And fortunately the French countryside is littered with beautiful houses, farm buildings and even the odd chateau that just need a bit of love (and money) to restore them to their former glory.
We asked France-based estate agent Ailsa Spindler of Leggett Immobilier to pick 10 of the places that will allow you to create your own personal 'escape to the chateau'.
1. Chateau in Arette, Pyrenees Atlantiques €246,100
Let's start with the actual, genuine chateau. This 12-bedroom pile, built in 1852, is set in 4,900 sq m of grounds which include outbuildings and a swimming pool. About 40 minutes from the Spanish border, it's set in stunning countryside with towns and ski resorts not far away.
So that's the good bits. On the downside it needs extensive restoration (including adding a few more bathrooms, there is currently only one to serve all 12 bedrooms) and would need significant investment to bring it up to standard.
It's being marketed as the perfect location for a boutique hotel or a B&B.
Local estate agent Charlie Ellis said: “Although in need of complete renovation, this huge property has great business potential. Set in one acre of grounds and perfect for transforming into a Bed & Breakfast property, a boutique hotel or even a wedding/events venue, it could also be a spacious family home for three generations or a super second home with plenty of room for accommodating friends and relatives.
“It would also be ideal for activity holidays or even murder mystery weekends!”
2. House in Crulai, Orne, Normandy €162,000
If the restoration of an entire chateau seems like a bit of a daunting prospect, you could try this house in Northern France.
The house suffered a fire some years ago, the current owner has done all the external and structural work, but the inside needs a complete refit. It's a good sized property that could provide up to six bedrooms, and there is also a large garden and orchard with a stable and dairy which could be converted, although you will need to get planning permission for that.
Ailsa says: “An unusual opportunity to put your own stamp on a large house, this property has, on the ground floor: seven rooms, including a large kitchen, and a bathroom.
“On the first floor: three rooms, plus a bathroom and an unconverted attic space.”
3. House in La Ferriere Bochard, Orne, Normandy €130,800
Also in Normandy is this two-bedroom house. Although the house itself is fairly modest it comes with the two-storey neighbouring stable block and a large barn, both of which could be converted to provide a lot more space.
The house itself could be lived in fairly quickly, although its decor is pretty dated, giving you a base while you began the much more ambitious restoration project of the barn and stable block.
Ailsa says: “Located on a quiet country lane in a small hamlet, but just 10 minutes drive from the bustling university town of Alençon, this property consists of a comfortable house with two bedrooms, with an attached two-storey stone stable block which could easily be converted to enlarge the accommodation.
“Across the courtyard, an even larger stone barn, with original bread oven, would make a fantastic gite.”
4. House in Essay, Orne, Normandy €130,000
This is another one that has accommodation that is ready to move in to more or less straight away, and an outbuilding that would create the renovation project.
The three-bedroom family house is in the Medieval town of Essay and comes with a large workshop, artist's studio and garage at the rear, which could be converted into extra living space or holiday-lets.
Ailsa says: “This is a rare opportunity to purchase a family home in the Medieval town of Essay that comes complete with another property to renovate to provide rental income.
“With the university town of Alençon just a few miles away and a thriving local tourist industry, the rental property would be capable of generating a good income, while the main house requires some redecorating and upgrading to make an impressive family home.”
5. Mill in St Daunes, Lot, Midi Pyrenees €129,000
If you're looking for something with a little character this historic former water mill still has a working mechanism so could be restored to either a home or a working flour mill.
The mill workings are on the ground floor while upstairs there is a one-room living area. It comes with 1.7 hectares of land, some of which is already cultivated for vegetables it would be ideal or someone looking to go a bit off-grid.
Ailsa says: “Properties like this need a lot of work, but are genuinely historic buildings and should be respected for that.”
6. House in St Benoit Du Sault, Indre, Centre €77,000
Described as a “blank canvas” this townhouse has lots of space and an adjoining tower, but currently has a very higgledy-piggedy layout and needs a lot of work. It previously had a shop on the ground flood, with three rooms above and an extra five rooms in the tower section.
Local estate agent Sebastian Martin-O'Driscoll said: “There is no beating around the bush with this building, it needs renovating, and at this low price everything is possible.
“The property is very higgledy-piggledy in the medieval fashion and is pretty much a blank canvas for a buyer wishing to bring it back to life.
“There is a plenty of space to make it a big family home or B&B.”
7. Barn in Blis et Born, Dordogne, Aquitaine €194,400
If you want a completely blank canvas so you can create the perfect interior without having to make compromises, then a barn or outbuilding conversion is the way to go – although bear in mind that you will need somewhere to live while these ambitious renovations are carried out.
This attractive stone barn in the Dorodgne area has a surface area of 150 sq m, plus 2,800 sq m of outside space with extra outbuildings and room for a pool.
8. Barn in Nieuil, Charente , Poitou Charentes €109,000
If you like your history, this one's for you with a fascinating past that included being used as a forge to create cannonballs for the French military while the extra outbuildings include an old water mill.
Situated on a 104 sq m site this offers a large amount of space that could be converted into a large family home or boutique hotel or B&B.
Local estate agent Hugh Mcsheffrey said: “This fascinating property offers endless development opportunities to its new owners; be that a beautiful family home, chambres d’hotes, special events venue or…whatever you want it to be.
“Not only do we have this historical forge and its outbuildings, but just behind the Forge is an old water mill, ripe for renovation, which offers the possibility of installing an electricity generator to provide significant economic self-sufficiency.”
9. Barn in Champfleur, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire €104,500
This property has previously been partially lived in and is divided into rooms, but is so dilapidated that it's basically a blank canvas to create what you want from.
The two-storey building is set on a plot of about an acre, with a ruined outbuilding that could be restored into an extension.
Ailsa says: “This dilapidated property needs a lot of work, but the location is amazing.
“On the edge of a popular village just a couple of miles from the thriving university city of Alençon, the area has excellent links to the motorway (A28) network, and the Channel port at Caen is just 80 minutes away.”
10. House in Ligniers Orgeres, Mayenne, Pays de la Loire €26,000
There's no getting away from the fact that this needs a lot of work, although it was apparently lived in relatively recently (obviously by someone who didn't need an indoor bathroom). It's currently a single storey cottage but there is a lot of roof space could be converted and there's an adjoining two-storey stable block with hayloft so the entire property could be knocked trough and significantly extended.
Ailsa says: “Although lived in quite recently, this range of buildings requires major work to make it into a home.
“Benefitting from electricity and mains water on site, the property consists of a stone-built cottage, with good roof timbers but a corrugated iron covering, a stable with large store above, an open-fronted shed and a stone barn. A dilapidated cart shed near the road would be suitable for conversion to a garage.
“The garden area to the front of the property has mature pine trees, and the whole sits in a small hamlet near to the historic town of Carrouges, with its famous chateau.”
So if you're looking for a project to get your teeth in to, there should be someone for everyone here. More details of all the properties above can be found here.
Ailsa added: “It is important to remember with any renovation project that the initial purchase is just the first step.
“Renovations need careful planning, consulting with experts and local tradespeople, accurate budgeting (allow €1,000 – €1,500 per square metre for renovation work) and plenty of patience, but at the end of a project you can have a unique property that really is your dream house.”