Second homes For Members

MAPS: Where in France has the largest number of second-homes

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected] • 31 May, 2023 Updated Wed 31 May 2023 16:50 CEST
MAPS: Where in France has the largest number of second-homes
Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

France is a country of second homes - almost 1 in 10 properties is a holiday home, with buyers - both French and foreign - living their dream of a home by the sea or in the mountains. Here are some of the most popular areas.


Owning a second-home in France is a dream for many - both French and foreign alike. Some imagine a life on the Breton coastline enjoying fresh seafood and cidre, while others aspire to a chalet in the Alps. 

Properties that do not function as a primary residence (maisons secondaires in French) are common in France, in fact according to a 2021 study by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), they make up approximately one in ten properties in France overall.


Using data from 2017, INSEE found that second-homes account for 3.2 million properties in France - of which around 90 percent have French owners and the remaining 320,000 are owned by people living in another country.

The largest single group of foreign second-home owners are Brits, followed by Belgians, Italians and Swiss. 

They are also more likely to be located in some parts of the country than others. Over a third (33 percent) are in mountainous areas, while about 18 percent are on the coast, particularly the west coast and around the Mediterranean.

When broken down by département, the preference to be near the water and the ski resorts becomes particularly visible, as shown on the map below:

When broken down by municipalities - or EPCI's (Public establishment of inter-municipal cooperation), a designation used by INSEE - it is easier to zoom in on the smaller localities within the départements shown in the map above that have the highest proportions of second home owners.

The five communes in France with the highest portion of second-homes are all in the mountains.

The area with the most second homes proportional to total properties, as of 2019, was Germ in the Haut-Pyrénées département - a ski resort where 96.97 percent of the properties are classified as second-homes.

As for the other top four communes, three are located in the Alps and the fourth is located in the Pyrenees mountains. All of these areas have over 92 percent of their local properties reported as second-homes.

The relatively cheap property prices in some parts of France, especially rural France, means that having a second home is not only the preserve of the super rich. French people often inherit family properties which can be used as a second home, and this plays a part in the French preference for taking summer holidays within France. 

However, being a second-home owner in France is becoming an increasingly expensive reality, as several areas that qualify as "zones tendues" - urban areas of more than 50,000 inhabitants with a housing shortage. In those areas, local authorities have the ability to increase taxes (taxe d’habitation) for second-homes.

READ MORE: Why some French cities are increasing taxes for second-home owners

In total around 200 communes have voted to increase the residence tax, including Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Nice, Biarritz, Arles, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Marseille.

From 2024, communes with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants will also be given the option to increase taxes on second homes.

You can check whether your town is in a zone tendue here.

Nevertheless - as shown on the maps, many second-home owners prefer to buy property away from the cities and most populous areas.





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