Compromise is not a word we want to use when searching for our perfect home in the sun but the reality is that there is always some compromise. What to give up on and what to hang on to when the budget doesn’t quite stretch to everything on the wish-list? How to shave off items from that list and still achieve the dream? Both our professional experience as real estate agents in the South of France, and personal experience of owning houses in the Languedoc has taught us that there are a few things that can be sacrificed without compromising the spirit of your dream.
1. Location – The right location is one of the most important factors in any property search. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the an area is better to live or invest in, just because property values are higher. Undeniably, the Languedoc Rousillon is much cheaper than Provence. Yet, climatically both regions offers pretty much the same Mediterranean climate for the most part (for reasons to buy in the Languedoc, please see our blog – http://pullenfrance.com/10-reasons-to-buy-in-the-languedoc-in-the-south-of-france/. Even within the Languedoc Rousillon, prices can vary quite a bit. The Aude has historically been cheaper than the Herault, yet there is very little difference between both areas. The area around Narbonne and the Canal du Midi is definitely an up and coming area, due to its natural beauty and ever improving transport links, so this is a good area to invest in now, at a price that is more affordable that neighbouring areas.
2. Condition of property – Most people would like to find a house in a relatively good condition and state of repair. However, that adds a premium to the price. Where your budget is limited, consider buying a property that needs some redecoration and refreshing. An old kitchen is easily replaced for under 3,000€. Even if you have never fitted a new kitchen before, with an international company like IKEA just an hour away in Montpellier, this is no longer the challenge that it would have been. A new coat of paint does wonders for an old village house that hasn’t been redecorated in 30 years. It cost very little other than your time. Or learn a new skill. When we bought our first house in the Herault in Languedoc, we taught ourselves how to tile, and saved a considerable sum in the process. The skill came in useful again when we moved to our new house in the Aude.
3. Swimming Pool – A pool in your South of France home can add around 30,000€ -50,000€ to the price of a property in this area, which could make a substantial dent in your budget. Plus the upkeep of a pool is an additional ongoing expense. Unless an absolute must, this is something you can sacrifice without feeling it too much. For example, when you buy a house in the Narbonne area, you have access to an excellent leisure centre with heated indoor and outdoor pools (http://www.espacedeliberte.fr/) that is open all year round (plus it has one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the area!). And with the Mediterranean beaches, the river Aude and the Canal du Midi at your doorstep, you don’t have to go far to find water to cool down in the summer.
4. Garden – If you’re not a keen gardener, a garden can be an additional burden, especially when you can only spend a limited time in your holiday home. The last thing you want to be doing when on holiday is the weeding! When we were first house-hunting here, we noticed that gardens were hard to come by, and the reason for this we were told is that after a day toiling in the vineyards, the locals had little time for gardening, and with all the wide open spaces all round there was no need for large gardens. As long as there is some outside space like a roof terrace to enjoy the better things in life (such as a glass of rosé watching the sun set), then the lack of a proper garden is not such a sacrifice. And of course, roof terraces by their nature being much higher, they afford you a view of the stunning countryside to be found in the Aude, which a garden won’t necessarily give you.
5. Size of property – Yes, everyone you know is going to come and stay with you as soon as they know you have a house in the South of France. But that doesn’t mean they will all arrive at the same time, so go for a property with one room less than what you think you might need for all those visitors. It’ll work out cheaper in the long run too, as your heating/maintenance costs are reduced.