Ellie Allen

Moving Abroad: The South of France


5 min read

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In this latest of our articles taking a look at the different regions of France from the view of the prospective expat, we set our sights on the beautiful south. From the dramatic Pyrenees mountains and the sun soaked French Riviera, to the lavender fields and vineyards of Provence and the splendid medieval towns dotting the landscape – for many, moving to the south of France represents a unique dream.

The south of France is divided into three administrative regions. We covered the western region of Nouvelle Aquitaine last time, so here we’ll be looking at the regions of Occitanie and the eastern Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Occitanie has in fact only existed as a region since 2016, having formerly been comprised of the Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. It’s a huge area – the second largest region of France – stretching from the foothills of the Pyrenees and encompassing much of the Mediterranean coastline. Almost six million people live here, with the administrative capital and largest urban centre being Toulouse. Montpellier is another popular city in the region, and one that many people choose to move to.

PROVENCE: A LAVENDER SCENTED WHIFF OF PARADISE

Looking to the east, we have the iconic Provence – popularised among wannabe expats by Peter Mayle’s seminal memoir A Year in Provence. This sun-kissed region enjoys around 300 sunny days a year, and the landscape is a patchwork of olive groves, lavender fields and vineyards. To the east rise the mighty Alps, whose snow-covered peaks are a draw for skiers from all over the world. Ancient stone villages pepper the gently rolling hills, and many an expat can be found quietly living the good life in rural tranquillity here.

Bordering Provence to the south lies the fabled Côte d'Azur, or French Riviera as it is sometimes called, which extends between Marseilles and the Italian border. Long seen as a playground for the rich and famous, the French Riviera features glitzy locations such as Nice, Cannes and Monaco, and is popular with those who want to maintain an active lifestyle yet are not short of funds.

THE GRAPE OUTDOORS: PROPERTY IN THE OCCITANIE REGION

Covering such a large area, and with such a diverse range of property on offer, we’ll hone in on a couple of disparate but representative areas of the Occitanie and look at what your money will get you.

Beziers. Occitanie is the world’s largest wine growing area, and there are many towns and villages dotted around associated with the vine. One such town is Beziers, which is one of the oldest settlements in France and sits on the Orb River. There’s a festival held every year that centres on wine, attracting connoisseurs from afar. As you might expect, there are many old farmhouses in the surrounding countryside, some in need of renovation, and if you want to pick one up you’ll be looking at a price tag of around €400,000 - €500,000. This is quite a reasonable price for a farmhouse in the south of France, especially when compared with next-door Provence.

If living in town is more your thing there’s a range of properties, with a smallish house and garden starting at just over €100,000 and rising to over €450,000 for an elegant villa with a pool. A median priced villa with pool costs around €350,000 in Beziers.

Montpellier. Sitting on the coast, ever-popular Montpellier is packed with historic and architectural delights. Its thriving thoroughfares are lined with bars and restaurants, and being a university city, there’s a young and vibrant feel about the place.

It must be said that property in Montpelier doesn’t come cheap. One-bedroom flats in the city start from around €120,000 and you can pay four times that for a flat in a fashionable area. Houses start at around a half-million Euros, but you’re more likely to be looking at around the three-million-euro price tag, although this will no doubt be a stunning property. At the upper end, some properties in the area change hands for a cool five million.

If this is out of your price range, rest assured that there are plenty of rental properties on the market, with prices beginning at around €550 a month for a studio apartment in the city.

RURAL BLISS OR A SLICE OF VILLAGE LIFE: PROPERTY IN PROVENCE

Do you dream of owning a little farmhouse surrounded by olive groves, or maybe a stone cottage in a village? Perhaps a wooden chalet on the Alpine slopes is more your thing, or maybe a little pied-à-terre in Avignon or Marseille? The fact is, there’s a truly tremendous range of properties to be found across Provence, suiting all tastes and budgets. Rather than breaking it down by region, here’s what you can expect to pay for different types of property.

Rural farmhouse or smallholding. This being the archetypal ‘living the dream’ property, idyllic farmhouses don’t exactly come cheap in Provence. For a charming old house with a few acres of land and perhaps an orchard and a pool, you’ll probably be looking at paying over and above €500,000. As in other cases, the sky really is the limit here when it comes to pricing.

Village houses. If you’re determined to live in Provence and your budget doesn’t stretch as far as you’d like it to, there are a surprising number of bargains still to be had in villages and towns. You can pick up a four-bedroom house for as little €70,000, although it’ll likely need a bit of renovation. The keyword here is ‘potential.

City flat in Marseille. The hum and bustle of Marseille could be the thing that draws you to this historic city port, and flats here are relatively inexpensive. A smallish studio flat can be purchased for €140,000, although this can rise markedly in the more popular areas of town, with topflight luxury apartments costing in the millions.

LIVING ON THE COTE D’AZURE

What could be better than living on the coast of the Mediterranean, where the sun shines for most of the year and the restaurants and shops are always buzzing? Typically, a property of any type on the Côte d'Azur is likely to be on the pricey side, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t bargains to be had. That said, an apartment in yachty Saint Tropez will cost you at least a million euros, while a small house there will set you back around three million.

Nice may still be nice, but it isn’t quite as fashionable as Saint Tropez and apartments there start at around €200,000. What’s more, a decent sized house with garden can be picked up for €500,000, which will include parking and a possibly even a pool. You can expect to pay around the same price or less in other towns along the coast, such as Cannes and Antibes. In nearby Fréjus, a house can be bought for as little as €200,000, which is something of a bargain for the region, while a place in exclusive Menton will cost far more, with houses on the market for around €900,000 and up.

GETTING THE BEST DEAL FOR YOUR MONEY WHEN YOU BUY YOUR DREAM PROPERTY IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE

If you can picture yourself living in France, make sure you check out our other articles about moving to France on the Currency Solutions website.

Remember, if you do end up taking the plunge and buying a property abroad, always make sure you get the best exchange rate you can and avoid wasting money needlessly on expensive bank fees. So, whenever you are ready to buy, be sure to give us a ring and we’ll tell you how we can easily arrange a funds transfer so you can purchase your dream home in France.

Final thoughts

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