France is about three and a half times the size of the UK with roughly the same population. With a hugely diverse landscape from the Mediterranean sunshine of the south to the lush green lands of the north, there’s an enormous choice for buyers. And it’s not just the regions to consider in terms of difference – there are also cultural distinctions and architectural variances.
So, when it comes to buying a home and making sure you’ve got the right location, where do you start?
Most of us have an idea of where we want to live in France, based on weather, transport and often, experience. We fall in love with a place when we go on holiday. I travel in France all year round and I pretty much love everywhere I go. I constantly phone my partner and say, “I want to live here” – it could be Champagne, Ardenne, Provence, Alsace, Picardy, Normandy, Brittany – from north to south, east to west I’ve rarely been somewhere I didn’t want to move to in France!
Making a snap decision is human, we all do it. Most of the time it works out, but, not always. I’ve heard of people who fell head over heels for a stunning house they saw on the internet only to find it was next to a very busy motor way. and those who long for tranquility sometimes feel isolated after a while in a hamlet with no neighbours and no shops. Doing your homework before you hand your money over is definitely worth the effort.
Top Tips to help you find the right home in France
1. Go there and stay there!
If you know where you want to buy in France, go and visit more than once. Get a feel for the area and the surrounding towns and villages. Take a holiday there, house sit if you can (it’s rent free), maybe even volunteer with a group like Workaway so you get to meet people and really know the place.
2. Talk to the locals
Most towns and villages have a local café – pop in and say hello. Tell them you’re considering moving into the area, ask them what it’s like to live there and what they like, don’t like about a place. If it’s rural France you’re reviewing, bear in mind that it can be a bit cliquey so you might get a one-sided view! You could also ask if there are other expats in the area, particularly smaller villages. I get people knocking on my front door a fair bit saying “We heard you are the only Brits in the village and we wondered if you would tell us what this area is like”.
3. Check out the facilities
If it’s not obvious what facilities there are in the area, ask at the local town hall (Mairie). They will be able to tell you about local doctors, hospitals and schools etc. Many rural villages don’t have a public transport service which may be important if there’s a non-driver in the family.
4. Check the news
Buy the local paper and see if there is a website for the town or village. Pop into the local supermarket, there are often notices on the wall advising re fetes, Zumba classes or other social activities so that you can see how lively, or not, a place might be.
It may seem strange that in this day and age some areas don’t have good internet services but in some rural areas of France this is still the case. If you need to work from home using the internet, it’s something to consider. People overlook this point but, if you need the internet to work fast and well, it’s worth checking in advance what the service is like…
More tips for home buyers in France
How to find your dream home in France: What to consider when you’re looking at property in France…
French property types explained: the phrases used by estate agents in France to describe properties