A Pied-A-Terre In The Other South Of France?
I’m on my annual, part-vacation, part-work month in the Other South of France—the Languedoc region in the true south of the country on the shores of the Mediterranean. My chosen summer location is mainly driven by my parents’ choice to live here since 2005.
Almost nine years on, they’re very happy here but have one problem. Their house is now too big and too tricky to manage for two almost-octogenarians. Last year, I was on a mission to find them a smaller, bungalow-style property. (You can read my first report here…and a follow-up here.)
I did find several properties that fitted their search criteria and budget of around 250,000 euros. I even managed to get both parents to view one of the properties, twice. But, in the end, they both felt a move to another reasonably sized property would not provide a sufficiently great enough benefit to warrant the upheaval at their age. As I wrote last year, “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” However, you can continue making suggestions…
As he drove me to the airport for my return to the UK last year, my father said that he was thankful for my property search but was keeping his options open. What he really meant was that he was considering a move back to the UK, something neither of them were sure they really wanted to do, but they both felt the tug of the familiarity of home soil (a common experience of ageing expats) and more regular family contact.
Why not have the best of both worlds, I proposed: an apartment in the UK and a pied-a-terre in the Languedoc. They could come out here as often as they wished, renting the French property to family and friends when they’re away. When the number of visiting family members is too big to fit in their smaller home, the family can rent a summer holiday property (there are plenty of those to choose from in this area), or we can camp, as we’ve often done, for 20-odd euros a night in the municipal campsite next to the river.
Property in the part of the UK of interest to my parents is much higher than this part of France, so the percentage of the budget for the French property has to be lower than the UK one. That got me thinking… What can you buy today in the Other South of France for around US$100,000 (currently 74,500 euros)?
Surprisingly, it isn’t just a chicken coop. In this area, there’s a wide range of property, from a luxury, six-bed modern villa for 600,000 euros to a two-bed, “ripe for renovation” village stone-house for 30,000 euros, and plenty in-between.
To narrow the search, I’ve added certain criteria to the US$100,000 budget:
- Refurbished or requiring only cosmetic improvements
- Good natural light
- Two bedrooms, one bathroom, one extra water closet
- Local shops, a market, or a cafe in walking distance
- Garage or storage area
- A terrace or patio
The last point, some outside living space did lift the price slightly but to no more than 78,000 euros. Here’s what I’ve found in my visits and conversations with local agents Carroux Immobilier and Agence GTI…
In the village of Cebazan, where there’s a baker, post office, bus line, and school (not directly important to my parents but it means the village is alive and kicking), a two-bedroom, 54-square-meter house with a garage is on the market in move-in condition. It has a living room with a fireplace, fitted kitchen corner, a shower room with a large shower, a separate bath, and a toilet, and another room that could be used as a snug with a toilet and a sink. The garage (29 square meters) is separate but just 3 meters away and has an upstairs room that would be perfect for storage of my parents’ own things if they chose to rent it out. The upside is the 65,000-euro price-tag (agency commission included). The downside is there’s no outside living space and only a local bread shop (though a minimarket is at the planning stages). You can see it here (ref M 3018).
In the small village of Aigues Vives, near the Cathar town of Minerve, I found a cute two-bed, single story 56-square-meter house with a 70-square-meter walled garden. The living room and kitchen open onto a terrace overlooking a courtyard. The property is completely renovated and very neat and tidy. It’s on the market for 76,000 euros. Its downside is one bathroom only.
The center of the bustling and popular market town of Saint Chinian is the location for a newly renovated 60-square-meter apartment. It has a sunny, upper-floor terrace and two sunny bedrooms, but only one bathroom and a small kitchen. It’s on the market for 77,000 euros.
A second property in Saint Chinian, a three-floor, 94-square-meter townhouse includes all the criteria: It has a pretty kitchen opening onto a private terrace with a barbecue. There’s a water cabinet on the ground floor, two large bedrooms, and a bathroom. The kitchen has new wooden flooring and a fireplace. Flooring in the rest of the property is the original decorative or red tiles known as tomettes. It’s on the market for 82,000 euros which includes the agent’s commission and could be negotiable down to budget. Take a look here (ref M 2937).
And finally, I’ve included a stone house with a large sunny terrace for 99,000 euros. Although over budget, the price includes good-looking furniture and appliances, so all my parent’s furniture could go back to the UK (or all yours could stay home), making this three-bedroom 90-square-meter house in Cebazan ready to live in.
Despite the growing popularity of this part of France, there really are, still, a lot of low-budget properties to choose from that would make part-time living accessible to many budding expats. And, if you’re able to increase your budget to around US$150,000, you’ll find more properties with more outdoor space, which gives you, the owner, more chance to enjoy al fresco living and makes the property more tempting to potential vacation renters.
Now, it just remains to be seen if this year’s offering of Langedocian water tempts the horse to drink…
Editor’s Note: As Lucy finds in the Languedoc, France can be much more affordable than you might imagine. Even Paris has options for the budget-conscious retiree.
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