Living in the French Countryside: 10 Best Places to Buy a Country House in France

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All of France is charming, but its countryside is in a league of its own. Both admired and envied all over the world, it has inspired design styles, architectural styles and the works of numerous artists through the ages. Living in the French countryside sounds pretty idyllic, but it is not without challenges.

We bought our first house in France in Lot et Garonne eight years ago. It was a beautiful stone house, built in 1784 with four large bedrooms, two gites and a large garden. The house had no insulation, electric wall heaters, open fires and partial double glazing. It was wonderfully cool in the summer because the walls were so thick, but it was uncomfortably cold during the winter months. The garden was large and a great deal of hard work. The swimming pool took continuous maintenance too.

We since moved to Charente-Maritime one year ago, where we own a 200-year-old four-bedroom home. The upside is that this house has been totally renovated and has been double glazed and insulated. The energy-efficient central heating powered by wood pellets is a life-changer, plus we have had solar panels fitted on the roof.

Learning from the experience with our first home in France, our current garden is a more modest size, easy to maintain with a vegetable garden and no swimming pool. One of the best attributes of this home is its amazing location: the Gironde estuary with its sandy beaches are just moments away.

Both these homes have taught me a thing or two about buying a country house in France, which I am happy to share with you.

Owning a home in the French countryside is the perfect setting to enjoy your retirement years or just enjoy a relaxing life at any age. Country houses in France are not just adorable, they are also super spacious, with large yards for gardening.

Some popular parts of France may be expensive to buy property, but if you don’t mind buying a place that needs some renovation work, there are some really good bargains on the market pretty much everywhere.

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Key points to consider before you go and buy a country house in France

It is important to do your homework on your chosen location, to ensure that essentials like boulangeries (bakeries), pharmacies and supermarkets are close by. It will also be practical to have an international airport within easy reach for holidays and trips back to see the family.

Although you may be happy and able to travel some distance to such amenities now, it is important to look five, ten years or more into the future and to evaluate whether you will still think that the property is well-located for your needs then.

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Questions to ask before buying a country house in France

  

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1. The house itself

  • What property size do I want? While having a large, spacious house may be appealing now as it will mean you can easily accommodate visiting family and friends, will it be easy to clean and maintain in the future?
  • Check that the property has a workable number of bathrooms and toilets – en suites are rarely found in older houses.
  • How is the property heated? Oil heating is very expensive and so are electric heaters. The most reasonably priced and effective heating is one that burns wood pellets.
  • Does each room have an adequate number of power outlets? These are a rarity in some older properties.
  • Is the building properly insulated? Few older properties are insulated, although those with thick stone walls tend to keep cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Underfloor and roof insulation is uncommon. It is worth checking the annual temperatures and the weather for your chosen area as they do plummet in many parts of France.
  • Are the windows double glazed?
  • Is the property connected to the main drainage or does it have a fosse septique (septic tank?)
  • What are the energy diagnostics? Each property for sale in France has to state how energy efficient it is to heat. The readings are given as a bar charted graded A – G, with A being the best. It is important to assess this information to ensure that the property is easy to heat and also financially viable to heat.
  • Is the garden, land or yard realistically manageable both now and in the future? Resources such as gardeners and builders are much more limited in rural environments.
  • How long has the property been on the market? It is not uncommon to come across houses that have been on the market several years. Sometimes this is down to poor marketing but usually good, viable properties are sold within a few months.

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2. The area

  • Is there good public transport to get to local services for shopping etc. and nationally to reach the cities and airports?
  • Are there good local amenities in the area including grocery stores, post office and auto mechanics?
  • Are there comprehensive medical facilities including doctors, hospital and dentists?
  • Are there good local restaurants, clubs and local events?

Once you identify your needs and wants, it’s time to pick a location. To recommend the best rural areas for buying property in France, we are taking into consideration the quality of life each location offers. This includes proximity to essential amenities, connections to other areas, property prices, natural beauty, and fun activities as factors that went into creating this list.

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The 10 best places to buy a country house in France

  

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1. Brittany

Brittany is divided into Upper and Lower Brittany and four administrative departments:

  • Côtes-d’Armor: Average home price €475,000 ($507,000)
  • Finistère: Average home price €478,000 ($510,000)
  • Ille-et-Vilaine: Average home price €568,000 ($606,000)
  • Morbihan: Average home price €585,000 ($624,000)

Situated on the country’s northwestern coast, Brittany (Bretagne) is a region of natural beauty and a rich history and Celtic culture which give it a very distinct character. Much of the coastline is rugged, there are numerous pretty towns and a variety of agricultural landscapes – particularly dairy for wonderful cheeses and butter!

Brittany is a region that is well known for its food. This is an area that has long been popular with foreigners and has been described as a melting pot of cultures. It is appealing because property prices are very reasonable. For British retirees, the added advantage is that the UK is just across the channel.

The region has many housing options both in urban and rural settings and these include charming stone cottages with slate roofs situated in areas that are conveniently close to towns.

If you prefer not to be too rural, but near the countryside, there are attractively priced modern apartments to buy or rent on the outskirts of the cities of Rennes and Brest or more expensive ones in the lovely seaside towns of Saint-Malo and Quiberon. The prices in Dinard, situated on Côte d’Émeraude (the Emerald Coast) are mid-range.

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2. Pays de la Loire

Pays de la Loire comprises five department, each with a different character and charm:

  • Loire-Atlantique: Average home price €648,000 ($691,000)
  • Maine-et-Loire: Average home price €415,000 ($443,000)
  • Mayenne: Average home price €303,000 ($323,000)
  • Sarthe: Average home price €312,000 ($333,000)
  • Vendée: Average home price €500,000 ($534,000)

Pays de la Loire is located in Western France, just south of Brittany and Normandy. It is named after the river that crosses it and is well-known for its numerous fairy tale châteaux. Its administrative capital is the vibrant city of Nantes which sits on the Loire estuary.

The region is much-loved by those who enjoy hiking and cycling. It has a good balance between towns, cities and countryside. Notably, it has the highest employment rate in France and second highest for education.

Among its many towns and cities are: Angers, Laval, Le Mans, Nantes and Orleans. Rural areas include rich arable lands and vineyards. The Pays de la Loire has a lovely Atlantic coastline too, with the famous resorts of La Baule and Les Sables d’Olonne. This area is ideal for water sports enthusiasts.

The hilly department of Mayenne is very varied and ideal for those seeking ‘the quiet life’. It includes the highest mountain in north-western France, Mont les Avaloirs, which offers spectacular views in all directions from its observatory as well as some prehistoric caves.

The River Mayenne crosses the department and its towpath is always popular with walkers. The area is known for its arable and dairy farming and numerous castles – the village of Lassay les Châteaux has three.

Getting around in this region is easy with the channel ports of Le Havre and Cherbourg within easy reach by car. The TGV takes only 90 minutes to Paris and there are regional airports at Rennes and Nantes.

There is a rich variety of property for sale and some are very reasonably priced. As a rule, property prices in Pays de la Loire noticeably increase closer to the coast.

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3. The Midi- Pyrenees

This region encompasses the following eight departments:

  • Ariège: Average home price €304,000 ($324,000)
  • Aveyron: Average home price €301,000 ($321,000)
  • Gers: Average home price €335,000 ($357,000)
  • Haute-Garonne: Average home price €570,000 ($608,000)
  • Hautes-Pyrenees: Average home price €348,000 ($371,000)
  • Lot: Average home price €334,000 ($356,000)
  • Tarn: Average home price €352,000 ($376,000)
  • Tarn-et-Garonne: Average home price €351,000 ($375,000)

The region’s large city of Toulouse has the nickname of ‘la ville rose’ meaning ‘the rose city’ because of the terracotta color of its houses. While it is popular with city dwelling expats as it is a very cosmopolitan working city, many find life there a little too hectic and prefer the relative peace and tranquillity of the countryside.

Lying just south of the city is the Midi-Pyrenees region which boasts an amazing countryside for everyone to enjoy. There are the river plains of the mighty River Garrone and the rolling hillsides to the peaks of the Pyrenees mountains.

The rural setting of the department of Ariège is ideal to buy a country house for those who like to get out hiking – either through wooded hills or rural communities or towards and including the mountains! Ariège is not without its own attractions as it is a pretty mixture of lush green countryside, castles and hidden valleys.

The main town is Foix (with its lovely castle) and other charming towns nearby are Pamiers and Saint-Girons. The area is known for its Pyrenean regional food
and its organic farming. If you don’t mind travelling there are cultural events to enjoy including the vocal festival of La Bellongaise and the International festival of Marionettes in Mirepoix.

The department of Aveyron is one of the greenest areas in France with changing landscapes from the edge of the Massif Centrale in the north to deep river valleys and rich pasturelands for sheep farming and great for hiking. Its main town is Rodez with its lovely Renaissance buildings. Other towns to visit include Albi and Rocamadour.

This area is in Occitania, just a few hours north from the Spanish border, so it has some Spanish influences and its own dialect. This region is also close to the medieval town of Carcassonne and Andorra.

Toulouse has a good-sized international airport for when you fancy travelling further afield and Carcassonne and Rodez also have smaller airports.

The TGV high speed train runs from Toulouse to Paris and beyond and there are district rail links to Toulouse from several of the towns in the department. Aveyron is the hardest area to reach with several train changes.

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4. Charente-Maritime

Charente-Maritime is a department in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Average home price €650,000 ($693,000)


Situated north-west of Bordeaux, Charente-Maritime is ideal for those who enjoy being close to the sea. This attractive and more expensive region overlooks the wide Gironde estuary and has numerous little fishing harbors to discover, as well as some impressive sandy beaches.

The main town is Royan, with good shops and restaurants and one of the best markets in the whole of France. Royan also has great entertainment options, which include an annual classical music concert on the beach.

La Rochelle is the regional capital and has been a fishing port and trading centre for centuries. There is always plenty to see and do there. Charente- Maritime does get busy between May and September as it is a popular holiday destination for both Parisians and others from all over Europe.

There are many little towns and villages for buying a country house, with a variety of different types of properties, including single story houses with great views over the estuary. Because of its location, this is a good area to choose for those who enjoy fish and seafood as both are plentiful – especially oysters and mussels.

Driving can be challenging in some parts of Charente Maritime as there are no highways and few wide roads. There is a train service to and from La Rochelle that connects to the TGV network. Bordeaux is the nearest large international airport, but La Rochelle does have seasonal flights from a number of budget airlines.

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5. The Dordogne

Dordogne is a department in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Average home price €307,000 ($328,000)

Nestling halfway between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees – just south-west of the centre of France is the undeniably beautiful region called the Dordogne – named after the river that flows through it on its journey to the Gironde Estuary north-west of Bordeaux.

The Dordogne is ‘picture postcard’ pretty with a château or lovely view around every corner. This region has long been extremely popular with expats, mostly from Great Britain, and has a real international community.

The capital of the area is the old Roman town of Périgueux which is dominated by its Byzantine cathedral. Other towns include Brantôme (known for its retirement center for police horses), the hilltop town of Domme and the medieval town of Sarlat-la-Canéda with its winding streets and amazing architecture.

Eymet is another pretty market town that has a number of shops with English-speaking staff, expat clubs and an English-speaking church.

There is plenty of choice when it comes to property, ranging from small, cosy cottages to château with large estates. Driving between towns is tranquil with country lanes but for those who want to venture further afield, the highway is not far and the closest regional airport is Bergerac.

Bordeaux International Airport less than a two-hour journey from Eymet and Toulouse International Airport is about two hours and 15 minutes.

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6. Lot-et-Garonne

Lot-et-Garonne is a department in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Average home price €313,000 ($334,000)

Department 47 is situated in the south-west of France and has long been popular with expats-especially British and Dutch, both retired and working. The region has rolling countryside that is ideal for hiking and cycling. Its focus is the River Lot which is much-loved by fishermen who enjoy catching its sizeable carp and cat fish.

The pretty city of Agen is its capital and a lovely place to stroll window shopping. Market towns such as Villeneuve -sur-Lot and Tonneins are also popular as well as such pretty villages as Castelmoron, Fongrave, Prayssas and Pujol.

There is a great range of country houses for sale available from small cottages to large, rambling manor houses that need renovating and many of these are situated just a short drive from the towns. There are also business opportunities for those wanting to buy a property with gites for holiday rentals.

The department is a few hours’ drive from Spain, but is well served with good rail links including the TGV to Paris and the international airports of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Bergerac, all within two hours. Toulouse and Bordeaux are easy to reach using public transport – but a car is preferable for Bergerac.

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7. Limousin

Limousin is made up of three departments:

  • Correze: Average home price €261,000 ($278,000)
  • Creuse: Average home price €168,000 ($179,000)
  • Haute-Vienne: Average home price €168,000 ($179,000)

The Limousin region is situated in the southern heart of France and is quite a hilly area with mixed woodland that is traversed east to west by two rivers – the Corrèze and the Dordogne further south.

The largest town in the department is pretty Brive la Gaillarde, with its limestone houses – although Tuille is the administrative capital of the region. Other sizeable towns include Limoges and the smaller Uzerches.

There is plenty to see and do in this region with pre-historic sites, castles and water sports on the reservoirs near the Dordogne. There are good road and rail connections and airports at Brive and Limoges.

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8. Burgundy

Burgundy’s four departments are:

  • Côte-d’Or: Average home price €420,000 ($448,000)
  • Saône-et-Loire: Average home price €306,000 ($327,000)
  • Nièvre: Average home price €218,000 ($233,000)
  • Yonne: Average home price €283,000 ($302,000)

Burgundy (Bourgogne) is known the world over for its fine wines and is a popular region with beautiful countryside that is steeped in history.

Yonne in the north stretches to the edge of the Paris region, in the west, the Nièvre and the Côte-d’Or department surround Dijon. The fourth department is the Saône and Loire, in the south, stretching from the Loire in the west to the foothills of the Jura in the east.

There are numerous attractive villages with all types of property for sale from large houses with extensive lands to cosy cottages and ultra-modern villas.

In Burgundy, you certainly can relax and enjoy rural living, but if you prefer, you can live within easy reach of the region’s pretty capital – Dijon – or the cities of Auxerre with the stunning Abbaye de Vézelay and Nevers that sits on the confluence of the Loire.

The bonus in choosing such a location is that you are within easy access of the highway network. This is why property is so popular in the pretty villages situated in what is known as ‘the A6 corridor’ from Beaune to Macon – and it is not just with foreigners, many Parisians buy a second property in this area too.

The TGV high-speed rail network is excellent and can reach Paris from Dijon in 90 minutes. One slight disadvantage is that there is no regional airport in this area.

Villages around Dijon and Dijon itself re also popular choices as the regional capital is affordable with good public transport, excellent cultural events and a great range of outdoor activities. The old city is architecturally beautifully and in a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In contrast, the Cote d’Or area around Beaune and the villages that nestle among the more prestigious vineyards are expensive in comparison, but worth considering as the weather in this part of Burgundy is the best in France. The most beautiful villages in the Côte d’Or include Châteauneuf, Semur-en-Auxois and Flavigny sur Ozerain.

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9. Jura

Average home price €357,000 ($381,000)


Situated in eastern France, the Jura department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region is undeniably beautiful. The Jura is a range of mountains that runs along the Swiss border between the Rhine and Rhone rivers.

Much of the department is at an altitude of over 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) and there are large areas of pasture land dissected by woodlands of conifer. Because of its altitude, the area remains pleasantly fresh all summer, but does get much colder in the winter months.

The Jura region is ideal for those who enjoy hiking, cycling and of course, skiing in the winter months. There is the High Jura National Park and the lakes of Vouglans and Chalain that are all worth seeing.

Lons le Saunier is a really small city, but it is also the regional capital. Other cities include Dole, Morez and Saint Claude.

The area produces good wines and the centre of the wine industry is Arbois. The Hura is also known for its excellent cheeses – particularly Comte and Gruyère. Having a car is an absolute ‘must’ in this area as public transport is scarce in some parts.

There is a rail line through the mountains from Dole to Bourg en Bresse and the TGV can be caught in Dole with a five-hour journey to Paris. There is a regional airport at Dole, but many residents use Geneva Airport which is a five-hour train ride to Lons le Saunier.

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10. Languedoc- Roussillon

The region comprises of five departments:

  • Gard: Average home price €357,000 ($381,000)
  • Hérault: Average home price €357,000 ($381,000)
  • Aude: Average home price €357,000 ($381,000)
  • Eastern Pyrenees: Average home price €357,000 ($381,000)
  • Lozère: Average home price €357,000 ($381,000)

Situated in the central part of the South of France, Languedoc-Roussillon and the Midi-Pyrénées form the region of Occitanie. The Spanish dialect that can be heard spoken in the area.

The region curves around the Western Mediterranean and stretches from the Spanish border in the south-west to the Rhone valley in the east, which lies on the southern Massif Central.

The main city of the region is Montpellier which is a dynamic city with a rich past. Others include Nimes, Narbonne, Perpignan, Sete on its saltwater lagoon and the magnificent old-walled city of Carcassonne.

Much of the area is incredibly flat as it is a coastal plain that has been extensively drained, while the Eastern Pyrenees is much more rugged. The coastal areas boast long sandy beaches and are home to several popular tourist resorts. In reality, a band about 20 kilometres wide from the shore inland has been developed for tourism, but further inland there are still some lovely rural treasures to discover.

The area has rich soil so there are endless vineyards and a huge amount of agriculture. There are many attractive villages to explore and these include Marseillan, a small working fishing port on the lagoon “L’etang de Thau”, and Ceret in the Eastern Pyrénees, which stands at the foot of the mountains and is filled with plane trees.

Travelling is easy with trains from many parts of France and the autoroute from Paris and other cities. There are regional airports at Béziers, Nimes, Montpellier and Perpignan, offering flights from low-cost airlines.

If you are considering making the move to rural France, it is important to really take your time in making any firm decisions about the location. Many property professionals suggest that it is best to rent in your chosen area to ensure that it really does meet expectations. It will be time well spent as you will be able to explore the area and its services as well as experience the seasonal changes in weather.

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Methodology

  • When using or citing the information in this guide, please give credit to My Dolce Casa by linking to this report
  • Data source for home prices per square meter: Seloger valid as of the date of this report
  • The average price of a house refers to a 200-square-meter home
  • Euros converted to U.S. dollars at an exchange rate valid as of the date of this report

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