Afternoon so I am still a newbie here and not yet familiar with peoples journeys. I have spent quite a few hours trawling through posts/ threads.
I’m also reviewing the property portals mostly Leggett and Rightmove.
Personal journey is I’ve been to France for many holidays over the years first with my parents; Concarneau, Hourtin ending up in areas around St Tropez, mainly camping or in mobile homes as was the way in the mid/ late 70’s and 80’s.
I picked up from there adding the Dordogne and started renting holiday houses rather than mobile homes. We also used to try out areas to break up the drive; Chinon, Chateauroux, Auxerre, Rouen, Macon/ Lyon area etc. Close to autoroutes.
If the exchange rate was good we used to pop for a booze cruise weekend in Pas de Calais area. Saint Omer or Arras and take in a market day.
We both really fancy getting off of the work roundabout. It could be we have our year out and return to the UK and pick up where we left off or we sell up in UK and pin the tail on the donkey and take a chance. We are active dog walkers and hope to have a large garden and or access to country walks. I have always fancied sailing at some point or at very least having a small boat for pleasure and or a little sea fishing so might want to keep this option open.
It’s this pinning the tail on the donkey whether we rent or buy which is proving troublesome. Considering hiring an RV and poodling around for a month to see what we like maybe.
Sorry for the ramble but the question really is “How did you decide where to base yourselves in France? and did you rent first to make up your minds or just dive straight into the deep end”.
Secondary is our financial profile. Budget to buy up-to EUR200k plus taxes but ideally less than that, or up-to EUR 1200 rent inclusive ideally less than that, hopefully furnished and no more than a years agreement. 3 bed detached - might consider semi, garden for an active Labrador, maybe walking distance to active large village/ small town with choice of bars/ restaurants & commerce and a weekly market. Access to country/ river or beach walks.
We dived in at the deep end and bought after many holidays in different parts of France. In the end we decided we wanted to be near the sea, with warmer sunnier summers. In 2014 and 30 something viewings later here we are in Charente Maritime. Many people will tell you that it’s a good idea to rent first but I guess it just depends what you are happy with. We haven’t regretted it even though it’s far too hot at the moment!
Your budget is fine but of course prices vary considerably across France.
We originally bought a holiday home here in 2003 based on the following criteria - within a day’s drive of Norfolk, easy reach to beaches, close to motorway junction and airport with connection to Stansted or Luton. Having moved here we don’t regret the location but have moved to a larger house with more land.
The Charente Maritime was always the likely destination due to the drive time from our UK home, we started off looking near the coast as we love the beach but with a budget of only 100k we soon realised that we would have to go further inland as we needed somewhere with a minimum of three beds (four kids) and the place we chose had everything close by - small town with supermarket and two larger towns with everything else, motorway junction 15 mins away (now 10), airport 45 mins.
We didn’t really choose where we have ended up - in fact we were looking for a long time in Normandy, went for a weekend in Paris for my wife’s birthday, happened to spot this place in Brittany on the internet, hired a car, drove across France - and bought it!
Having said that, I’m so glad we have settled in Brittany - it’s lovely, the Bretons are really friendly, it has a wonderful arts/music/cultural life, and is decidedly ‘alternative’, which suits me down to the ground (I was heavily influenced by the 60s ‘counter-culture’). I hear the sailing is pretty good too!
I’m sure renting before you buy is a good idea, by the way - but not for us: we brought 3 school-age children with us, so felt we had to decide on a home and commit to it.
I was 3 months old on my first visit to France, and carried on visiting at least once a year. So having popped in and out of many areas we ended up with a fondness for eastern France and it’s continental climate. Simple life, low population, 4 proper seasons, contours, good natural environment, close to Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Ended up a bit further south than we had intended, so not far from major cities of Lyon & Dijon.
The one mistake we made was not paying enough attention to the people in our tiny hamlet. Not sure how we could have worked it out, but perhaps should have picked up clues from the plastic flowers in front of half the houses and looked in yellow pages to realise that most people had one of two surnames. Luckily the other half are nice people.
France is big, so many different places, people, cultures. I’m French, use to visit France for my holliday, from north to south and east to west. So many different landscapes, architectures etc. My parents were born in Champagne but have to move to Paris for work when they were young. So I was born in the suburb of Paris. Had a job opportunity in Normandie, so took it. Then finish up in Brittany 10 years ago, and do feel home here. I wouldn’t live anywhere else, but that’s me. It really depends what one is looking for. We are all different and it is better that way, if not, we will all be living in the same area ! I think it’s a very good advise to rent first, visit different places in the winter, because quite often, when you like the place in the winter, it’s even better in the summer !
We had a holiday home in the Creuse for 12 years, originally there because we could get the early morning ferry and make it to our home by 5pm thus making it possible for long weekends there. However the Creuse is beautiful, stunning scenery, but weather unpredictable. While we were there we’d look on the weather forecast and see “Creuse - misty and wet, Lot-et-Garonne sunshine”, L-et-G being just four hours away but making such a difference in terms of climate. We’d holidayed there and knew the area well and, when we made the decision to move to France fulltime, it was a no-brainer that we’d end up in the Lot-et-Garonne. We sold our Creuse house to someone who, like us, wanted to be able to get there in a day and spend weekends. So a major factor for us was climate, house prices not as high as the Dordogne (just a little north). But if I had one wish, I’d be closer to the sea …
My husband and I had our heart set on the area we live in now. As a couple we enjoy the rural setting, so Tarn et Garonne suited us. Although saying that, within a few hours we can reach the coast if we want a day out (3.5 hours drive) at the beach, or Spain (5 hours) if we want to go for a weekend away! I have friends who rented first, then bought, but I also know people who have jumped in at the deep end, so it’s really a personal choice. We have been here 3.5 years and although we are relative newbies, we have never regretted it once. We have two Labradors and not once have we struggled to find somewhere to wear them out. There are organised walks and walking clubs, and there is certainly plenty of countryside to explore. There are many rental options and properties available for sale, so no matter what you decide I am sure you will have no trouble in finding something which suits you.
I found my place in Bretagne on the back of an 'explore trip with friends who wanted to buy a holiday home. Luckily I had holidays here for 5 years in their place before the adjoining property came up for sale (a barn and a ruin - literally - no roof and trees growing out of the rubble).
Perfect spot for me, St Malo/Dinard/Dinan/Vitre/Rennes all under an hour away by car. Mont Saint Michel 25 minutes. I have two dogs and plenty of walks in the local area or forest only 15 minutes by car.
I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be to be honest, I took the plunge 5 years ago and had the ruin converted. Gave up my job and stepped off the merry go round.
Don’t regret a thing, life in my quiet part of france has turned out to be everything I hoped for and more.
Definately check out area first and in all seasons, it might be pretty ok in the summer and closed up in the winter i.e no restaurants etc.
Good luck with your journey.
I was a teacher and my school was twinned with a collège in the Pays Basque. Having visited many times both on school exchanges and privately it was a no brainer to buy a retirement home here. We love it and after five and a half years feel very much at home.
I’m a newbie on the site too. Our story is, we decided only last October to move to France and went to various French Property seminars in London. Then sensibly planned to rent for say 3 to 6 months to see where we liked best. We set ourselves certain criteria, such as walking distance to a small town or large village. Must have land and be in a pretty area.
We rented a cottage for a week in April to look at areas in Charente Maritime which sounded on paper like our ideal. However, due to a mistake we rented in Poitou Charente in a little Hamlet in the Ventouse area. Each day for 5 days we drove to look at houses and areas many kms away. However, as we drove back to our rented cottage one evening we realised we preferred the lovely scenery there more than anything we’d seen further West. So with 38 hours left of our first trip (one of many or so we thought) we decided we’d just take a look at a local place up for sale. Well you guessed it we were hooked - out went the idea of us renting first, out went - it must be walking distance to a town. We love wildlife and having two dogs, this place with its section of a trout stream and lots of wildlife around, plus a swimming pool and woodland set in over 2 acres of grounds, an 18th century house with six bedrooms and three shower rooms externally in very good condition and best of all, for less than 200,000 euros. Our offer was accepted before we got our flight home . Back in the Sussex our friends and family were amazed at our decision but my sister went over with me to see it in June and she could understand why it had to be ours. We move in mid October 2018, we can’t wait to start our new lives in France and we know this place will suit us perfectly. I wish you much luck in your future adventure, whatever that is, may it bring you much joy.