How to buy your dream home in France

Your dream French home?

Your dream French home? - Credit: Archant

A new property concept is coming to these shores in the New Year, so we bid bienvenue to the UK’s first French property auction

When Peter Mayle wrote about his new life in the south of France in the late 1980s, little did he know that A Year in Provence would inspire an enduring British love affair with French property.

Offering a lifestyle deeply rooted in tradition, world-famous cuisine and good-value property prices, France has for decades drawn thousands of British across the Channel in search of the good life.

For those who haven’t yet succumbed but love the idea of owning a pied à terre, whether as a holiday home or a permanent residence, this could well be a good time to buy, according to Karen Tait, editor of French Property News magazine.

“A combination of strong exchange rates and low property prices means buyers can really get a lot for their money,” she says.

In the Pas-de-Calais department, which at Cap Griz Nez lies just 21 miles from the Kent coast, the average price of a house is €133,000. With French mortgage rates at an all-time low, the dream of owning a French home has become much more accessible.

Buying property at auction across the Channel is not unusual but up to now this method has largely been avoided by British buyers, especially for those whose French skills are less than perfect. This is about to change in January, when the first French Property Auction takes place in the UK. On 24 January, around 60 French properties will go to the highest bidders in London during The France Show. The long-running lifestyle and property event, which takes place at London Olympia, is partnering with UK firm French Property Auction to bring a large selection of properties to British buyers for the first time. There are some tempting lots in the online catalogue (view at

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Anyone looking for a holiday home plus a bit of rental income might be interested in the pair of renovated two-bedroom cottages in the western region of Poitou-Charentes (around six hours’ drive from Calais); current market value is €88,000.

Ski buffs could snap up a three-bedroom mountain property in the Alps just nine kilometres from the Three Valleys; the current marketing value is €445,000.

Nick Green, who is organising the sale, believes it’s a great opportunity for those interested in buying across the Channel: “Selling by auction provides an open, competitive environment for French agents to present properties from motivated sellers with very attractive reserves to encourage a faster than normal sale.”

The process of buying in France can be straightforward but if you’re serious about taking the plunge, do your research before signing on the dotted line and consider taking professional guidance from those who know the French system, especially the legal and financial aspects.

French succession law is one area where British buyers often seek specialist advice because under French law protected heirs, usually surviving children and, to a degree, the surviving spouse, have a right to a portion of your estate, make sure you do your homework in advance.

If you’re just dipping your toe in the market, consider going along to the auction for the fun and to get a feel for what’s out there. The show will feature agents selling properties from all over France and free seminars covering the essentials of buying property, living and working in France. n

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