Annaliza Davis explores a region that offers the best of all worlds – whether you are seeking city-centre investment or looking for your own bit of heaven on Earth
Pays de la Loire boasts the best of France: fantastic coastlines, wonderful countryside, masses of culture and (of course) great cuisine. It’s perfectly placed for easy access from the UK, which is another good reason why the region is such a property hotspot. Each year, many Brits pack up their belongings and head here for a slice of the good life.
WHERE IS THE PAYS DE LA LOIRE?
This popular spot is in western France, to the south of Brittany. Named after the 800-mile-long river Loire that flows past elegant châteaux, vineyards and swathes of greenery, the region includes five départements: Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendée. Both Loire-Atlantique and Vendée are coastal, and these are the most sought-after areas, attracting 75 per cent of all new residents, plus huge numbers of tourists each summer.
So where is the best place to start your property search? Well it depends on the sort of thing you’re after. If you’re searching for city investments, dynamic Nantes (50km from the coast) offers tourism, industry and several university sites – as does Angers, which is popular for conferences and business events as it is fairly centrally located making it very accessible. Meanwhile, Le Mans (home of the endurance sports car race) is only one hour from Paris by rail, so it’s an attractive commuting option for professionals and indeed for regular cross-Channel breaks if you are planning to come by Eurostar.
If it’s a budget property that you’re seeking, look to the less-populated, inland areas such as Mayenne, which sits between Rennes and Le Mans – or the Sarthe département, which is the area surrounding Le Mans itself. As a general rule, you’ll get more for your money the further inland you go, particularly if you’re happy living around 30 minutes away from a big city.
Coastal properties in Pays de la Loire are in high demand but you can find affordable pieds-à-terre, studio flats and holiday apartments – and even homes with a seaview can be snapped up for under €200,000. Hotspots along the coast include medieval Guérande and its shoreline neighbours – charming fishing village Piriac-sur-Mer, La Turballe and attractive ports Le Croisic and Pornichet – plus popular seaside resorts Pornic, Saint-Jean-de-Monts and Les Sables d’Olonne.
The island Île d’Yeu and the peninsula of Noirmoutier are also highly sought after with prices reflecting that. However, remember that although homes in chic resorts come at a premium, they do achieve higher rental prices in the long run.
This region is France’s top spot for horse-racing, with 49 racecourses, 600 trainers and 588 clubs. Saumur is home to the French National Horse-Riding School and the French military riding academy ‘Cadre Noir’, so unsurprisingly, there are many equestrian properties here. You could buy a house with over a hectare (2.47 acres) of land for €250,000 but with €500,000 you’ll have a choice of properties with paddocks, stables, guest accommodation and perhaps an existing income. Whether you’re moving here or investing, this equine interest is worth bearing in mind: properties near equestrian tourism sites or with facilities to accommodate horses will always attract a good share of the tourist market.
For those who prefer the bright lights, city-centre studio apartments start at around €50,000 in Nantes and Angers, and can be as low as €30,000 in Le Mans. Remember to research the different areas and neighbourhoods, and check transport links.
For a straightforward family home, whether modern or character in style, a budget of €150,000 will give you plenty to choose from in Mayenne, but you’ll need around €300,000 for family house-hunting in the popular Loire-Atlantique. Prices in Maine-et-Loire, Sarthe and the Vendée fall somewhere in between the two.
Those looking for a community feel can find plenty of small market towns in Pays de la Loire, typically featuring a baker, a pharmacy, a hairdresser and a bar-tabac. Properties with no outside space will be cheaper and require minimal maintenance, but can be harder to rent out or to sell later on. Alternatively, one with a small courtyard can be an ideal lock-up-and-leave, with the bonus of a spot for your sun-lounger or bike.
It’s feasible to buy a tired townhouse for under €25,000 in rural areas and smaller towns; while a two-bedroom ready-to-move-into home starts at around €35,000 inland in Mayenne, Sarthe or Maine-et-Loire, but would cost from €60,000 in Loire-Atlantique and the Vendée. Character homes with period features, on the other hand, usually start at around €90,000.
Those looking to move here and enjoy a ready-made income can buy an existing holiday business. For example, a well-maintained country property with a separate two-bedroom gîte in Maine-et-Loire would cost around €250,000, while at the higher end of the market, an extensive gîte complex located in the Vendée would set you back around €840,000.
Finally, we must mention the white tuffeau stone of the Loire Valley, quarried for building elegant châteaux and manoirs. As a result, the landscape includes both natural caves and excavation holes – mostly along the river between Saumur and Montsoreau. It is estimated that until the 1800s these ‘troglodyte’ caves were home to as many as 50 per cent of Saumur’s population, but they were gradually abandoned until coming back into favour recently as heritage homes with ecological bonuses. You could buy a renovated troglodyte dwelling for under €150,000 and own a piece of history!
WHAT ARE THE MAIN PROPERTY TYPES IN THE PAYS DE LA LOIRE?
MAISONS – BOURGEOISE
THE LOIRE CHÂTEAUX
To the French, the Pays de la Loire is the land of châteaux, boasting hundreds of examples mostly constructed from the 1400s to the early 1600s. From the fortress-like Bazouges and Baugé, to the Renaissance elegance of Lude, they attract several hundred thousand visitors a year, boosting stays at gîtes and B&Bs. Besides the famous sites open to the public, there are several unsung châteaux to be discovered – or even purchased. Given their size and scale, many châteaux lend themselves to accommodation ventures but also equestrian, fishing and sporting businesses or wedding venues, but you’d need to define your target demographic and research the market.
You could buy a petit château ripe for restoring from €700,000 (allow renovation costs of €1,000 per m²) while a fully functioning château with existing gîte business comes in closer to €2,000,000. Remember, these are listed properties and planning permissions will need to be sought for any modifications.
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