We’re still in love with France even after 21 years in Provence
Brits are still following their French dream, but is moving across the Channel really a bonne idée? Sharon Dale investigates.
THE book that prompted an exodus to France and spawned a library of copycat memoirs celebrates its coming of age this year.
It’s 21 years since Peter Mayle published A Year in Provence and the picture he painted is still one that tempts hundreds of Brits to move across the Channel in search of a healthier, more relaxed way of life.
Eleanor O’Kane, editor of Living France magazine, also founded in 1989, says: “Even the recent economic downturn doesn’t seem to have dampened this sector of the market. Figures from a recent reader survey show that 45 per cent of our readers want to buy a property in France in the next couple of years, only two per cent less than in 2004. The amount people are prepared to pay has gone up from £94,650 in 2004 to £164,906 in 2009.”
She adds: “France has weathered the storm better than other overseas destinations. This is due to its proximity to the UK as well as its unique cultural appeal. Overseas markets that rely solely on having bargainbasement-priced property have suffered.”
Patrick Joseph, who grew up in France and now lives in Leeds, is founder of www.my-frenchhouse.com, a French property website for English speaking house hunters.
Patrick, who has helped hundreds of Brits find holiday and permanent homes over the past seven years, says: “What people like is that it is near to the UK and offers a better quality of life. They love the food, the wine, the health care system.
“It’s also safe to buy there with none of the problems we’ve seen in Spain and it’s a safe investment. You won’t see prices rocket in France but on average they rise steadily at between four and seven per cent a year.”
It still offers good value, too. A family-sized three to four bedroom house starts from £120,000 to £150,000 upwards in area popular with Brits. These include Brittany and Normandy because they are closest to the UK and up-and-coming Languedoc, which offers sun but is more affordable than Provence.
Patrick says: “The market is slower than in previous years but it’s stable.
“We are also seeing that now is the time to sell for people who want to move back to Britain for family or health reasons.
“At the height of the market a few years ago, it was impossible for people to sell what they had in France and buy something comparable here, but now prices have dropped in Britain they can do that. The exchange rate is also in their favour for selling property, though not in terms of their pension.”
In Patrick’s experience, most people emigrating to France are Francophiles, who do settle long-term. They are clued up. If there are mistakes, it is in choosing the wrong area.
“I get people calling me to make appointments to see 10 properties and I say before you do that, go to the area, travel round the towns and villages, have a drink in a café, a meal in a restaurant, get a feel for the area so you know exactly where you want to be.” www.livingfrance.com www.my-french-house.com
WARM WELCOME: Ma Masion de Mer is now a beautiful chambre d’hôte and home to Emma and Phil Hutchinson.
Emma Joll, David and the boys outside their farmhouse in Normandy. Right, the vicarage near Bangles Del Orme, renovated by the couple. Details below.