While moving to France is always popular, for British people this year sees the added incentive of the end of the transition period.
Real estate agents have reported a big spike in demand for houses as Brits scramble to get themselves resident in France before December 31st, 2020, when the process of moving to France will become a lot more complicated than it currently is.
But there is another factor too – lockdown. The experience of doing lockdown in a tiny city apartment, coupled with the growing use of remote working, has prompted many French people to move to the country and get themselves a more spacious home, while keeping their old job and moving to télétravail (home working).
The Paris Metro has been plastered with adverts from rural départements including Indre, Oise, Cher and Calvados hoping to lure people out of Paris to live and work in their areas.
There is even an organisation Paris je te quitte (Paris, I'm leaving you) dedicated to helping city-dwellers find more affordable accommodation in smaller towns or the countryside.
So if you fall into any of those groups, which areas of France should you be looking at the get the most for your money?
Firstly lets look at the rental market. Online real estate agents seloger.fr have put together this list of the most affordable towns to rent.
- 1. Saint-Étienne – on average property costs €8 per square metre to rent
- 2. Nîmes – €10.5 per square metre
- 3. Angers – €10.7 per square metre
- 4. Toulon – €11.5 per square metre
- 5. Le Havre – €11.5 per square metre
- 6. Dijon – €11.7 per square metre
- 7. Reims – €12.1 per square metre
- 8. Rennes – €12.4 per square metre
- 9. Grenoble – €12.4 per square metre
- 10. Villeurbanne – €12.7 per square metre.
For people looking to buy rather than rent, the French national statistics body INSEE has put together this data on the most affordable places
- 1. Saint-Étienne – property costs on average €900 per square metre to buy
- 2. Mulhouse – €1,060 per sq m
- 3. Bèziers – €1,120 per sq m
- 4. Perpignan – €1,120 per sq m
- 5. Saint-Quentin – €1,130 per sq m
- 6. Limoges – €1,170 per sq m
- 7. Bourges – €1,210 per sq m
- 8. Cholet – €1,210 per sq m
- 9. Niort – €1,220 per sq m
- 10. Brest – €1,240 per sq m
By contrast the average cost to buy in Paris is €10,065 per square metre and €26 per square metre to rent.
France's stunning Auvergne area contains lots of wide open spaces and cheap properties. Photo: AFP
But what about those who want to avoid towns altogether and move into villages or the open country?
Outside of towns the data is less detailed and usually refers to regions rather than a département-by-département breakdown. To make things more confusing, many property websites still refer to the old regions of France, many of which changed their names and boundaries in 2016.
Here the cheapest areas are usually closely connected to the least populated. Areas of central France including Creuse, Corrèze, Cantal and Lozère have little in the way of employment options so have struggled to attract and retain residents, becoming extremely sparsely populated in recent years.
READ ALSO The 10 least-populated areas of France
However they are perfect for people seeking solitude and with the rise of remote working some of these areas – among the most spectacular in France – could be looking at a comeback.
These data from the association of French real estate agents suggests some areas where bargains can be found
Auvergne – the mountainous area in central France has spectacular views and some lively towns. Within this region the Cantal département was flagged as particularly cheap.
Pays de la Loire – coastal properties within the Loire area are expensive with the west coast proving a popular location for Parisian second home owners, but move inland and there are plenty of cheaper properties on offer.
Rhône-Alpes – this area contains the lively and attractive city of Lyon, but away from the city there are bargains to be found in the countryside and smaller towns. In contains the town of Saint-Étienne, which features at the top of the list of cheapest towns to buy and rent property in.
Limousin – another sparsely-populated area, Limousin in south central France has beautiful rugged mountain scenery and some attractive small villages. Its major centre is Limoges, which also features on the list of cheapest towns.
Alsace – over in eastern France is Alsace. Its history of swapping between France and Germany gives this a different culture and cuisine and as an extra bonus for complicated historical reasons, the residents of Alsace-Lorraine get two more public holidays per year than the rest of France.