Your Dream French Country Life For As Little As 69,000 Euros
It can change names as many times as it likes, but the wine-producing Languedoc area of southern France remains one of my favorite places in the world. More and more people are getting to know its wines, but property prices don’t appear to be reflecting the area’s growing appeal.
The Languedoc region is sometimes referred to as “The Other South of France.” While this is not neighboring Provence or the Côte d’Azur, it is geographically the most southern part of France, with Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to the east, the old Midi-Pyrénées to the west, the Auvergne to the north, and Spain to the south.
Historically, Languedoc was a province of France. It’s only in recent times that Roussillon was added, turning the area into a region. The original Languedoc has a fascinating history and even its own language, Occitan, which is similar to Catalán, from just over the border in Spain.
It’s from “Occitan” that the region’s new name is derived. At the beginning of this year, Languedoc-Roussillon was merged with the neighboring Midi-Pyrénées region, and the area was renamed Occitanie to become one of 13 new super-regions.
That said, I don’t see anyone referring to the Languedoc in any other way, at least for the foreseeable future. Locals actually snorted at me when I asked if they would say they now lived in Occitanie. But it’s worth knowing it exists, as you may see Occitanie on tourism and real estate websites.
The new Occitanie has 13 departments, five from Languedoc-Roussillon and the rest from the Midi-Pyrénées. I’m zooming in on the Hérault department of the old Languedoc, which has hundreds of inland and coastal villages and towns, two pretty rivers, lots of vineyards, a beautiful national park, lakes, beaches, and good accessibility.
Two Reasons For Hérault’s Growing Popularity
First, property prices in the South of France push many would-be expats to explore a little farther west. In the neighboring Languedoc, they find a similar Mediterranean climate and property selling for half the price of property in Provence and the Côte d’Azur.
Good news travels fast and expats of many nationalities, but most notably the British, Scandinavians, and Dutch, have moved in. But not too many to spoil things.
Second, wine. For decades, the Languedoc produced vast quantities of quaffable vin de table but nothing very notable. When my parents first moved here in 2005, the region was still turning out barrels of inexpensive wine. However, over the last decade or so, growers have specialized and built on the AOC status (appellation d’origine contrôlée) created in 1982 and are now producing world-ranking red wines from the original Carignan, Cinsaut, and Grenache grapes, with the addition of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre varieties.
A solid sign of the area’s wine popularity is that Saint-Chinian wines now feature heavily in all U.K. supermarkets… no mean feat in such a competitive environment.
Surprisingly, not all property prices have shot up; those that remain attractive to non-French buyers (i.e. character properties with original, mostly 19th-century features) are still good deals, while new-builds of all sizes attract higher prices.
Over the years since I’ve been visiting, I’ve picked out a few favorite villages, including three in the Hérault department: Cessenon-sur-Orb, Saint-Chinian, and Roquebrun, all within a 20-minute drive of each other.
These three villages sit in the Hérault’s beautiful Orb and Vernazobres valleys where the scenery is fabulous; each has local facilities, including bakeries, a mini supermarket, doctors, restaurants, bars, banks, and even beauty salons, all in walking distance of most village properties; they all have plenty of activities to keep you or rental visitors happy; and they all still have affordable property for sale right now.
What, specifically, could you buy? Here are some recent listings to tempt you…
In Saint-Chinian, a busy market town on the Vernazobres river with a good weekly market:
- A three-bedroom, 88-square-meter (94-square-foot), refurbished townhouse in move-in condition with original floor tiles, exposed beams, and an open fireplace plus two non-refurbished attic rooms that could be connected to make a large additional bedroom or study. Listed at 69,000 euros with the option to purchase an unattached, large garage for 20,000 euros.
- A 130-square-meter (1,400-square-foot), detached four-bedroom villa with a garage on 575 square meters (6,190 square feet) of land. The property has a fitted kitchen, workshop, covered terrace and barbecue, fireplace with a woodstove, and oak flooring in the bedrooms, good for the chilly winter days. Listed for 252,000 euros.
In Cessenon-sur-Orb, a pretty village with all amenities within walking distance and easy access to the Orb river for swimming, fishing, and kayaking:
- A 77-square-meter (829-square-foot), two-bedroom pied-à-terre in the center of town with a cellar and two storerooms as well as a courtyard and a terrace. Listed at 79,000 euros.
- A 167-square-meter (1,798-square-foot), five-bedroom maison de maître (mansion)—pictured below—needs attention but is a great find if you like the bourgeoisie architectural style. The property has a south-facing courtyard and a 120-square-meter (1,290-square-foot) garage. Listed for 179,000 euros.
- A 110-square-meter (1,184-square-foot), three-bedroom, typical Languedocian stone village-house has a pretty private courtyard and an attractive living area. Listed for 199,000 euros.
In Roquebrun, a small village on the Orb River, where houses are perched up on a cliff overlooking the tributary and cobbled streets weave up to an ancient tower dating back to the year 900:
- A pretty, 250-square-meter (2,690-square-foot) house with a small terrace that has been restored and outhouses and storerooms that are not restored. Price 239,000 euros.
- At the entrance to Roquebrun village is a single-story, detached, 70-square-meter (753-square-foot) house for sale with a cellar and beautiful, original floor tiles situated on 300 square meters (3,230 square feet) of land. This property needs a complete internal refit. Listed for 182,000 euros.