purchase on behalf of both the buyer and seller.
However, it is worth having a notaire who is not working with the seller if the seller is local to the notaire, because they may have a personal relationship.
In this instance it may be better to have an individual notaire, so that they can only focus on you, what is best for you and what you want.
Notaires do charge and this is normally between 2% and 8% of the property’s net buying price, so the higher the purchase price, the lower the percentage.
This needs to be factored in to your budget as this is one of the costs as a buyer you have to pay, but having a notaire is very beneficial as they do all the legal work for you. Many notaires also offer translation services, which is very useful if you don’t speak French or not enough to understand a contract.
It is part of the service they offer as it is highly important that as the buyer you fully understand the contract and this is part of the notaire’s job.
Find a location that suits your need
When moving to another country or just buying a second property, it is important to research the area before viewing and buying, because if the area doesn’t include what you need, then you will have to look elsewhere.
For example, if you are a family with children, it might be important to look for local schools and towns with a younger community and lots to do; if you want to immerse yourself in a new culture, then it is best to avoid regions where there are lots of expats, such as the Dordogne region, because this area has a high population of retired British expats or if you want your new home to feel like the home you just left then don’t be in an isolated village as this will restrict your contact with people and will have less amenities and opportunities for things to do.
Another important aspect of choosing a location is transport links. If the property you are buying is going to be a second home, you would rather it be easy to get to with minimal travel time, so you can have more regular trips, such as weekends away.
Know your budget
This is one of the most important parts of buying a property because you need to know what you can afford.
It is vital that you understand all the costs associated with buying a property in France, because these will eat out of your budget, so you need to accommodate for them.
These could be estate agent costs, notaire costs or taxes to name a few. You need to make sure you understand these costs and what you are liable for, so you can make sure you have the right funds available.
The main point is to be realistic about what you can afford. It is better to have some money left so you can be flexible but also have the opportunity to save it for future costs such as mortgage payments, instead of having to try and find more money and having the stresses of not being sure whether you will be able to buy a property or in the time frame.
Another part to this is to make sure you explore foreign currency exchange, as there are different contract times that will help you make the most of your currency.
Currency companies, such as our sister company Foremost Currency Group, are specialists in this field and can help you save up to 5% on commercial rates of exchange compared to banks.
This means that you could have more euros for your sterling, so you will have sterling left to convert to euros at a later date for costs such as mortgage payments.
Get your currency right
As a British buyer looking to buy in France, you will need to convert your currency from sterling to euro.
This can be done one of two ways: either through a bank or through a currency company. Banks can’t specialise in FX, so they won’t have the knowledge of the contract types that currency companies have, meaning their exchange rates are higher and there can be quite big charges for using the bank.
With a currency company, foreign exchange is what they do. They can talk through with you a range of contract options and help you understand how the currency market works.
Foremost Currency Group, our sister company, is a currency exchange specialist. Their dedicated personal brokers can talk you through the currency options available to you and help make this part of the process a little bit easier, giving you up to 5% better rates of exchange than high street banks with no hidden fees or commissions.
It is important to get your currency right, as you could save yourself money in the long term, which could be put towards other costs of owning a property.
Learn the lingo
As you are planning on moving to another country, it would be beneficial to learn the language or at least the basics.
This will help you fit in better and make day to day living easier. If you understand some of the language it will make going to places such as the bank, supermarket, doctor or restaurant much easier, as you will be able to communicate better.
There are many courses you can go on or enrol into, either online or offline, such as from Alliance Française who offer a range of courses depending on what is best suited to you, as well as offering translation services.
It is worth researching the best course, as learning some of the language as it will make living in France more comfortable and a little bit easier.