Who never dreamt of buying a house in France ? Compared to our Anglo-Saxon friends in North America and the Antipodes, the British are lucky. We can just nip on a flight, train or ferry and in a couple of hours we have all the glamour, the culture, the feast for the senses that is France.
We don’t have to just visit either, with property so much more affordable that in much of the UK, many of us can afford a weekend bolthole or even a whole new way of life in la belle France. Even an old and beautiful historic, seven-bedded, moated mansion can cost the same as a one-bedroom flat in South London. Not that period properties are for everyone. The strict planning controls and rural location of many older properties are of huge appeal to many of us, but they have their downsides too, along with the generally higher maintenance costs.
The good news is that France builds around 300,000 new homes each year – more than twice as many as the UK – and President Macron aims to step that up even higher. Maybe that’s why they’re still affordable, and why so many of us in the UK want to start new lives across the Channel.
So the more contemporary house hunter has a great choice: France is awash with affordable new build properties as well. Let’s compare new versus old property for buying a house in France.
You’ve probably watched those TV shows that follow an enthusiastic couple restoring an old mill or farmhouse in the French countryside. Their trials and tribulations might make great TV, but unless you’re prepared to invest financially and emotionally into such a project, perhaps a new build would be more up your avenue. Not only do they require less maintenance but most offer excellent energy efficiency too.
Convenient locations can be another advantage. Planning laws often prohibit new construction in the countryside, so your chic new build is more likely to be close to or within a town and city. With France’s efficient public transport system, that offers the possibility to nip down to your new home on the train. Once there, all the benefits of the French lifestyle from the local boulangerie to the weekly market are right on the doorstep.
France is famous for its sense of style, but while we admire the buildings of yesteryear, a new generation of French builders are creating stylish new homes. So if you have a penchant for clean lines, open-plan living, underfloor heating and all the high-tech fripperies, France has them in abundance. One problem though, is that you’ll be competing to buy them with local French buyers, many of whom also prefer to buy modern property and are more than happy to leave the 17th century family pile to an idealistic foreigner! Old is definitely a good option for buying a house in France.
France is the place to head for a spot of romance. Your elegant, spacious chateau or maison de maître could have a strong flavour of La Belle et la Bête about it. A hint of shabby chic just adds to the allure. Restoring it to former glory can be exciting and rewarding, or you can buy the fully restored version often for not a great deal more, combining an old and beautiful appearance with a more liveable interior.
New builds have their benefits but they can lack character. A modern apartment is likely to lack the privacy that rural life affords (although do beware the noise insulation of older properties converted to flats). An older home offers history, character and original features such as exposed beams and stone walls. It may even come with a gîte or two, which can be used for holiday lets or simply entertaining all your friends and family who want to come and see the chateau you’ve purchased for a song.
The affordability of large period properties in the French countryside is perhaps their biggest draw. Chateau translates to castle in English and that’s exactly what you are getting for unbelievably low prices in France. For example, this six-bed chateau [LINK: http://www.green-acres.com/en/properties/34286a-15665641.htm ] between Limousin, Poitou and Berry, which comes complete with stables, large barn and 6.5 acres of land, is on the market for just €416,725 (£367,800) – you would need to win the lottery to afford a property like that in the UK.
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