When thinking about making the move to France, many people dream about a less hectic pace of life, an enhanced standard of living and a more affordable range of properties on the market. And while some may have their sights firmly set on the sunny southern regions like the French Riviera or Provence, others opt for the more northerly regions where access to friends and family back home is a breeze.
Not only are the regions of Brittany, Normandy and the Loire closer to the UK, the landscapes are open and mostly unspoiled and time-honoured traditions linger on. Here you’ll find everything from wild, windswept beaches and beautifully preserved medieval towns with regular fresh produce markets, to spacious rural properties and villages nestling in lush green countryside. What’s more, with excellent TGV and ferry links, it’s all within easy reach of the UK.
Below we’ll take a look at these three regions and outline what they offer, as well as providing some pointers to the price you might be expected to pay to make the dream a reality.
Brittany. ‘France’s Cornwall’ shares a number of traits with its Celtic neighbour across La Manche, including endless sandy beaches and a rocky coastline dotted with fishing villages. With so much to offer it’s no wonder that Brittany is such a big hit with overseas buyers, and the icing on the cake is that property prices have actually been falling in the past couple of years.
There are no large cities to be found in Brittany, with the regional capital Rennes being home to around 200,000 people. Rennes is a pleasant city of colourful half-timbered buildings and is only two hours away from Paris by train. According to expat newspaper The Local, humble Rennes has been voted the best city in the whole of France for foreigners, with happy expats citing the city’s liveability, the ease of finding a job and its pleasant ‘vibe’. If you want to buy a house in Rennes the average price is around €220,000, although there are numerous city flats to let if you fancy living there for a while before you make your mind up.
Outside Rennes, numerous Brits have bought and renovated old properties in the glorious Breton countryside, turning them into gîtes (short term self-catering accommodation) and chambres d’hôtes (guesthouse or B&B). Properties can be surprisingly cheap, going as low as €85,000 for a going concern, although you can, of course, pay a lot more for a luxury property with land.
With the UK in mind, to get to and from Brittany one of the most popular ways is to take the Eurostar to Paris and the travel the 2-3 hours west by TGV. There are also several ferry links, including Portsmouth and Plymouth sailing to St Malo.
Normandy. To the east of Brittany on the northern French coast is Normandy. Famed for the vast beaches where WWII troops landed, as well as the tidal island of Mont St Michel and the Bayeux Tapestry, there’s a lot more to Normandy than meets the eye. Ever popular with expat Brits, Normandy can boast chic seaside resorts, charming fishing villages and super-fast links to the UK. Property prices can be as low as €100,000 for a presentable house, and much less for one that requires renovations.
Rouen is the capital of Normandy. It’s a vibrant small city of 110,000 known for its impressive cathedral, its impressionist artists and its association with Joan of Arc. But it’s the countryside outside of Rouen that attracts people looking for peace and quiet and the chance to own their own piece of rural bliss.
The coastal promontory of Manche is one of the most popular areas of Normandy with expats, and it’s off the coast here that the Channel Islands are situated. The region is lush and green and oriented towards farming, with comparisons to Devon rife. Buyers can pick up a cottage here for €50,000, although the average price of a more sizeable family home with a decent garden starts around €100,000 and rises to €250,000.
Other areas in Normandy that are popular places to set up home include the departments of Calvados and Orne. Ferries sail to the UK from Caen, Cherbourg, Dieppe, and Le Havre.
The Pays de la Loire. The region surrounding the lower Loire – France’s longest river – is a place of vineyards, chateaux and long sandy beaches fringing the Atlantic coast. Being further to the south than either Brittany or Normandy, the climate becomes warmer, the culture more laid back and the impression of the coastal towns more Mediterranean in nature.
There are two distinct types of area within the department: the inland areas with close access to the larger towns and cities such as Nantes, Le Mans and Angers; and those areas closer to the coastal towns of St Nazaire and Les Sables d’Olonne, with the latter tending to be pricier. There’s something for everyone here, and prices vary widely across the region, although it is typical for house prices to start at under €100,000 wherever you look in the region.
With a huge range of housing available – from total-renovation rural properties to fully-restored manor houses – it’s no surprise the Pays de la Loire remains a popular place to buy property for Brits. As a general guide, the further south you go in the region the more expensive the properties become, nevertheless it is possible to pick up village houses anywhere starting at €80,000.
If this short overview of northern France has whetted your appetite to investigate further the idea of moving across the Channel, be sure to check out other forthcoming 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 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 property.
Opening an account with Currency Solutions is completely free and you’ll be able to make currency transfers anytime at our excellent exchange rates.
We appreciate that navigating the currency market can be daunting! So, a dedicated account manager will always be on hand to offer guidance.