Property trends and guide to the area west of Carcassonne
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The Lauragais encompasses the west of the Aude department of the Languedoc-Roussillon, wast of the department’s capital Carcassonne, and extends into the eastern corner of the Midi-Pyrenees region south of Toulouse. The area is sometimes referred to as the “granary” of the south of France thanks to the number of cereal crop farms that have developed here over centuries. Thus the Lauragais is typified by a patchwork of rolling hills covered in wheat, barley and sunflowers. The landscape is verdant and interlaced with streams and rivers flowing over towards the Aquitaine basin west of the Languedoc Roussillon. To the south the rolling hills of the Lauragais then give way to the more dramatic foothills and forests of the Pyrenees, with some of the most incredible vistas of the mountain range itself beyond, and to the north-east the Lauragais is bordered by the Montagne Noire, which is part of the Massif Central mountain ranges in south-central France.
The Languedoc-Roussillon part of the Lauragais centres around the large market town of Castelnaudary – famous for its local cassoulet stew – and home to an important pit stop of the Canal du Midi, the UNESCO world heritage site which crossed the region. Castelnaudary is linked via the A61 motorway to Toulouse within 45 minutes and to Carcassonne within 40 minutes, which means that both the town and its surrounding villages are very popular property hotspots for young working families who commute into these cities and for holiday home owners who can take advantage of the numerous international and low-cost flights that come into the airports at Toulouse and Carcassonne. Just over the region’s border into the Midi-Pyrenees part of the Lauragais is the other major market town of the area, Revel – whose local artisans are famous for their tradition of marking finely crafted furniture. Revel is also around 45 minutes way from Toulouse, and is very close to the Lake and park at Saint-Ferreol , an excellent spot for summer days to enjoy swimming, fishing and a great many sports, both on and off the water.
This area is also home to some stunning medieval towns and villages such as Mirepoix (with its fantastic Monday morning market), the pretty medieval village of Belpech and the circulade village of Fanjeaux. Like most rural communities, the pace of life is slower here, quieter and more community based. In many of the villages and towns there are regular community festivals and celebrations organised which gives you a chance to meet and mingle with your neighbours. Local museums and monuments pay tribute to artisan crafts and former glory: the Canal du Midi and its importance to the local economy is celebrated at the tourist office in Avignonet-Lauragais, there are archaeology finds to be seen at Bram and Soreze, and the restored Cugarel Windmill in Castelnaudary bears testament to the importance of the area’s cereal farming. Regular farmer’s markets in the larger towns allow residents to enjoy local produce (particularly duck products and, of course, cassoulet) and artisan crafts; the cafés and brasseries surrounding the market squares in these towns providing great spectator seats over a cup of coffee. And the area has a strong community of artists and crafts people – drawn to the region for its picturesque beauty and relaxed atmosphere.
The Lauragais is also good for those who enjoy the great outdoors: there are several well marked walking and cycling routes to explore, including a part of the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrim route; a number of local equestrian centres are available for horse riding enthusiasts; sailing is possible at the Ganguise and Saint-Ferreol lakes, and of course there is boating on the Canal du Midi.
For those looking to make a permanent move to the region, this area is very family friendly, with good local creches and primary schools in many of the larger villages; secondary schools in Bram, Castelnaudary, Fanjeaux, Caraman, Nailloux, Revel, St Pierre de Lages and Villefranche de Lauragais; and high school lycees in Castelnaudary (4) and Revel (3). Industrial zones outside the larger towns provide areas for light industry (especially preserved cassoulet stew), and is where you will find good sized supermarket chains, diy stores, car dealerships and the like.
Thanks to the A61 motorway running through it, living or owning a home in the Lauragais will allow you to enjoy both the peaceful rural idyll and the option of getting quickly into Toulouse and Carcassonne for great restaurants, shopping and culture. Also, because France as a whole is so vast, the motorway is hardly ever an imposition: you can link to it quickly, but for most locations in the Lauragais, you are rarely aware of being so close to a motorway.
Of course the winning combination of great transport links and rural charm means that the Lauragais is a very popular spot for home buyers, and as such the property market has see dramatic rise in values over the past ten years. Property prices do seem to have stabilised now though, and are very unlikely to lose value as the area remains so popular. It is also increasingly a buyers market in this area, and so there are deals to be had for the canny property investor. It is worth noting that, as much of the land here was traditionally given over to agriculture, medieval villages weren’t built with gardens in mind! There are plenty of houses that have gardens – but you may have to pay a premium for them.
Roughly speaking, you can find small town or village properties or barns in need of serious renovation for below €80,000. If doing major building work is not how you want to spend your summer holiday, then you should budget between €130,000 and €150,000 for a three bedroom property in good condition (possibly with a small garden). Larger properties, both modern villas and renovated character houses, with good sized gardens and swimming pools can be found for €250,000 and above. Because of its farming history, this area is also good for very large prestige properties: expect to pay upwards of €500,000 for an elegant, fully renovated, four bedroom maison de maitre with gardens and swimming pool, and over €700,000 for fully renovated, large-scale farmhouses with gite complexes, gardens and swimming pool. Property closer to the larger towns such as Castelnaudary, Revel and Mirepoix and the more picturesque villages are, naturally, a little more expensive than those in more remote villages.
In terms of making money from your investment, there is a good deal of competition in the Lauragais holiday rental market but with the right kind of property you are likely to see holiday rental returns for a 3 bedroom home during the high season fetching between €500 – €700 a week. As mentioned above the Lauragais is also a very popular commuting area, and good quality long-term rentals are in high demand.
Overall, the Lauragais is certain to continue to be a popular area for both foreign and French buyers for years to come, and so serious investors may well want to make the Lauragais one of their primary search areas for their dream French home.
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