Buying property in the Ariège
This is a region where there really is property to suit every taste and every budget and it is well located with a great climate, summer and winter. Although much of the Ariège is within an hour of Toulouse, this region still has some of the best value property in the whole of France with prices slightly higher around St Croix Volvestre, Betchat, Saint Lizier, le Mas d’Azil and Foix where there is easier access to Toulouse and slightly lower towards the mountains around Saint Girons, Oust and Massat, Castillon en Couserans and Seix, near the ski resort of Guzet Neige.
As far as house prices are concerned, the Ariège region, which has historically had a very stable (and incredibly good value) property market is seeing a gradual rise in prices and, in 2010, recorded one of the largest property price rises in France, according to the association of Notaires in France. This is perhaps down to the fact that house buyers coming to France are now much more conscious of getting value for money, which is why they are being drawn to this region.
Buyers are daring to cast their nets and have discovered what amazing value the houses are in the Ariège. Which just goes to show that yesterday’s backwater is tomorrow’s hotspot and, while property here is still very affordable, it will not always necessarily remain so. However, property is still extremely good value, particularly for old farms with outbuildings or village houses, both of which are generally high on the property wish list of people looking for homes in the area. The average price of an old stone, three bedroom house in the Ariege is €125,000 compared to the average price in the Midi-Pyrenees as a whole of €193,000.
It is also still possible (and this will undoubtedly change here as it has done in the Alps) to find a wooden shepherd’s hut in the mountains, minutes away from the ski slopes with stunning views and a sizeable plot for €50,000 – €100,000. Many of these are now being snapped up and turned into luxury ski chalets but that dream of owning a chalet or mountain retreat is still achievable in the Ariège at the moment.
There is also no shortage of land in the region and lots of opportunities for living the good life or setting up a new business.
Interestingly, the Ariège must be one of the last few remaining areas of France where there is actually a shortage of holiday letting accommodation, particularly close to St-Girons and the mountains, especially for good-quality holiday rentals.
Many foreign people – especially British – are also still interested in buying old properties to renovate in the Ariège department and complete renovations are still to be found, which is no longer the case in some areas of the Midi-Pyrénées.
Types of property in the Ariège:
The architecture in Ariège is mainly that of a rural region; there is no big town in this department and farming is and has always been the predominant industry. Architectural styles reflect this so that properties in the Ariège are very simple and barely decorated providing for basic needs; shelter for food and animals. The building materials are taken from local sources, so are mainly river stones and wood. The types of properties you will find here are:
Village houses: built of local stone with wooden beams, often with wooden painted shutters, balconies and doors, these properties can be found in almost all of the villages of the Ariège department. Village houses are often detached and usually have a garden and a courtyard. Inside the house there are wood beams, fireplaces and many original features.
Farmhouses: often in secluded position, there are many farmhouses all over the Ariège. These properties often have outstanding panoramic views and are generally positioned to make the most of the plentiful sunshine and to protect from winter weather. Built from stone, they are usually very spacious both inside and outside with outbuildings and often have a front and rear terrace opening onto fields and the unspoiled rolling hills and mountains of this region.
Renovated barns: agriculture has always played a crucial role in the economy of the Ariège and thus the valleys and hills are dotted with the characteristic wooden barns and shepherd’s huts of the region. Nowadays many of the barns have been converted into lovely homes with a large living space, lots of wood inside and out and walls made up of stone mixed with cob. Many also have traditional ardoises (slate) roofs. There are still unconverted barns available for sale but these are becoming more and more sought after and thus prices are increasing.
Half-timbered houses: these maisons à colombage are also a feature of the Ariège department and can be found particularly in the towns such as Foix, St Girons and St Lizier, dating from the 15th Century. They are constructed from timber both inside and outside of the house while the walls are made of a traditional mix of cob and stone.
Stone Houses: always much sought-after, these characteristic French properties with large windows and dormer windows in the roofs can be found in the mountain valleys, often decorated with window boxes of flowers in the summer. They can make the perfect holiday home.