Which Type of French Property Should You Buy? Chateau, Gite, Farmhouse?


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Which Type of French Property Should You Buy? Chateau, Gite, Farmhouse?

French real estate comes in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps you dream of a farmhouse renovation in the heart of Provence, an alpine chalet, or buying an old French château to convert into a chambre d’hôte? Perhaps your ideal type of French property is one you hadn’t even thought of…

What Type of French Property Are You Looking For?

There are many decisions to make when purchasing a property in France but the house itself surely has to be one of the most important! Many first-time buyers in France have a strong idea of what they are looking for, but it pays to think carefully about your preferences and whether they truly match your needs.

Once you’ve narrowed down where in France to buy and worked out your budget, it’s time to be more specific about your requirements. Do you want to be located in the city or the countryside, close to a town, or in the heart of the countryside? Are there are extras that are important to you, such as a swimming pool, a garage, or a large garden? How much land do you want?

Don’t just think about the features you’d like, consider what type of French property would work best for you. If you’re visiting on vacation for a couple of weeks at a time, you don’t want to spend all your time on maintenance. Similarly, while it can be tempting to buy a property with plenty of land, the upkeep could be challenging if you don’t have the time and equipment.

Buying a Property to Renovate in France

Many foreign buyers in France plan to purchase an old property with the aims of renovating or rebuilding. There are a huge range of older properties to buy in France—barns, farmhouses, stables, country cottages, historic châteaux—and there are many success stories of expat buyers transforming these into cosy gîtes, luxurious Chambre d’Hôtes, or characterful holiday homes.

But before you let your imagination get ahead of you, take time to consider if renovating an old property is really for you. Old properties can be a minefield of potential problems from dodgy roofs and dangerous wiring, not to mention damp and mould, and more serious structural issues. There is a huge difference between a property that needs a lick of paint and one that essentially needs rebuilding from the ground up.

It’s important to assess the time, budget, and skills that it will take to carry out these repairs and renovations. Some things to consider are: will need you need to apply for planning permission and is this likely to be approved? How much will the work cost and how long will it take? Will the property be habitable before or during the renovations? Who will you hire to do the work? How will you communicate with builders and artisans (especially if you don’t speak good French) and who will oversee the work if you are not there? If you plan to carry out the work yourself, do you have the skills to do so? How much will the materials cost?

If purchasing an old property, it might be a good idea to have a building or structural survey carried out before you buy, or at least organise a visit from a local builder who can offer estimates on time and cost.

Visit our building & renovation zone for more on French property renovations.

Investing in French Property

French real estate can be an attractive proposition for overseas investors, especially if you have the budget to buy in key tourist areas or the knowledge to invest in areas of growth.

Preferred places to invest in property in France include Paris, Provence, and the Côte d’Azur, although these are also some of the priciest regions to buy property. Alternatively, look at up-coming cities such as Bordeaux, Nice, Nantes, and Lyon, or purchase along the west coast, anywhere from Biarritz to Brittany.

Visit our investment property zone for the latest news and updates.

Purchasing a French Ski Property

Ski properties are another popular type of French property for investors and second-home owners, whether in the French Alps or the Pyrenees. While ski properties don’t always have the easy access points of city and coastal properties (especially for British buyers travelling by ferry), mountain residences have the bonus of being a year-round vacation spot. While beach resorts can shut down completely outside of peak season, many winter ski resorts also have a summer season, when hiking, mountain biking, and golf become the activities of choice.

Things to consider when purchasing ski property in France include proximity to airports, access to ski slopes and winter activities (and the types of ski slopes available), the altitude, whether or not you want to be within a ski resort town or more remote, and the après-ski scene.

Visit our ski property zone for more ideas and inspiration.

Buying a New Build Home in France

Buying a new build home in France has a lot of advantages, not least the security and peace of mind that comes with a brand-new property. Buying off-plan (buying directly from the developer before the house has been built) means you’ll benefit from reduced notaire’s fees, a 10-year guarantee on structural faults, and of course, you’ll get to decorate your new home to your individual tastes.

If you’re looking for a countryside residence, however, a new build might not be the way to go—new property developments are generally restricted to coastal areas and cities.

Visit our new build zone to find out more.

Buying a Mobile Home in France

If you’re looking for an affordable holiday home or a temporary base when moving to France, buying a mobile home could be a smart option. Mobile homes offer excellent value and although you will have to pay an annual rental fee, it can still be a far cheaper option than purchasing a property.

Perhaps the biggest appeal of a mobile home is the chance to own a holiday home in some of France’s most sought-after postcodes. Mobile homes are parked on residential holiday parks, many of which can be found by beach resorts, in popular tourist areas, or close to regional attractions. Even if a beachside apartment along the Côte d’Azur is far outside your budget, you might still be able to afford a mobile home within a short drive of the beach.

Staying at a holiday park has heaps of other benefits, including all-year security and surveillance; on-site amenities such as restaurants, bars, and swimming pools; a community of other holiday-makers; and English-speaking staff.

Head over to our mobile home zone for more inspiration.

Purchasing Leaseback Property in France

For those looking at investing in property in France, especially by buying a new build, another option to consider is the French leaseback scheme. When you purchase a leaseback property, you buy a property and lease it back to a rental company to let it out. The company will rent out the property for a number of years and you will have a guaranteed rental income for the term of the lease.

The benefits? Not only can you expect returns of between 3% to 6%, but at the end of the contract, the French government will also refund the 20% VAT (TVA) on the initial purchase of the property.

Find out more about this type of French property in our Leaseback property zone.

Buying a Smallholding in France

With miles of open countryside and sparsely populated rural areas, France is an attractive destination for those looking to escape the city. Land prices are still comparatively low compared to the UK and other European countries, so you might find that operating a smallholding in France is much more affordable than in your own country.

Whether you’re looking to purchase an equestrian property, rear your own animals, or run a small vineyard, a lot of work goes into land maintenance and running a self-sufficient farm, so it’s important to do your homework first. Be realistic about the time, effort, and skill that is needed to upkeep a property of this size, consider access points, and seek advice from locals in the area before committing to this kind of purchase.

Visit our Smallholdings in France zone for more.

Start the Search for Your Perfect French property

Ready to start your search? Browse our property for sale in locations all over the country and search for the type of French property that interest you most. Better yet, become a FrenchEntrée member (it’s free!) and gain access to exclusive properties, as well as tips and advice from our property, currency, and mortgage experts. 

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