Team a great quality of life with a central location near gems such as Limoges with very affordable property prices, and you have Uzerche, says Carolyn Reynier…
Qui a maison à Uzerche a château en Limousin” – so goes the old saying, but what could your budget buy in this old fortified town? One of the Plus Beaux Détours de France, Uzerche sits up on a rocky spur in a meander of the Vézère river. Its rich medieval architectural heritage is built around the 11th- century Romanesque abbatial church of St-Pierre. Bristling with towers and awash with vaulted passages, the old town is adorned with dwellings resembling little châteaux – hence the saying.
The rest of Uzerche, on the opposite river bank, is reached via two bridges. It’ll help to look at it on a map to see how it works. To the west lies the Parc Naturel Régional (PNR) du Périgord-Limousin, to the east the Millevaches en Limousin PNR while the Corrèze prefecture, Tulle, is to the southeast. The Lemovices, a Gallic tribe, gave their name to Limoges and Limousin; more recently, the administrative region, comprising the Haute- Vienne, Corrèze and Creuse departments, was incorporated into Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
Uzerche (population 2,700) has a vibrant year-round cultural scene-classical music, street theatre and art, potters and glassblowers; you can walk locally, hike. climb and mountain bike. The Vézère river and its gorges-its waters rise up on the granitic Millevaches plateau and enter Dordogne at Limeuil 21km later-offers canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
Looking for your own little Limousin château in or around Uzerche? Isabelle Auboiroux at Celaur Immobilier says that houses in the old town are tall and often terraced.
Dating back to the 18th century and earlier, they may have a balcony or little garden. These properties don’t lend themselves to conversion into apartments because the living area is not large. Given their historic location, the work you can do on your property comes under the jurisdiction of the Bâtiments de France.
Although there is a good restaurant here, there are no longer any shops in the old town, says Isabelle. Before the town was bypassed, all traffic used to pass right through Uzerche old town on the N20, now the D920. Prices vary but Isabelle says she could sell a small house requiring complete renovation for €20,000 or something ready to live in for €150 000-€160 000.
On the opposite bank of the Vézère, St-Eulalie, now attached to Uzerche, used to be a separate village with its own chapel and little town hall. It’s possible to find houses with fine views of the old town across the water. To the west, along the riverside, the former industrial quarter of the Papeterie has been redeveloped by French architect Jean- Michel Wilmotte who designed King’s Cross Central. It is now a cultural centre with auditorium and exhibition centre.
Fabienne Degorce lives in Lubersac to the west and is an independent estate agent specialising in old properties. We’re at the borders of Dordogne, Haute-Vienne and Corrèze, she says. In former times, Uzerche was the administrative capital of Corrèze so up in the old town there are lots of “prestigious” large, high-ceilinged houses that belonged to judges, the bourgeoisie and nobles.
As soon as you leave Uzerche, you’re in the countryside and the bâti rural-Corrèze’s built heritage of farmsteads, mills and other old stone buildings. Fabienne recently sold a couple of houses by a stream, part of a former mill complex in an isolated hamlet surrounded by forest: “You can still find this kind of property.” One, a 19th-century farmhouse with a hectare of land – enlarged in the early 1900s, needing to be brought up to standard (mis aux norms)-sold for €160,000. The larger neighbouring property, sold for €180,000. “These types of houses generally have a barn, pigsty and henhouse,” says Fabienne, who loves old buildings and offers advice on restoration.
If you fancy a riverside residence, have a look at the village of Vigeois just southwest of Uzerche. You’re too late to buy a “very pretty little riverside cottage” recently sold by its English owner (the medieval bridge is known as the Pont des Anglais), but there are some old stone properties here, near the Vézère.
The A20 motorway – toll-free from Limoges to Brive-la-Gaillarde, and the department’s backbone – plays an important part in property prices. “When you’re not too far from the A20, prices are higher.” The same applies to more “prestigious” villages such as Pompadour and Uzerche, which have shops, services and schools. Some folk prefer to buy at lower prices in the countryside just outside a larger town, says Fabienne. “We have lots of hamlets, lieux dits, with just three or four houses,” she says.
Most of these villages no longer have shops so she suggests having a look at Salon- la-Tour, just north of Uzerche, close to the A20. There are some shops, people are moving in, setting up cafés associatifs, there’s quite a lot happening. “ça commence à redynamiser“.
Prices rose during Covid as folk discovered remote working and moved to the country for psychological, ecological, health and lifestyle reasons. Sellers asked, and often got, well over market price for their property, says Fabienne. Things have calmed down, but demand is still high and she continues to sell what she loves: old stone houses with cachet, cob construction, timber beams, often requiring some TLC. You can find properties for €50,000- €70,000-she recently sold a small renovated two-bedroom cottage with barn and 3,000m² of land in Dordogne, near Ségur-le-Château, a Plus Beau Village de France in Corrèze, for €80,000.
Townhouses are harder to sell so prices are not terribly high. If it’s your main residence, grants are available for purchase, restoration, and modernisation. Fabienne is currently selling one such property to buyers moving to Uzerche from the city. Young folk are moving here, she says, working with each other in networks, creating organic outlets and market gardens. Near the Papeterie, there’s an artisanal brewery, and further down, you can eat on the banks of the Vézère in a little restaurant in a bookshop. Uzerche is “really very dynamic on the cultural level, and very open on the social level”.
Christophe Berthou of Berthou Immobilier at Arnac-Pompadour says this little town-west of Uzerche, halfway between sub- prefecture Brive-la-Gaillarde and Limoges, the Haute-Vienne prefecture – is “très touristique, très dynamique“. We have the château, the haras national (one of the national studs), a medical centre and all commodities, he continues. Not only is Pompadour the administrative headquarters of the IFCE, the French Institute of Horses and Riding, but the race course is also officially twinned with Folkestone’s.
As well as older properties – building stone in Pompadour is paler, more yellowish in colour than in Uzerche – you’ll find two/three-bedroom 1970s houses built over basements, renovated or for renovation, and more recent properties less than 10 years old.
In the surrounding countryside there are old stone farmsteads-corps de ferme, with barns, outbuildings and up to a hectare of land. Properties with more land are harder to find and hence are pricier. Christophe is currently marketing a renovated property at Troche between Uzerche and Pompadour: “Four bedrooms, barn, five hectares of land, we’re at €300,000.”
Both Pompadour and nearby Lubersac offer investors a dynamic long-term lettings market thanks to various local employers including the national stud. The château and horse-related events mean Pompadour also has a good seasonal lettings market.
“There are no factories so the air is very pure, there’s a real quality of life,” says Christophe. “We’re well served by the motorway network and have airports at Brive and Limoges, we’re three hours by train from Limoges to Paris, four from Brive,” he adds. “A central position, one of the cheapest regions in France, plus this great quality of life- a lot of people envy us”.
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