Research – the first step in finding the perfect property in France
France is divided into 22 regions, the equivalent of a state or province. Each region is divided into several départements, the equivalent of counties, and each département is divided is further divided into cantons, the equivalents of townships. Here is a link to a list of French départements. The site’s in French so you get to practice.
Languedoc-Roussillon as an example
Because Aude France Property sells real estate in the Aude in Languedoc it’s the part of France that I know best. Makes sense to use it as the example.
Languedoc consists of 5 départements. Aude (11), Hérault (34), Gard (30), Lozère (48), Pyrénées Orientales (66). (Our focus is primarily the Aude. We also work in the parts of the Hérault, Pyrénées Orientales, and the Ariège, that border on the Aude.)
Not only is each département different than the others, all have areas that are vastly different. In the Aude people talk about the Corbières, the Minervois, the Lauragais, the Cabardes, and the Razes. Geographically they’re very different.
How do you start to find out which area is going to suit you? Use the internet. Use your favourite search engine – mine is Google – and enter keywords. Start by entering france and aude (or the appropriate département) into the search box. You’ll get pages of results. Scan the descriptions, add the ones that sound interesting to a favourites folder to be read later or scan them as you go.
You’ll probably find the tourism sites most useful in the beginning. There are also personal sites that can be quite informative. Ode to Aude is a personal site with a lot of information about the area. Browse the sites, read anything that interests you, click on the related links, journey around the internet. Don’t forget to bookmark anything that interests you so you can find it again. I developed Ode to Aude to keep track of the information when I was researching the area before I bought my house. It really isn’t necessary to go to that length.
You’ll start to find that some areas appeal to you more than others. Now is the time to narrow your search. The France Guide site lets you search by all kinds of topics and has links to local tourist offices. It’s a good site to use to get an idea of the size and the amenities of various towns and villages.
Vacation rental sites are another good source of information. The ads often describe the area, the amenities, activities, and describe an owner’s love of the region. If you’re planning to buy a vacation home and want to rent it out when you aren’t using it this will also give you an idea of the level of rents and the rental seasons. It will also help you find places to stay while you visit the area.
Develop your wishlist and budget
Look at real estate agency sites. You’ll find them by searching for immobilier or property for sale (or variations) and the département that interests you. If you’ve narrowed it down to specific towns or villages enter that too. Don’t worry about not reading French, use our glossary the first couple of times and you’ll be reading ‘immobilier’ in no time. Reading the ads will give you an idea of the type of property available and the price you can expect to pay. By this time you should be able to start establishing a realistic budget and fine-tuning your wishlist.
At this point you’re just trying to get a feel for the market. Don’t get frustrated at the lack of specific information about locations. The French real estate system is such that agents are perpetually terrified that other agents are going to steal their listings. A lot of them won’t even tell you in person where the house is. You have to make an appointment and go with the agent. They don’t go as far as to blindfold you for the drive but I think they’d like to.
You’ll save yourself time and disappointment by using the internet as the place to start your search for property in France.
Once you have an idea of the area that you think will appeal most it’s time to visit and explore.