-Rent first to make up your minds is a pretty good idea,
-Your budget is fine but of course, prices vary in France…here you go 2 links where you can check prices of m2 by city/region or department:
I live in department no.38-Isére (Region Rhone-Alpes) very close to Grenoble.
It is a highly industrialised region and Grenoble is the second research centre in France after Paris.
Every year, during summer, is +30 degrees, plenty of lakes, and of course mountains:)
in April is already 27 degrees, lots of sunny days ((I have bananas trees in my garden!)
Winters are snowy but dry, which I found as a big big plus.
We moved to Isére because we found work, but we rented an apt for a year just to be sure we really want to live here.