Property trends in Sete, Marseillan, Meze and Agde
The towns and villages around the Bassin de Thau – a majestic salt water lagoon south-west of Montpellier – are firm favourites for holiday makers and sea-dogs alike. And who would blame them? With access to acres of sandy beaches, some of the best seafood in France, and fantastic transport links, berthing here makes for an excellent investment.
For centuries the Bassin de Thau has provided a rich source of income to the local area, now famous for its oyster and mussels production. As the region became more industrialised, ingenious engineering transformed the Bassin into a key trading waterway as the Canal du Midi, which ends at the southernmost tip of the lagoon at Agde, was linked through to the Canal du Rhone at the lagoon’s northern edge at Sete. These two larger towns are now the focal points of the area’s beach resort culture (including a naturist beach and village at Cap d’Agde), and in between the two towns there is the most wonderful strip of wilder, less developed beach which forms the eastern edge of the Bassin along the Mediterranean.
Along the western edge of the lagoon is where you will find the delightful fishing villages and towns which give the area such picturesque charm, each with its own specific character. Sitting on the edge of the Bassin next to Sete, Balaruc is famous for its spa centre and for the medieval history of its old town. At the quiet fishing village of Bouzigues, the epicentre of the shellfish farming, you will find an enormous choice of excellent seafood restaurants with idyllic views over the lagoon, towards the impressive Mont Saint Clair on which Sete is built. Marseillan is another favourite tourist destination, with its charming marina and port-side cafés, bars, restaurants and boutiques. Marseillan is also home to the famous Noilly Prat vermouth cellars, opened to the public most of the year. Further inland, the area continues to boast its fascinating history with the wonderfully preserved Roman villa at Loupian and signs pointing out the modern road which follows the original Via Domitia at Meze.
The Bassin de Thau is very easy to access via the N113 road which is well linked, at junctions 33 and 34, to the A9 motorway. Both Montpellier airport (served by several airlines) and Beziers airport (served by Ryanair and charter airlines) can be reached within 30 minutes depending where you are along the lagoon.
With this heady mix of history and tradition, food and wines, beach and bar culture, and Mediterranean climate, there is something for everybody here. This is reflected in the area’s relaxed, tolerant and cosmopolitan population, and in its continued popularity for all kinds of buyers. There is definitely a youthful atmosphere, and that wonderfully relaxed southern French vibe: cooler than cool twenty somethings rubbing shoulders with funky seniors, polyglot yachting families passing the time of day alongside generations of oyster farmers. The Bassin de Thau’s proximity to the cities of Montpellier and Beziers also means access to a large number of of urban amenities, cultural and sporting facilities, and specialist colleges and lycées.
Property prices in the Bassin de Thau are not as expensive as some other Mediterranean coastal areas, such as the Cote d’Azur, but are amongst the highest in the Herault department and in the Languedoc-Roussillon region as a whole. The villages and towns around the lagoon tend to have pretty historic centres with modern newly built villas and apartment developments around the edges, thus offering a good range of architectural styles. Apartments and homes with gardens, swimming pools and sea views, naturally, fetch a premium.
So, the property market in the Bassin de Thau certainly reflects the added value of the culture and lifestyle one enjoys in a coastal area of the South of France, and yet, with so much choice, buyers certainly aren’t being priced out of the market. With new airline routes operating from Beziers (Ryanair to Bristol will start in April 2008), and talk of further routes being added to Montpellier’s impressive roster, serious investors may want to consider this area’s potential.