Liz Rowlinson

A house hunter’s guide to France

  • From Spectator Life
Image: Sextant

Offering a choice of three stunning coastlines, historic villages and dozens of wine-making regions France has long been one of our favourite places to buy a holiday home. Queen Victoria loved Nice, Noel Coward adored Cap Ferrat and the ‘old’ French Riviera between Toulon and Hyères features in the new Downtown Abbey film out next month, with Dame Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess enjoying a Belle Epoque holiday home there.

Our nearest neighbour has remained a popular choice during the pandemic because it’s really the only feasible place to drive to, and Brittany, Normandy and the Loire have seen an uptick in demand from British buyers less keen on flying. Whether you want chic beach resorts like La Baule, or wild coastal walks around rugged Finistere, Brittany is a great location to earn some rental income to help pay your property’s running costs. This four-bedroom property in Morbihan, which comes with a detached gite and the scope to keep horses, is €295,000.

A four-bedroom home for sale in Morbihan, Brittany (Leggett)

The relatively low cost of rural land in northwest France might make it tempting to buy a former farming property with a couple of acres but is it really practical? ‘If you are buying a second home, a property with limited outside space could present a better option. Whilst a large garden can be an attractive feature, it will require regular upkeep which will increase running costs,’ says Matthieu Cany, director of Sextant Properties, an agency.

But the perennial rural favourites in the southwest – the Dordogne, Lot et Garonne and Bordeaux – are still prompting interest. According to the property listing portal Rightmove, the Dordogne saw the highest number of property searches during 2021 of all the French regions. This eight-bedroom sixteenth-century bourgeois property in Thiviers for £576,450 offers

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