Niort is the capital city of Deux Sèvres in the department of Poitou-Charentes, now renamed Nouvelle Aquitaine, south west France.
This small city is home to a maze of twisting narrow streets lined with elegant Renaissance town houses. Remains of a 12th century fortress are now the municipal museum, and weekly markets bring visitors for miles around. Madame de Maintenon, the uncrowned wife of Louis XIV was born here in 1635. There’s plenty of culture and a great café lifestyle. Friendly locals whose roots go back to the middle ages when England controlled Aquitaine and loved the locals wines which they shipped home in abundance.
The city is bordered by the Marais Poitevin Natural Reserve, criss-crossed by watery highways and byways like a luxuriant green Venice, a magical maze of canals. And glorious countryside dotted with farming villages.
With almost as many sunshine hours as the south, banana trees are known to thrive here, this area is a fabulous location for those seeking the good life in France. We talk to Rose-Marie Couture, a Canadian expat and local agent who lives near Niort about life and property in the area…
Tell us a bit about you and what inspired you to move to this area
I moved from Quebec to Germany to study and work and then to France with my husband in 2019. We focused on Poitou-Charentes as it offers great value for money on the housing market. The region is known for being less touristy than some others. There is a nice mix of locals and expats here, a relaxed pace and lifestyle. Deux-Sèvres is also quite charming and known for its lovely rolling countryside and sunflower fields in the summer. We also have the advantage of a temperate climate and proximity to high speed trains, as well as the coast.
Our house north east of Niort and southwest of Poitiers in the village of Fomperron. It’s a cosy house with wooden floors and lots of light. It has a great garden full of flowers, bushes, and trees. There are different flowers blooming almost all year round starting in January: grape hyacinths, roses, gladioli, fuchsia, lilies, hydrangea, not to mention the wild flowers. We also harvest cherries, plums, walnuts, pears, elderflowers, elderberries and endless amounts of blackberries.
What do you love about living near Niort
There are wonderful markets – weekly food markets, as well as seasonal markets for plants, home-made products, second hand items, antiques. Our local restaurant, Bistro des Amis, makes the most delicious clades de moules, mussels barbecued on pine needles in the summer. The river water pool in Sanxay is wonderful. There are amazing grounds and museum at Tumulus de Bougon, and at the Roman ruins at Sanxay, there’s an annual opera.
The Puits d’Enfer in Exireuil is a lovely place for a picnic or a hike, as are the many river trails in the area. The market, donjon and downtown area of Niort is always lovely to visit. And the market and former monastery of Saint-Maixent-l’École are superb. Poitiers is also always worth a visit with its charming town hall, museums, downtown and riverside parks. In the town of Coutières there’s even a “parking spot” to tie up your horse! And there are so many great restaurants, one of my favourites is at the Chateau le Marconnay which is absolutely fabulous.
Property Guide to Niort and around
What do most buyers seek when they come to this area?
People buy property all over the area – an isolated place with no neighbours such as Le Bois Ferrand. Or maybe a charming hamlet like Les Touches or, a village with a bistro such as Fomperron. Some people prefer more facilities, walking distance to supermarkets, a townhouse and Saint Maixent l’Escole and Menigoute are both lovely. And for those who want a riverside location, I highly recommend Sanxay. Whatever the heart desires can be found in our Deux-Sèvres area.
The traditional style here is the “Charentaise” a home with the former hayloft converted into bedrooms upstairs. This often means the windows can be small and closer to the floor, so people often compensate for that by adding higher windows or Velux windows in the slanted roofs.
Typical home buyers – everyone! French, expat, young, old. At the moment I see a trend of French buyers buying homes where they might have only rented a few years back and looking for second homes to escape from the big cities. In addition there is a big rush for UK buyers to buy and complete their sales and moves to France before Brexit becomes official.
What can home buyers get for their money?
Doer uppers can be incredibly cheap in this area and should definitely be taken into consideration. If you do not want too much work, there are also many properties that have been beautifully done up, especially by expats that are great value for money – often with fantastic kitchens (the Brits love their Rangemaster ovens!), aerothermal heat pumps, swimming pools, etc.
How easy is it to get to Niort from the UK
Transport to the UK is diverse: There are several ports to choose from if one is driving. The rail connections to the UK via Paris / Chunnel are excellent. In addition there are flights from Bordeaux, Nantes, Poitiers and La Rochelle.
What key piece of advice would you offer home seekers in the area?
My advice is if you are buying a home to live in, be aware of the following: Many homes here have been renovated beautifully as holiday homes, but the insulation and heating can leave something to be desired if you want to live here year round.
The climate is temperate but it can get quite chilly and rainy in the winter. If you take this into consideration you will be able to decide accordingly and find out whether you will need to invest in further insulation and heating.
Three words to describe expat life in Niort and around?
Sunny, friendly, relaxed…
See Rose-Marie’s portfolio of property in the Niort area: frenchestateagents.com