Buying A Coastal Property in France
The town and harbour of Collioure, Languedoc-Roussillon, France, Photo by Richard Semik, Shutterstock
France has one of the most dynamic and rich property markets. From impressive country mansions and chateaus, to hip modern apartments in Paris, the country has something to offer to everyone seeking a home away from home or planning a permanent relocation.
The French coast line has always been one of the most desirable property destinations and despite not being the cheapest sector on the market, it offers good value for money and it’s guaranteed to dazzle with its beauty.
Here is a tour around the French provinces and the best offers on properties:
One of France’s geographical gems, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), offers both breathtaking mountain views from the south part of the Alps and beautiful sea sunrises over the azure water of the Mediterranean. The capital Marseille is the most populated city in the region with almost 2 million inhabitants. Until the 1970s, the region was slightly industrialised and the main source of income came from farming and tourism. After that, Marseille developed as port and industrial complex while Nice started to attract high-technology companies and turned into France’s “tech-hub”. However, the resorts around Côte d’Azur like Le Lavandou, Saint-Tropez, Sainte-Maxime, and Saint-Raphaël are still the region’s most attractive places. Unfortunately, some of them became overbuilt with hotels and villas and lost some of their original charm. Nevertheless, Cannes still offers you a chance to rub shoulders with the world’s most famous and glamourous stars, and places like Cap Ferrat are ideal escape heavens, if you can afford it.
Property prices in PACA vary a lot but still are significantly lower than a decade ago. Currently, a two-bedroom apartment in Nice, Cannes or Marseille costs roughly €1 million but you can also find a lovely three-bedroom villa in Var region, about 50 km. inland for about €250,000. Of course, if you are feeling lavish there is also a staggering nine-bedroom modern palace in Saint-Tropez that goes for €96,500,000.
The Alpine region of PACA contains a number of winter resorts, such Briançon. A cozy wooden house (chalet) there, can be between €300,000 and €1 million euros, depending on the number of beds.
Since January 2016, Languedoc region together with Midi-Pyrénées have formed the biggest administrative territory, Occitanie. The new area covers more than 72,000 square km and has roughly a population of 6 million people. The main city Toulouse is known as the European space center, hosting the Aerospace valley and several research centres.
The Languedoc/ Occitanie region is also popular as the “other” south of France, bordering with Spain. Apart from the tech industry the region is a major wine producer, the biggest contributor to the European “wine lake” (wine reserve). Agriculture is the second most important economic resource, cultivating maize, rice, fruits, olives, breeding sheep and cows. In the small villages around the costal line the main source of income is fishing.
The area is also a popular tourist destination, offering three types of tourism. Cap d'Agde, Palavas-les-Flots, or Le Grau-du-Roi are all big summer resorts attracting thousands of holiday makers since 1970s. The second branch is cultural/archaeological tourism. Visitors will be able to marvel at the fabulous examples of medieval and Romanesque architecture in the well-preserved historic cities of Carcassonne, old Toulouse and Montpellier. Eco-green and sport tourism are also on the rise in the last few years. The most attractive places for that are along Tarn River, the Ardèche Gorges and the amazing wild valleys of Cévennes, Ardèche, Lauragais.
The property market in Languedoc/ Occitanie is not as hectic as in the PACA region and that can only be good news, since the region offers wonderful, quiet places on very reasonable prices. One of the gems is Collioures, a small town right at the edge of France and very close to Spain. The place is an artistic centre and has a beautiful cathedral and a castle. A villa in the town outskirts with 4-6 bedrooms costs about €400,000. If you are looking for an ideal family place for long summer holidays - Sainte-Marie-la-Mer is your place. Sandy beaches for long walks and a nice quiet atmosphere will charm you immediately. A spacious 5-bedroom house costs around €300,000. However, the best kept secret of the region is the Venice of Languedoc – Sète; a small harbour town with very authentic atmosphere and wonderful Mediterranean climate. A 3-bedroom apartment in the town currently goes for around €140,000.
Moving west, to the Atlantic Ocean, we reach the Aquitaine Coast. Since January 2016, it has been included in the new region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, and apart from the Atlantic Ocean side, it offers stunning mountain views to the north side of the Pyrenees. The capital city is Bordeaux, the fifth largest metropolitan area in France. Part of the city is under the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its 18th century “outstanding urban and architectural ensemble."
Bordeaux is also the world’s largest wine producer and hosts one of the biggest wine festivals, Vinexpo, gathering more than 2000 producers from 42 countries every year. So, if you are looking for an investment in a winery, this probably is the best place for you. There are about a hundred wineries currently for sale in the region of Aquitaine, and according to the size of your pocket, you can buy a lovely “petit” wine field with a house for €1 million or a huge estate with a real castle for €9-10million.
Another good area for investment is Landes, one of the 83 departments originally created after the French revolution in 1789. Nowadays, Landes is part of the larger province of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and it’s famous for having the longest beach in Europe - Côte d’Argent. Every year, the beach attracts thousands of French holiday makers, surfers from around the globe and sailing enthusiasts. This makes it ideal if you are looking for a rental property investment or you just want to have a nice place as a summer retreat. Houses are going for about €200,000 to €300,000 and 2 bedroom apartments for about €150,000.
Up in the north is one of the biggest provinces in France – Normandy. The territory itself is 5% of the whole country’s area and it’s the home for around 3,5 million people. The name Normandy is said to come from the word “northmen”, which was given by Danish and Norwegian Vikings during their settlements there and was confirmed in the 10th century by a treaty between King Charles III and Earl Rollo, a Viking from More, Norway.
Normandy’s main economy is agriculture and farming - cattle and horse breeding. The region is a significant apple cider producer and home of the famous calvados – an apple brandy, which is said to have been distilled since the 16th century.
The province is divided in 5 departments, split in 2 main areas —Upper and Lower Normandy— and offers lovely properties both on the coast line of the Atlantic and inland, on the shores of one of the 15 rivers that run through. Normandy is relevantly close to Paris which makes it ideal for a weekend escape destination for thousands of Parisians. Also, there is a low-cost flight from the UK to Deauville (you can find one for just €19) which provides another good opportunity for investment in rental properties. The city is popular for its fun and upbeat nightlife, many casinos and disco places. However, Deauville region is one of the most expensive on the market. 2-bedroom apartments start from €500, 000 and houses from €900,000.
Brittany, the northwest province of France, is one of the greatest historic areas in the country. It’s relevantly small compared to many others and no town or village is more than an hour away from the Atlantic Ocean. The name of the region derives from settlements, established by Britons who fled the island during the Anglo-Saxon conquer of England in the 5th and 6th century. The main city is Rennes whose history is traced to 2000 years ago.
Although a coastal region, Brittany is far from the bright, sunny beaches of PACA or Aquitaine. Mesmerising rock formations, mystical foggy beaches, forests speaking of spirits and houses keeping the secrets of generations of traders, craftsmen and pirates, Brittany is a dark but magical place. Similar to many other parts of the country, farming and agriculture are the main sources of income and the region is famous for its cheeses and cider. The good news is that Brittany is probably one of the cheapest property markets in France. A solid stone house in the region can be found for about €60,000 euros and a farm with a house goes for about €160,000.
If you decide to proceed buying a property in France, keep in mind that your real estate agent has to be listed with FNAIM (Fédération Nationale de l’Immobilier), the National federation of the real etate agents. The organisation has around 8000 certified members, including several British ones which have relocated in France.