Property in Southwest France.

Given the south west of France is such a large geographic region – it includes the regions of Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrenees and Aquitane.

With a geography that includes everything from Mediterranean beaches through 3000 and 4000M high Pyrenean mountains and then back to the wide sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast it is hardly surprising types of properties on offer vary considerably.

Why choose the Southwest of France to start your search for a home?

Houses prices.

Although house prices have increased sharply over the last year or two in most areas they are generally still much cheaper than comparably areas in other parts of France.

For example:

• If your ideal is a stone built farmhouse with a couple of acres of gently undulating land, within a days drive of the beaches of the Med, the Languedoc offers many opportunities with generally much lower prices than you would find in a comparable area in Provence.

• Look for a ski chalet but can’t afford the Alps? The Pyrenees offers an abundance of both Piste and off Piste skiing, with snow usually abundant from January through to March or April. Towns such as St Girons and Ax-les-Thermes offer good access to mountain resorts for the ski season, while having a huge range of holiday activities throughout the rest of the year.

• A large farmhouse with a couple of hectares of land can cost as little as €100,000 in Gers, Haute-Provence or Ariege, slightly north of the Pyrenees.

As a general rule, property prices are highest in the cities or larger towns. Toulouse, Montpellier, Perpignan, and Carcassonne for example. Although the major cities have not traditionally been target for British purchasers there has been a recent rise in investors buying properties, particularly those near airports catering to the cheaper airlines.

Demand from both British, French and other nationalities has pushed prices up quite significantly in most towns and villages within roughly an hours drive from either the Med or Atlantic coasts, so if the beach is not a high priority it’s worth starting your search a little inland. Remember, if you are intending to use your property primarily as a holiday home in the summer months, there are many lakes and rivers you can spend a day sunbathing and swimming at – many lakes have lifeguards, and are relatively shallow, making them ideal for families with younger children.

As the altitude starts to increase, as you drive south from Toulouse, a similar effect happens with the price of property. In the hilly country, but open valleys of the far north of the Pyrenees you are likely to find some of the most expensive properties. In these areas it is often difficult to now find properties to renovate – demand for such has been outstripping supply for a number of years. It’s easy to see the attraction of owning such a property, particularly on the north side of many of the valleys here. Blessed with sun for much of the day during the winter months, and with the altitude bringing the air temperature down to hot, but not outrageous, it makes it an attractive place to live.

Given it’s easy access one most popular areas at present for Brits is the areas around Cacassonne, Limoux and Mirepoix, one immobilier in Carcassone recently reporting that as much as 80% of his business was Brits buying into the area. If you are looking for a blend of Provential style farmhouses, open undulating land, a good community of Brits and easy access back to Britain, this might well be the ideal location for you to look. Prices are still significantly lower than areas in Provence with similar attractions.

Drive further into the Pyrenees and house prices vary dramatically within a few miles of each other. On one side of a valley you may find you get the sun 12 hours a day through the winter, on the other side winter months might mean having the heating constantly on maximum. It’s important to consider the elevation and position of a property, and if possible, visit the area a number of times during different parts of the year before making your final decision.

In the far south of the Pyrenees it is still possible to buy mountain barns, yet to be converted, but with a C.U. for as little as € 25,000. Once renovated these can make ideal gites, usually for use throughout the summer.

Getting there.

Ryanair presently fly to Perpignan, Carcassonne, Pau, Biarritz, Girona and Montpellier. If you are intending to go to the eastern Pyrenees it’s worth checking the costs of car hire at the same time as booking flights – it’s often cheaper to rent cars in Spain than in France. There is unlikely to be any problem in driving across the border.

A number of operators fly to Toulouse, where it is possible to often get very cheap package deals, especially throughout the winter months as this is the primary destination for tour operators running ski holidays to Andorra. Check out BA, Easyjet, Flybe, KLM, Tomas Cook, etc. It’s worth noting that if you are intending to travel by train, it’s likely to be easy to get to many of the towns in the mountains from Toulouse.

Finally it is of course possible to drive. The autoroute E09 (mainly A20) is free for most of the way from Paris down to Toulouse. Alternatively there is a night train that leaves Paris Austerlitz each evening at 21.56 and goes via Toulouse, as far as Ax-les-Thermes, if required.