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The 20 small towns most popular with house-hunters in France

Property hunters in France are increasingly seduced by small towns rather than big cities, with places with under 20,000 inhabitants judged the best - here are the 20 towns most popular with buyers in France.

The 20 small towns most popular with house-hunters in France
Towns with between 2,000 and 20,000 inhabitants proved the most popular. Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

The annual real estate trends survey for France found that an increasing number of people were moving to towns and villages with populations of between 2,000 and 20,000. 

And an increasing trend shows people moving out of big cities to smaller towns.

“The real mobility comes from the major metropolitan areas, which are saturated. Over the study period, 30 percent of people who lived in the metropolis moved to a small town (18 percent) or a rural commune (12 percent), Aurélien Flament, real estate director at Leboncoin, told Le Parisien.

“This shows that people are looking for a more human environment.”

Of the 7,000 people surveyed, 28 percent lived in small towns before they had moved, while 34 percent lived in small towns after they had moved. Over the same period, the number of property hunters living in big cities dropped by seven percentage points, according to the poll for classifieds website Leboncoin with Ifop.

Those living in large and medium-sized towns remained the same (15 percent), while rural communities have increased two points to 22 percent).

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Time-frame for buying and selling property in France

The platform identified the small towns that are popular with the French by analysing data from all French towns with at least 30 ads online in January 2020, 2021, 2022 and June 2022.

But remote living is not the aim of the game, the study found.

Every single one of most popular small towns on Leboncoin’s site is not that far from a larger city: Saint-Jean-de-Liversay (Charente-Maritime) is half an hour from La Rochelle; Troarn (Calvados) is within 30 minutes of Caen’ and Bouloires (Sarthe) a similar commute from Le Mans.

READ ALSO Revealed: The ‘hidden’ extra costs when buying property in France

Saint-Chamas (Bouches-du-Rhône) is not far from Salon-de-Provence or Aix-en-Provence. This commune of 8,591 inhabitants saw its responses to property ads posted on the site rise 47 points between January 2020 and June 2022. 

Meanwhile, Veules-les-Roses, a village of 550 inhabitants in Seine-Maritime, is one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. Gières, a town of 7,134 inhabitants, a 10-minute rail-trip from Grenoble, is also one of the most sought-after cities according to Leboncoin.

“We’re not talking about an exodus to isolated cities, but rather to small peri-urban communities, not far from employment areas,” Flament concluded.

READ ALSO MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

Their own property, added space, a garden, and – following the pandemic – access to natural spaces were also among the main factors for people moving house. Space to work and work-from-home options were towards the bottom of the list of reasons given for moving in the study. 

And Flament reckons this is just the beginning.

“With financing problems for real estate projects and the construction of new housing at half-mast, people are forced to move. It’s a safe bet that the attractiveness of small towns will continue to increase.”

Here are the 20 towns that proved most popular with buyers in France

  1. Veules-les-Roses in the département of Seine-Maritime, Normandy
  2. Saint-Chamas in the département of Bouches-du-Rhône, close to Marseille
  3. Gières, Isère département in the Alps
  4. Colayrac-Saint-Cirq, Lot-et-Garonne in south west France 
  5. Troarn, Calvados, Normandy
  6. Bouloire, Sarthe in Pays-de-la-Loire
  7. Saint-Jean-de-Liversay, Charente-Maritime in south west France
  8. Livron-sur-Drôme, Drôme département in the French Alps
  9. Massongy, Haute-Savoie in the Alps
  10. Grans, Bouches-du-Rhône
  11. Saint-Fort-sur-Gironde, Charente-Maritime in south west France
  12. Pouillon, Landes in south west France
  13. Maulévrier, Maine-et-Loire in north west France
  14. Saint-Pierre-des-Fleurs, Eure, near Rouen in north west France
  15. Monnaie, Indre-et-Loire, north west France
  16. Etupes, Doubs in eastern France
  17. Aniane, Hérault, close to Montpellier on the south east coast
  18. Saint-Sulpice-de-Royan, Charente-Maritime in south west France
  19. Saint-Clair-de-la-Tour, Isère département in the Alps
  20. Maché, Vendée on France’s west coast

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SECOND HOMES

New French property tax declaration – your questions answered

This year the French tax office has announced that property-owners have to complete an extra tax declaration - from the rules for non-residents to second-home owners, we answer your questions on this.

New French property tax declaration - your questions answered

In 2023 there is an additional requirement for anyone who owns a home in France – they must fill in a one-off Déclaration d’occupation, stating whether their property is their main residence or a second home.

The reason for this is changes to the tax system that are gradually phasing out taxe d’habitation for all but the highest earners – with the exception of second homes.

You can find a full explanation of how to file the declaration HERE.

Many of our readers have contacted us with questions about this new requirement, so we’ve answered some of the most frequently-asked here;

Do I still have to do this even though I don’t live in France?

A fairly sizeable number of people own property in France (usually holiday homes) but live elsewhere, such as the UK or the US. If you don’t live in France or have income in France you probably won’t have to do the annual income tax declaration, but the Déclaration d’occupation is different.

It concerns anyone who owns property in France, including second-home owners who live in another country.

Do I have to do this even though I pay all my taxes in another country?

If you own property in France you probably do, in fact, pay tax here – property taxes. Bills go out every autumn for the taxe foncière (the property owners’ tax) and taxe d’habitation (the householders tax) – and second-home owners would usually pay both. You may also receive a bill from your commune for waste-collection services, although the annual TV licence bill (which used to be sent out at the same time as the property tax bill) has been scrapped this year.

If you own property in France and have never paid property taxes, it might be worth a trip to the local tax office to check that you are registered correctly, as almost all property owners are liable for property taxes.

Do I have to do this every year now?

No, this is a one off. You complete the declaration this year (before June 30th) and then you don’t have to do it again until your situation changes – eg a second home becomes your main residence.

Why do we have to do this?

It’s because of changes to the tax rules. Taxe d’habitation – the occupier’s tax – used to be paid by virtually everyone, but is now gradually being phased out for all but high earners. The exception to this is second homes, so the tax office needs to know whether your property is used as your main residence or a second home so that they know whether to send you a bill in autumn.

Does this mean more taxes?

No, the declaration is purely for information – if your property is a second home you will continue to get your annual taxe d’habitation bill as normal, if it is a main residence you may receive no bill or a reduced bill, depending on your income.

What about commercial property?

If you own commercial property such as a workshop, bar or retail premises, then this does not affect you, the tax declaration is in relation to homes.

It’s all about clearing up the property status for taxe d’habitation, and you don’t pay this type of tax if it is a commercial premises.

What about gîtes, holiday homes or Airbnb properties?

It’s really all down to what you use the property for – if you run it entirely as a business it should be registered as a business and is therefore not concerned by this.

If the property is your home and you occasionally rent it out on Airbnb (say, when you’re on holiday) then it still counts as a home and you will need to complete the déclaration d’occupation. Be aware that certain areas, including Paris, limit how many days per year you can rent out a property on Airbnb without registering it as a business.

Some people keep properties mostly for their own use as second homes but sometimes rent them out for extra money – be aware that if you do this, you may need to register as a business and declare any income received – full details here.

Can I just ignore it, or tell them my second home is a main residence?

Ignoring or lying to the tax office is generally quite a bad idea whatever country you’re in – they can get quite cross.

This sounds like a massive pain

Welcome to France – home of bureaucracy! Paperwork is a fact of life in France and that’s probably unlikely to change soon. If you’re already registered in the impots.gouv site then this is one of the more painless admin tasks – a couple of clicks, fill out the form and file it online and you’re done.  

If you have questions on the property tax declaration, you can email us on [email protected] and we will do our best to answer them

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