The French region that will pay you €5,000 to buy a home there

One French region is looking to repopulate its villages and fix up its old buildings by offering prospective homeowners a €5,000 cheque for each purchase.

The French region that will pay you €5,000 to buy a home there
A village in Aisne. Photo: Yann Caradec/Flickr

It’s not every day that you actually get paid to buy a property rather than having to cough up levies and fees you hadn’t even thought about when buying a home.

But this is exactly the new proposition by 42 municipalities in the country’s Hauts-de-France region, the historical area formerly known as Picardie.

In a bid to breathe new life into this corner of France and in the process guarantee the restoration of old homes and buildings, local municipalities will hand over a €5,000 cheque to anyone who can provide new title deeds for one of the properties.

There are some other conditions, however.

First, you either have to be a first time buyer or a new resident in one of the Aisne municipalities in question.

Then there’s the fact that the properties that get the discount must have been on the market for three years.

And thirdly, the buyers must sign an undertaking before a notary stating they will stay for at least five years in the house, or be liable to paying €1,000 back to their local municipality for every year they’re not there.

“We have carried out a study that has led us to the conclusion that many of these houses have been empty for a long time,” Pierre-Jean Verzelen, president of the community of communes for Pays de la Serre told Le Parisien.

A lot of these are beautiful stone homes that have plenty of character and history but have fallen into disrepair.

The main priority for authorities is to restore the old structures rather than focusing solely on increasing the local population.

Crécy-sur-Serre for example, where Verzelen is also the mayor, has just under 1,500 people, but Pays de la Serre as an area has 15,000 residents. Here is a list of all of Pays de la Serre's communes

“By the end of 2019, we’ll be the only territory in the whole of Aisne that’s fully connected to fibre optic internet,” he adds.

There are also two medical centres, several schools and daycare centres as well craft shops and general shops. Local council tax and other bills in the area are reportedly low.

“The message to families is that we have everything you'll need, so come and settle here because you’ll be fine,” Verzelen suggests.

House prices aren’t too high either, although as mentioned it’s important to factor in renovation costs.

The price for a 115 sqm former clergy house with a garden is €35,000 for example.

If you work remotely and have always dreamed of living in the French countryside, this is definitely une proposition très intéressante. Find out more here


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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.