Whether your dreams of buying in France feature a French château renovation, a beachfront French Riviera property, or an apartment in Paris, the first step in your French property search is deciding on the location. Where to buy a property in France is possibly the most important decision you will make and there are many factors to take into account.
To help you decide, here’s our guide to where to buy in France.
Where to Buy a Property in France: What You Need to Consider
The simple answer to that question is, it depends. First of all, it’s important to consider why you are looking to buy property in France and what you intend to use the property for. Are you looking to purchase a holiday home, relocate to France, or invest in the French property market?
Naturally, the best place to live, work, and raise a family, may not be the most exciting spot for a summer vacation, while the smartest place to invest in French real estate might be another location entirely. What’s most important is that your decision is based on your preferences and needs.
Some things to consider include:
- Environment and locality: the climate, topography, sights, and amenities.
- Access: how will you get to and around the location. This may be especially important for French second-home or holiday home owners.
- Property prices: your budget or investment aims.
- Personal preferences: would you prefer an urban or rural location? Do you want a property in the mountains, along the coast, or close to a major city?
- Purpose: are you buying a house to move into, a holiday home, or an investment property?
Which is the best region of France to buy property?
France is a large country and hugely varied in landscapes and climate, both of which are key factors in choosing a where to buy. France has 18 regions, each of which are split into several different departments, and topography ranging from the mountains of the French Alps to the balmy coastal resorts of the Meditteranean, to the river valleys and vineyards of the Loire Valley.
Climate and landscapes
The southern regions are perennially attractive to overseas buyers thanks to their idyllic landscapes and warm climate. Mediterranean beaches, lavender fields, and vineyards characterise the landscapes of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Languedoc-Roussillon regions, both popular with foreign buyers, while the French Alps stretch north to some of Europe’s best ski areas.
Along the southern border with Spain, the Pyrenees mountains run through the Midi-Pyrenees and Aquitaine regions, where you’ll also find the beach resorts of the Basque Coast and, inland, the verdant hills and charming villages of the Dordogne.
Generally speaking, regions north of the Loire River have a reputation for a more British-like climate (distinct seasons but few extremes). The central coastal regions of Pays de la Loire and Brittany offer a good compromise weather-wise, with plenty of sunshine through the summer months and miles of beaches to choose from. If you’re basing your decision on weather, it’s worth noting that while the south is famed for its long, hot summers, it’s also prone to cold, wet, and windy winters. Be sure to visit your chosen region at different times of year, not just in peak holiday season, before you decide.
City life or a house in the French countryside?
As well as considering which department to start your French property search, another consideration is whether you want to live in the city or countryside. Both have their advantages, but it’s important to be realistic about what is both desirable and practical. Many buyers harbour dreams of a remote rural retreat, but the reality of having to drive 30 minutes to pick up some milk might not quite live up to expectations.
Similarly, a city apartment might be ideally situated for weekend getaways, but urban living often means smaller living spaces, more noise, close-quarters neighbours, and higher crime levels. A good compromise could be a country house within a short distance of a provincial town.
You may already have a favourite destination in mind, but if not, your choice will probably depend on a number of other factors. Let’s take a closer look at those.
The Best Place to Buy a Holiday Home in France
Second-home owners have unique needs to consider when selecting an area to buy. Consider how frequently and at what times of the year you will be coming to your holiday home. How easy will it be to access your property when you visit? Are there direct ferry, plane, or train links, and how much will it cost you to travel? A far-flung alpine chalet that costs you hundreds of euros in transport and a day of travel time to reach isn’t very practical if you plan on using it for weekend breaks throughout the year.
British buyers, for example, often buy properties that lie within a few hours’ drive of the Channel ports. Northern regions like Brittany and Normandy have obvious attractions with their easy driving to the Ferry ports. For European and international buyers, cheap flights are often available to destinations in central and southern parts of France. Toulouse, Nice, Bordeaux, Bergerac, Nantes, and the Poitou-Charentes region are all served by low-cost airlines, but it’s important to remember that these airline routes are often most subject to change.
It’s also worth thinking about what you plan to do with your property when you are not there. Seasonal or temporary rentals are unlikely to be possible unless you purchase in an area where demand is high. Or if you’re leaving your property empty for months at a time, how secure an area is it in? Do you have neighbours that will keep an eye on the property? Is the region at risk for snow, storms, or floods at certain times of the year, meaning you will need to carry out seasonal maintenance.
Making the Move to France: the Best Places to Live in France
If you’re looking to move permanently to France or hope to do so in the future, it’s important to factor this into your decision making. After all, the things that you might look for in a place to live are likely different from a place that you only visit on vacation.
Younger buyers looking to live and work in France may need to live in Paris or large cities like Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseille in order to maximize job opportunities, while those raising a family might prefer a house in the countryside. If you’re retiring to France, you might prioritize living in an area with an active expat community.
Those looking to start a gite business or work within the tourism industry (both popular choices for English-speakers) might be best choosing a known vacation spot or coastal area. However, be aware that tourist towns can be very different to live in during the off-season. From a business perspective, a busy tourist area can mean a clear target market, but it also means you will have more competition from similar gites or businesses.
Another thing to think about is how easily you will be able to integrate into local life and connect with other expats. Some areas of France such as the Dordogne are extremely popular with British expats, while Paris has large number of Americans, Australians, and other international expats. Even if you intend to fully integrate into French life, it’s always useful to have some expat friends to connect with and share experiences with.
On a Budget? Where to buy the cheapest French property
International buyers have long been attracted to the comparatively low prices of the French property market, but where you buy can have a big effect on the price. If you’re on a tight budget, a central Paris apartment or St Tropez villa will likely be far out of your price range (no surprises there!), but there are still many French regions where you can snap up a bargain.
In the south, the Dordogne has long been a favourite among British expats, and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine department is still one of the cheaper areas in France in terms of the property market. There are also bargains to be found in the Occitanie region, while further north, Pays de la Loire and Brittany have been growing in popularity, thanks to their favourable weather and lower property prices.
Properties in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Languedoc-Roussillon regions can be pricey, especially along the coast. However, there are cheaper options to be found inland and buying an older property to renovate in the countryside remains an option for many buyers.
Be sure to factor in all the extra fees and expenses when setting your budget. Our guide to the Cost of Buying in France is a good place to start.
Where to Buy a Property in France: How to Decide
To help you decide where to buy a property in France, make a list of all the above aspects that are important to you. Decide which are non-negotiable (proximity to a port or airport, for example) and others that are desirable but not essential (for example, a beachfront property vs. a property within a short drive of the coast). This can help you narrow in on what’s most important to you. Even if you’ve fallen in love with a particular area, this is a good exercise to do to ensure it really meets your needs.
If you’re still unsure about where to buy, consider planning a few visits or property hunting trips to different regions of France. If you can, visit at different times of year (tourist regions, in particular, can be very different out of season) and spend some time exploring the different neighbourhoods and provinces. You could even rent a property or holiday home in the area to give you a feel for it before committing to buying.
Starting Your French Property Search
Or perhaps, you know exactly where to look and now all that’s left is to find your perfect property? In that case, head over to our property for sale section and get started on your search! Don’t forget to sign up as a FrenchEntrée member so you can receive property alerts and insider tips from our experts.