A gem in southwest France, Tarn-et-Garonne has wine, watersports and walking, fabulous fresh food and picture-perfect properties galore. Annaliza Davis outlines why this hidden paradise should be on your list of places to make your own.
Nestling in southwest France, just above Toulouse, this département has a low profile yet plenty of appeal. Named after the two rivers that flow through it, Tarn-et-Garonne’s stunning landscape showcases vineyards, forests and rocky gorges, charming villages and stunning historic architecture. As you drive through the area, you can’t help noticing the properties – even entire towns – perched on top of rocky peaks. These are appropriately known as villages perchés.
The capital of Tarn-et-Garonne, Montauban, sits 50km north of Toulouse and is a great example of a bastide: a fortified town dating from the 13th century, built on the river bank and combining strength and beauty. The land is clearly agricultural and the area has a Mediterranean feel, thanks to its vineyards, plentiful fresh produce and residents’ fondness for outdoor living.
Here, there is an even spread of families, couples and single inhabitants. The area’s proximity to Toulouse boosts its year-round economy, and its natural beauty is a big draw for tourists, both from within France and abroad – the sunny climate helps, too!
Match the place to your pocket
In France, the national average cost for property sits at €2,749 per square metre and properties in Tarn-et-Garonne cost an average of €1,553 per square metre – but in some areas this figure is just €700 per square metre, so there are bargains to be had if you know where to look.
The more sought-after zones around Montauban (such Orgueil and Montbartier) can fetch up to €2,000 per square metre, whereas Labourgade and Sérignac – both 35 minutes west of Montauban – offer properties for under €800 per square metre. As with buying property anywhere in France, it pays to spend time researching the area and its various districts before you invest.
Property types in Tarn-et-Garonne
From humble farm dwellings to elegant maisons de maître, this relatively undiscovered area has a wide range of affordable properties for house hunters to choose from.
Where to find what you want
If you’re seeking a city pad, Montauban should be top of your list, with a population of 80,000 and easy rail links to Toulouse, Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille. It offers a diverse employment market, spanning everything from tourism to technology, agriculture to cultural arts. Central Montauban has a high proportion of young adults and 31 per cent of residents are tenants, so there is a strong rental market: studio apartments rent at around €400 per month.
For an historic town, try Caussade with 7,000 residents and once famous for its hat-making industry, or the far smaller and very dramatic Bruniquel, with its château perched on a cliff top. Both are postcard-worthy and very appealing to tourists, and offer lots of property styles with prices starting under €100,000 for a small, renovated house.
As it’s inland, there’s no seaside in Tarn-et-Garonne, but in the popular destination of Montaigu-de-Quercy there is a beach in the form of a lake, complete with sandy shore, kayaks and pedalo rides. Renovation projects here start at around €35,000 and a townhouse in the historic centre costs around €130,000.
You’ll be spoilt for choice if you’re looking for a countryside home – even if you want a house with far-reaching views. Start with Roquecor (one hour north of Montauban) or Escazeaux (40 minutes southwest), but there are plenty of rural properties in this area.
On the look out for a doer-upper? There are renovation projects throughout the département, ranging from total ruins (starting at €18,000) to village houses needing an overhaul (allow €35,000-€50,000).
And for the time being, you can still find building plots in Tarn-et-Garonne: €20,000 buys you a plot of 700m² in Beaumont-de-Lomagne or 2,000m² in Castelsagrat – both only 40 minutes from Montauban.
Beware the fabulous bargains listed as viager, though, as these come with a sitting tenant! It could be an option for you, but do your research first as you may prefer to buy a property ready to use as you wish.
Despite its southwest location, Tarn-et-Garonne is more accessible than you might imagine, thanks to nearby Toulouse airport (30 minutes south of Montauban) and Agen (one hour east). The high-speed TGV runs 10 times a day from Paris to Montauban in under five hours. Finally, road access is simplified, thanks to the A20, A61 and A62 motorways – and given how vast and spacious Tarn-et-Garonne is, you’ll find that a car is very useful!
Employment and economy
This area’s proximity to Toulouse – with its international reach – certainly helps give Tarn-et-Garonne a healthy boost. Montauban, itself, has a thriving economy that continued to grow even during the pandemic, and the number of new businesses has doubled in the past eight years. Only eight per cent of the population are retired; 33 per cent are aged 15 to 44; 20 per cent are 45 to 59; and 19 per cent are under 14.
The area is historically agricultural, but this now represents only four per cent of the labour market. Today’s Tarn-et-Garonne has a very diverse economy: tourism is strong, but there are also many retail companies, specialised businesses, a good construction industry and a large number of office workers.
What can I get for my budget?
Here are some examples of property available in the Tarn-et-Garonne area of France…
What the agents say…
Estate agent Carol Ann Wheeler has spent several years selling properties in Tarn-et-Garonne. Here, she shares her insights into this beautiful area.
“Tarn-et-Garonne is a well-kept, low-key secret filled with natural beauty spots, sweeping fields of sunflowers and lavender as well as villages and towns bursting with authentic character.
“The most popular types of property are stone buildings that have been restored to include modern comforts without losing period features: buyers especially appreciate original floors, fireplaces and exposed stone walls. Every client has their own individual criteria and wish list, though, but in general, I would say that French house hunters put a greater importance on practical elements of a property. This would include proximity to work or to a town, how the house is heated, if it is insulated and double glazed. These aspects tend to be
lower down the list for non-French buyers, who are likely to be more interested in the quality of materials used, the layout of the living areas, the surroundings and the all important
“One of the biggest changes this year has been the increase of French buyers looking to move out of the cities – either relocating to a rural area for more space, or looking for a second home in the country.”
Case study: Why we moved here
Vanesssa Couchman, who moved to Tarn-et-Garonne in 1997, shares her experience…
We spent many happy holidays in France before moving here. When we visited in April 1997 to spend a long weekend house-hunting, we sought a place we could use as a maison sécondaire with a view to retirement here later.
That went out of the window when we viewed this house! While we sat in the airport café at Toulouse awaiting our flight back to London, we began to realise that living here full-time might be a possibility. Within four months, we had sold up in London and were on our way.”
Vanessa’s husband was already working freelance, and she continued her copywriting and consultancy career before turning to historical fiction and blogs after retirement.
“Our region is a land of remarkable diversity. It is bordered in the south by the Pyrénées and the Mediterranean. To the east stretches the high plateau of Aubrac, studded with vibrant wildflowers in the spring and blanketed with snow during the winter. Dramatic gorges carved out by the rivers over aeons criss-cross the landscape.
“The area where we live has its share of beautiful villages; and inevitably, they are tourist hotspots in the summer months.
You can’t blame people for visiting them, but I have the good fortune to see them out of season.
“For country-dwellers, the peaceful invasion by foreigners is a new departure. Generally, they appreciate the high standards to which crumbling properties are restored, and the new life that incomers bring to the local economy and the community. You hear
rumblings from time to time, but overall we have been welcomed with open arms by our neighbours.”
This agricultural area is famous for its fruit and vegetables, particularly the Quercy melon, pears, apples and plums. Its dinner-table star is the Caussade chicken (poule noire), while desserts (such as croustade aux pommes) tend to feature its fabulous fruit.
And given that vineyards feature very prominently in the surrounding landscape, you should probably choose a local Coteaux de Quercy, a Fronton or a Saint-Sardos to accompany your meal…
Buying a Property in France?
Can’t wait to enjoy the laid-back lifestyle in Tarn-et-Garonne? From planning your property-hunting trip to collecting the keys—FrenchEntrée is here to guide you, advise you, and hold your hand through the entire process. Ready to get started on your property search? Browse our property for sale in locations all over France. About to make an offer on a potential buy? Read our step by step articles on every aspect of the purchase process then check out our property articles for the latest news, insider tips, and expert FAQs.
Lead photo credit : Southwest's best kept secret © Shutterstock
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