Property prices: The cheapest areas of France to move to

While many sectors of the economy are struggling, real estate agents are reporting buoyant sales thanks to a combination of people moving to France and city-dwellers moving to the countryside.

Property prices: The cheapest areas of France to move to
Many people are moving out of cities to the French countryside. Photo: AFP

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.

READ ALSO What are the differences between moving to France before or after December 31st?

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 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.

READ ALSO Six things to think about before buying a house in France



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.

READ ALSO Ten reasons to visit France's Auvergne area

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.







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French police launch new service to keep empty homes secure

Leaving your property empty puts it at risk of burglars or squatters and this is a particular worry for second-home owners, whose homes are often vacant for prolonged periods.

French police launch new service to keep empty homes secure

French police run a scheme called Opération Tranquillité Vacances which involves householders telling their local police that they will be away, so they can keep an eye on the property.

The scheme has run in various forms since 1974, but now an online platform has been set up allowing property owners to make their declaration in just a few clicks.

It’s largely targeted at French people who are going away over the summer and leaving their homes empty, but it’s not limited to French nationals and can be used all year around.

Under the scheme, householders and businesses can ask their local gendarmes to keep a watch over their properties while they are away for a period of up to three months.

READ ALSO How to get rid of squatters from your French property

Police and gendarmes patrols visit houses on their list at various times during the day or night, checking shutters, gates, and back gardens to make sure all is as it should be – and to act as a deterrent to any criminal groups checking the area.

The new online service is not limited to French nationals or French residents, but it does require a FranceConnect account to operate, meaning that you need to be registered in at least one French database (eg the tax office, benefits office or in the health system).

The form can be used to cover both main residences and second homes (résidence secondaire) but there is a limit of three months at a time for the property to be vacant.

You can find the form HERE and it can be completed between three and 45 days before your departure.

You can also register in person at your nearest police station or gendarmerie unit. Take ID and proof of address, such as a recent utility bill, if you do it this way.

Summertime is high-season for criminals in France, who target homes that have been left vacant while their owners are away on holiday.

Opération Tranquillité Vacances was introduced in 1974 as a means to keep crime rates down during the summer holiday period. It was extended to include other school holidays in 2009, and is now available all year round.