The rural department of Deux-Sèvres, in Poitou-Charentes (part of Nouvelle Aquitaine) has a landscape of charming small villages and towns, waterways and lush green countryside.
The name of the department literally means ‘two Sevrès’ as the sources of both the Sèvre Nantaise and Sèvre Niortaise rivers can be found here. The capital of the department, Niort, is just an hour from La Rochelle and it’s most famous attraction is the Marais Poitevin, the “green Venice” of France, an area of marshes with prolific wildlife which can be explored by boat.
It’s a sleepy sort of region, not a major tourist attraction but it’s become increasingly popular with expats seeking the good life in France. With a great range of property styles and prices, it’s one of the cheapest places in France for houses. There are two main airports close by: La Rochelle and Poitiers, and TGV from Poitiers (from 1h4m) and Niort (from 1h53m).
We talk to Nicola Hancock, a British expat and local property agent in Deux- Sèvres. She moved to France from Stone in Staffordshire, UK in 2005 with her husband and two young sons and has shared her expertise for this property guide to Deux-Sèvres..
What is the appeal of Deux-Sèvres for buyers?
For starters and a really important point – the houses are cheaper. It’s easy to travel to and from the UK – Deux-Sèvres is in the centre of the triangle between La Rochelle, Poitiers and Nantes airports and it’s just over three hours to Saint Malo for the ferry. With easy access to the beaches of Charente-Maritime and the Vendée, plus plenty of other tourist attractions, it’s a great area for expat retirees, holiday homeowners and those wanting to run gites. It’s ideal for families and those with children, the schools are really welcoming and helpful. And of course the weather – it’s much warmer and sunnier than in the north, but without the intense heat of the far south. (2,600 hours of sunshine each year, not far behind the Mediterranean resorts 2775 hours of sunshine).
What’s the best thing about living in Deux-Sèvres?
The location is great for those who want a quiet life or for those who want plenty of activities and things to do. You can easily get to the beaches even if it’s just for an afternoon or evening stroll. The superstar theme parks of Puy du Fou and Futuroscope are close by. Cognac and the Loire Valley are neighbours. There’s not much traffic on the roads and the countryside is glorious. The Gatine countryside for instance, has rolling hills with granite boulders brought down in the ice age, people say it reminds them of Wales – except with sunshine. The locals are friendly and welcoming. And for those who like ride bikes, the Voies Vertes, disused railway lines for walking or cycling, are brilliant.
What are property prices like in Deux-Sèvres?
The average house price is around €150,000 euros – and you get a lot for your money. Prices start as low as €20,000 for properties needing renovation. You could currently get a barn conversion for €11,000 or a turreted chateau, perfect for a boutique B&B for €742,000. Farmhouses with land for horses, village properties, apartments in the city of Niort, family homes, holiday homes, gite complexes and B&B properties – there’s everything here. Sous-sol houses are generally unknown to the British market, they are like a bungalow from the front but have a basement and are much bigger inside than they look from the outside. A typical, local property would be a ‘longère’, a long country house, with exposed stonework and beams.
What are the most popular towns/villages for house buyers in Deux-Sèvres?
Parthenay, a medieval town with small narrow streets is very popular. It has a river, cattle market (Parthenais cows), FLIP games festival and plenty of restaurants and bars. Bressuire has a yearly Grand Prix of old cars racing around the streets and every two years a Highland Games contest held in the chateau. Niort has many retail parks, but the town itself has undergone recent improvements making some roads pedestrian only. It has many restaurants which makes it a lovely place to eat and people watch. Saint Loup-sur-Thouet and Moncoutant are also popular.
Top tip for not so well known areas property seekers in Deux-Sèvres ought to consider…
Coulonges-sur-L’Autize is very pretty and has a weekly market. Because roads have less traffic here, everything is easier to reach, so even an isolated property isn’t really that far from facilities. All small towns have supermarkets, doctors etc. Secondigny is a very good place to consider, it has a lovely lake and a weekly farmers market. This region is a big apple producing area, so in October there is a week-long festival celebrating the apple and ending in a huge market where the town is shut off to traffic. There’s even a place where you can take your home grown apples to be squished and processed into apple juice.
What’s the market outlook for Deux-Sèvres?
It’s very dynamic at the moment across all types of property from the cheapest to the most expensive and properties are moving fast. This is becoming a much more popular region both for French and expats looking for a more authentic and rural way of life.
What are the seasons like?
Winter and summer seasons are longer than in the UK. Long summers are dry but from early October everything starts getting green again. Spring starts proper in April when it gets much warmer. Winters can be cold and we do get snow occasionally.
What do you personally love best about living in Deux-Sèvres?
We love the ease of getting to places, the rolling countryside, the people – we have found the French are very welcoming and we’ve made good friends. The gentle pace of life is very appealing although it took us a while to get used to shops shutting over lunch and all day Monday if they are open on Saturday. The way children are welcome to go everywhere with us, rather than being left at home with babysitters, the boys have grown into capable adults ho are happy to converse with anyone…