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PROPERTY

5 of the most affordable places to buy property in France

Whether you want city buzz or countryside peace, there are plenty of places in France that you can move to without breaking the bank - here are 5 of the most affordable parts of the country.

5 of the most affordable places to buy property in France
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Auvergne – If you are looking for vast forests, dormant volcanoes, and rolling mountains, Auvergne is the place for you. Relatively non-touristic, this is the perfect part of France to go to if you are looking for an authentic French countryside experience filled with medieval towns and river valleys. Property prices in Auvergne are well below the national average.

For affordability: The départment of Lozère is where the real estate is cheapest in Auvergne. Here, the price of a village house is generally less than €100,000. If you have more funds, you could invest in a luxury villa for around €300,000.

For quaint, village life: Montpeyroux has been rated among the most beautiful villages in France, and it is located in the Puy-de-Dôme département. 

For a more urban environment: Clermont-Ferrand is Auvergne’s largest city, with just over 141,000 inhabitants.

The cost of living is 12 percent less in Clermont-Ferrand than the French average. This city close to nature is located near the famous ancient volcanoes of Auvergne, like the Puy de Dôme, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The Chaine des Puys, a volcanic chain of 80 volcanoes over a distance of 32 km, in Auvergne (Photo by THIERRY ZOCCOLAN / AFP)
 

Pays de la Loire – If you want to be along the water (or at least in close proximity to the ocean) at an affordable price, or maybe you’ve always dreamed of vineyard living, but everything feels out of budget, Pays de la Loire might be the region for you.

Located in western France with a long coastline, this French region also encompasses a significant part of the Loire Valley, known for its wine production. Home to famous castles, there is plenty to explore in this part of France.

Just above Auvergne in price per square metre, the Loire region is also significantly lower than the national average. If you are looking to invest in a house, you might expect to pay around €1,500 per square metre, depending on the location and the commune. For an apartment, the average price per square metre is approximately €3,700 (€4,337 is the national average). Depending on the city and the location of the property, you could buy an apartment from around €2,790 metres squared.

For affordability: The département of Mayenne. Though landlocked, this département is not too far from the water – at about 30km from the Mont-Saint-Michel-Bay. 

For close proximity to vineyards: Saumur is located between the Loire and Thouet rivers, and is surrounded by the vineyards. The city is along a river, and features a historic castle, the Château de Saumor.

For a more urban environment: Le Mans, which is home to about 143,000 people, is most famous for its world-renowned 24-hour car race, but aside from that the city is quite affordable. You can find rental accommodation for an average price of €9.5 per square metre. The city also boasts a historic cathedral and authentic Roman fortifications. The largest city in the Loire region is Nantes, but Le Mans is significantly cheaper.

A view of Saumur as seen from the city’s castle (Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

Rhône-Alpes

For mountain lovers, skiers, and fondue fans alike, this region is popular spot for nature enthusiasts during all seasons.

There are some very pricey areas within the Alps as rich holidaymakers, price out the local, but there are also cheaper areas in the historic Rhône-Alpes area.

On average in Rhône-Alpes, the price per square metre varies from €1,850 to €3,762 for a house. If you plan to invest in an apartment, you should expect to pay between €2,650 and €5,119 per square meter, depending on location.

For affordability: Valence, this small French city is just about an hour’s drive away from the beautiful Gorges de l’Ardèche, home to natural arches and great for canoeing. The city would be a good place to invest in property, as its currently lower prices are on the rise. Currently, the average price per metre squared is €2,073.

For proximity to the mountains: Grenoble is sometimes called the French Silicon Valley, as it has managed to attract tech companies and workers. It is also nicely nestled into the Chartreuse mountain range, with a cable car in the city that offers spectacular views, Grenoble is prime location in the ski season. However, the city is far from the most affordable option in the Rhône Alps region (though still significantly cheaper than France’s top 10 most expensive cities).

For a more urban environment: Saint Étienne, the much less expensive neighbour city to Lyon. If you look at any list of ‘least expensive cities in France’ you will surely see Saint Étienne. But that does not mean that the city is not a great place to live. Featuring several museums that explore France’s industrial past and unique modern architecture, Saint Étienne is a great part of France to consider if you’re working with a budget.

Limousin

You may not have heard of Limousin, but you’ve certainly heard of limousines. The luxury vehicles’ name derives from the historic French region – as the carriage hood was thought to resemble the cloaks worn by shepherds in this part of central south west France.

Other than limos, Limousin, which is now part of the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, is a great place for fishing, hiking and horseback riding. The area is quite rural – among the least populated regions of France – so if you’re looking for wide open spaces, this is the spot for you.

For affordability: Brive (Brive-la-Gaillarde) is the second most populous city in Limousin, and in 2021 it made France’s Journal du Dimanche’s list of “500 cities and villages where life is good,” ranking 60th. It is also known for its famous market. 

For that quaint village: Aubusson is a small village in the Limousin region, and it is also considered the ‘capital of tapestries.’ The picturesque village is right along the Creuse river. 

For a more urban environment: Limoges is the capital city, with a population of around 130,000. Known for its centuries old porcelain production and the medieval homes in the city centre, Limoges’ cost of living in 2022 was found to be 9 percent lower than France’s average.

Alsace

Situated in eastern France along the border with Germany, you might know Alsace more for Strasbourg’s Christmas market, its famous white wine, or perhaps the gingerbread-esque houses sprinkled across the land that changed hands several times between l’Hexagone and the Germans. If you’re looking for a sign to move to Alsace, look no further than the storks (cigogne in French) who are supposed to bring good luck and are indigenous to the region.

For affordability: Mulhouse, known for its museums (including France’s national car museum), this city was ranked number one by French daily Le Parisien in terms of work and real estate opportunities. From Mulhouse, you can also commute to Germany or Switzerland.

For a gothic, medieval town: Cobbled streets, colourful buildings, and medieval architecture, Colmar is one of Alsace’s most popular towns to visit. It was reportedly the inspiration for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and it is a lovely mix between French and German culture. 

For a more urban environment: Metz – while not too far from Paris (just a few hours drive), this city is quite affordable (an apartment here will cost you about 60 percent less than it would in Paris). Though Strasbourg is typically the city referenced when discussing Alsace, Metz offers cheaper prices and closer proximity to three different countries (and their job markets): Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. On top of that, it is a city with lots of green space.

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ENERGY

What households in France can expect in the event of power cuts

The French government continues to insist that power cuts are very unlikely this winter. Nevertheless, there is an emergency plan in place, so here's what it says about power cuts, from length and frequency to warning times.

What households in France can expect in the event of power cuts

Power outages in France during the winter of 2022-2023 are still unlikely, and President Emmanuel Macron has urged people “not to panic.” However, they are still a “real possibility” and if you would like to be prepared for potential power cuts, here is what you should know:

When and how will I know if there’s going to be a power outage?

You can continue scanning the situation using the website and application Ecowatt.

READ MORE: ‘Ecowatt’: How to use France’s new energy forecasting website and app

You will be able to see an ‘energy forecast’ for the following three days – which will put your local area into the category of Green (no strains in the grid), Yellow (the grid is strained, consider decreasing energy consumption), or Red (the grid is very strained, power cuts will be inevitable without a decrease in consumption).

If EcoWatt goes red, the first step will be asking businesses to make voluntary decreases, so for example factories could go onto a three-day week.

If this still doesn’t work, then targeted power cuts may be necessary – but these will be limited in time and area and planned in advance.

The government says that power cuts will last for no longer than two hours and will be done on a commune basis – so there will never be a situation where a whole département will be blacked out, far less the entire country.

So how do I know if my area will be affected?

If Ecowatt is red, keep checking it – at 3pm each day it will be updated with any areas that face power cuts the following day.

At 3pm you will be able to see whether your département will be impacted and at 5pm you will be able to check your individual address to see if you are in a ‘load shedding’ zone (délestage in French) – the technical term for a planned outage.

You can set up alerts by SMS and email on both the application and website.

And of course there will be extensive media coverage (including on The Local) of planned cuts. 

How long would the rolling blackout last?

French government authorities have specified that power outages would not occur for more than two hours at a time.

They would occur either in the morning (between the hours of 8am and 1pm) or in the evening between the hours of 6pm and 8pm and would not affect crucial buildings such as hospitals. 

If you are impacted by a power outage on one day, you can rest assured you will not be in a “load shedding area” the following day, power bosses will vary the areas for targeted cuts and no area will have two consecutive days of cuts.

What are the things that might be impacted in the event of a power cut?

There are several every-day items that could be shut off during a power outage that you might need to be aware of; 

READ MORE: OPINION: France faces the real possibility of power cuts this winter and it can’t blame Putin

ATMs and Contactless Payment – If you are in an area that will be impacted by power outages, consider taking out cash the day before. During the power outage, you may not be able to access an ATM or use a credit/ debit card to pay, depending on whether the card reader is fully charged. 

Elevators and digicodes – if you live in an apartment block then both your lift and the electronic door codes will not work. Your building might block access to elevators during the rolling blackout. If you know you will be in an area where power is cut, you might want to consider postponing your heavy shopping trip or furniture delivery to the following day.

Digicodes and access badges also will not work without electricity. However, that does not mean you will be locked out or trapped inside, as the electricity is only used to keep the door locked. 

Shops closed – While supermarkets with generators will be able to remain open, you can expect some smaller shops to be closed during power outages.

Public transport – This will depend on where you live in France, though you can expect some services to be interrupted. Local authorities have been tasked with coming up with their own response plans in the event of power cuts. The French government has asked local authorities to err on the side of caution, in order to avoid the possibility of passengers finding themselves stranded in the middle of a track. As for the Paris Metro system, this will not be affected by power outages. Government spokesperson Olivier Véran told BFMTV on Friday that it runs on “its own electricity network.” You can expect more detailed information in the coming weeks.

Schools – While this has not yet been confirmed, the French government is reportedly working alongside the Ministry of Education to develop plans to close schools in the mornings if the area is to be impacted by rolling blackouts. This would be to protect students and teachers from having to be in the building without access to heating, alarm systems or lighting. Schools would be open again in the afternoons, as power cuts are not set to take place between 1pm and 6pm. 

Phone and internet service – During a power cut, there could be interruptions in telecommunications (both for mobile and landline devices). If you have an emergency, you should still dial 112. As this phone number is accessible regardless of the telephone operating company or line, there is still a chance it will be covered by at least one operator in the area. Call centres for the fire department and the police will continue to function. 

Traffic lights – Like other illuminated traffic signs, these are powered by electricity. It is therefore possible that they will be out of service during power cuts, so consider avoiding driving during a power outage.

Charging devices – If you learn that your area will be impacted by a power outage, consider charging any devices you might need during the day the night before. Keep in mind though that the power cut will only last two hours.

Hot water – If your water is heated electrically, it likely will not be available during a power outage. It would therefore be advised to plan around the two hour power cut for your hot water needs.

Refrigerators and freezers – There is no need to panic here – the power would only be off for two hours, so your food ought to remain protected, as refrigerators can keep cold up to four to six hours after the power shuts off. As for freezers, they can keep their temperature for 24 to 48 hours.

And what won’t be affected?

Priority sites such as hospitals, prisons, police stations, fire stations, critical factories and other emergency services will not experience power cuts.

If your power line also services a priority site, then you will be spared from blackouts. For this reason, people living in urban areas are less likely to be impacted by power cuts than people living in rural areas. As for Paris specifically, the city is so dense and is connected to so many priority sites that only about 20 percent of the Parisian territory could be impacted by power cuts. 

Current estimates show that about 60 percent of the French population could be impacted by power cuts – the remaining 40 percent are either connected to a priority line or are part of the 3,800 “high-risk patients” who are dependent on home medical equipment.

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