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French village’s €1 land offer sparks global frenzy

The mayor of a tiny, underpopulated village in northwestern France has been inundated with calls from around the world after he decided to sell off land for just €1 per square metre in a bid to attract new villagers.

French village's €1 land offer sparks global frenzy
The deserted centre of Berrien in northwestern France. Photo: GoogleMaps
The village of Berrien has a serious problem. There aren't enough youngsters to justify having a local school. 
 
To make matters worse for the village, which is in Finistère in the very north west France, the population of 987 people is on the decline. 
 
In an effort to save the school, village heads announced last week that they would sell off ten plots of land at around 800sqm each for just €1 per square metre ($1.13). 
 
Yes, you read that right. A whole plot of land would set you back less than the monthly rent of an average apartment in Paris. 
 
The land is normally valued at €9.50 per square metre, meaning it's almost being sold at a tenth of their market value. 
 
And the idea seems to have struck a bell. Since the announcement went out last week, the phone at the mayor's office hasn't stopped ringing. In fact, one hour saw 50 calls, a secretary told local media.
 
 

(Could this be your new local church? Photo: GoogleMaps)
 
“We've had calls from the Philippines, the US, Morocco…” Mayor Paul Quéméner told The Local. “In all we've had about 300 calls from people expressing their interest.
 
“It's been a huge success and it's created far more interest than we could have imagined.”
 
But not all of the interested parties match the strict criteria that comes with a plot of land in Berrien. Buyers must commit to building a property within two years. 
 
The mayor is also strongly encouraging young families, and admits that he has no interest in people simply looking to make an investment.
 
 
“It's a lovely village and region to move to,” said Quemener. “It's great walking country and in the village itself there are plenty of amenities. It's very tranquil.”
 
The mayor says Berrien village is home to numerous English expats and even boasts a British councillor.  
 
Of all the 300 official applications so far, around 30 are being taken seriously. A further five or six have already taken steps to making the dream a reality.
 
If you're thinking about making a serious application, we recommend you read why the experts are saying that 2015 is the year to buy a home in France. Good luck.
 
Another village has tried a similar tactic in the past. Champ-du-Boult in Normandy also sold land for €1 in April after a mass exodus of young people seeking greener pastures elsewhere. 
 

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MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

While French cities such as Paris are notoriously expensive, there are many areas outside the cities where it is still possible to buy spacious homes for less than €100,000 - particularly if you don't mind a bit of renovation.

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

We decided to look at where in France you could afford a property on a budget of €100,000, and it turns out there are some bargains to be had.

There are a lot of caveats while searching for property, and many local variables in place, but our search does show some of the areas to concentrate on if you have a limited budget.

We used the Notaires de France immobilier website in August 2022, and we specified that the property should have at least five rooms (including kitchen and bathroom) and a floor space of at least 100 square metres.

We also discounted any property that was for sale under the viager system – a complicated purchase method which allows the resident to release equity on their property gradually, as the buyer puts down a lump sum in advance and then pays what is effectively a rent for the rest of the seller’s lifetime, while allowing them to remain in the property.

READ ALSO Viager: The French property system that can lead to a bargain

For a five-room, 100 square metre property at under €100,000, you won’t find anywhere in the Île-de-France region, where the proximity of Paris pushes up property prices. The city itself is famously expensive, but much of the greater Paris region is within commuting distance, which means pricier property. 

Equally the island of Corsica – where prices are pushed up by its popularity as a tourist destination – showed no properties for sale while the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – which includes the French Riviera – showed only 1 property under €100,000.

The very presence of Bordeaux, meanwhile, takes the entire département of Gironde out of this equation – but that doesn’t mean that the southwest is completely out of the running. A total of 25 properties came up in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. One property was on the market for a mere €20,000 – but it was, as the Notaires’ brochure noted, in need of “complete renovation”.

Neighbouring Occitanie, meanwhile, showed 12 further properties in the bracket.

By far the most properties on the day of our search – 67 – were to be found in the Grand Est region of eastern France. The eastern part of France overall comes out best for property bargains, with the north-east region of Hauts-de-France showing 38 properties and and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté displaying 25.

Further south, however, the presence of the Alps – another popular tourist destination – pushed up prices in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region which showed just three results.

The below map shows our search results, with darker colours indicating more cheap properties.

Property buying tips 

In order to make a comparison, we focused our search on properties advertised online, but if you have a specific area in mind it's well worth making friends with a few local real estate agents and perhaps also the mayor, since it's common for properties not to be advertised online.

Most of the truly 'bargain' properties are described as being "in need of renovation" - which is real estate speak for a complete wreck.

If you don't mind doing a bit of work you can often pick up property for low prices, but you need to do a clear-eyed assessment of exactly how much work you are willing and able to do, and what the cost is likely to be - there's no point getting a "cheap" house and then spending three times the purchase price on renovations.

READ ALSO 'Double your budget and make friends with the mayor' - tips for French property renovation

That said, there were plenty of properties at or near the €100,000 mark that were perfectly liveable or needed only relatively minor renovations.

You also need to pay attention to the location, as the sub-€100,000 properties are often in remote areas or very small villages with limited access to amenities. While this lifestyle suits many people, bear in mind that owning a car is a requirement and you may end up paying extra for certain services.

Finally remember that government help, in the form of loans and grants, is available for environmentally friendly improvements, such as insulation or glazing.

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