We assess the benefits of buying in two areas of south-central France…
The Hérault département lies at the centre of Languedoc-Roussillon, which has recently been incorporated into the new Occitanie ‘super region’. It’s long attracted buyers who are looking for a property which epitomises the lifestyle of the south of France.
The Hérault offers a combination of stunning coastal areas, beautiful mountains and gorgeous National Parks further inland. The town of Pézenas is a prime location that offers a well preserved Medieval centre and a popular local market.
The département is well connected with two airports, Béziers and Montpelier, providing routes from the UK. The airports at Carcassonne and Nimes lie outside the Hérault but are still accessible. Those travelling from the northern ferry ports will need to factor in a 10-12 hour drive. The major Autoroutes are the A75 and A9.
The Hérault enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with long, consistently hot summers and temperate (if sometimes rainy) winters. You can reasonably expect 300 days of sunshine a year. However, there will be regional differences – mountainous areas can experience snowfall, while the sheltered coastal areas are warmer than inland.
The area is more affordable than its neighbouring département, the Gard, but prices increase south of Pézenas and closer to the coast. Bargain properties can be found, in the form of numerous attractive and affordable village and townhouses.
Deals can be had if you’re happy to forego a garden for a sunny rooftop terrace.
Consider a property with a swimming pool, in lieu of beach access, as the summer months do attract a high volume of holiday makers and the coast will be crowded. Consequently, you may welcome your own private pool!
The range of scenery and terrain mean that there are numerous outdoor activities to choose from. Inland, the foothills of the National Parks provide a dramatic backdrop and are rich in rivers, gorges and lakes. Don’t forget the vineyards, particularly Saint-Chinian and Frontignan, which are renowned for the AOC wines.
The Var is the most central département of the PACA (Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur) ‘super region’ and its inland portion is one of France’s most unspoilt areas with its rolling hills and valleys, vineyards and olive groves, which form part of the ‘Provence Verte’ (‘Green Provence’).
Over half of the Var comprises woodland – the pine forests of the Massif des Maures contrasting with its 420kms of coastline and wonderful beaches. Notable coastal hotspots include Le Lavandou, Saint-Raphael and Saint-Tropez. If you’re looking for something close to the coast, for a reasonable price, try the central Var and the typical Provençal towns of Lorgues, Cotignac and Salerness.
There Var boasts excellent access to and from the UK, via airports at Toulon, Marseille and Avignon – also, further east, at Nice. By rail, you can take a longers, scenic route from London’s St. Pancras to Avignon or Marseille.
If you’re driving down from the northern ferry ports or the Eurotunnel, via the motorway network from Calais through Dijon and Lyon, expect it to take 9-10 hours.
The area enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate with hot summers, mild winters and low rainfall, making it the perfect place to live or buy a holiday home. As the département is bordered by the mountains to the north it’s relatively well protected from weather fronts.
Property in Provence is more expensive than most other parts of rural France and real bargains are scarce. However, good deals can be found on traditional village houses, which start from €150,000. Renovation projects, such as barns, are now rare and get snapped up quickly. Plots of land, particularly near the coast, are at a premium and go to developers keen to capitalise on the area’s popularity. However, do bear in mind that properties in good locations will command high rents from May to the end of October.
To the north of Var, away from the more crowded beaches, lies the stunning river canyon of the Gorges du Verdon. Wine routes, through the famous vineyards of Bandol and AOC Cotes de Provence, are popular, as are visits to the area’s hilltop Provençal villages, which offer superb views of the surrounding countryside.