France Owners Guide
Owning a Holiday Home in France
The diverse geography and climate of France means that there is something here for everyone a fertile rural idyll, with unspoilt villages and lush countryside is available in many regions of this vast and relatively sparsely populated country. If you are not a sun worshipper then you can enjoy the relative cool of the north of the country or perhaps a place up in the hills. Sun lovers can go down to the south and soak up proper Mediterranean strength rays.
Areas such as Normandy, the Loire and the Dordogne offer Brits a landscape pleasingly familiar but less busy and older fashioned feeling than back home. Brittany (Bretagne) with its wild coast is similar in feel to Cornwall (and has a similar climate), but is far emptier. And the Bretons are welcoming to the British – who after all live in Grande Bretagne.
Excellent skiing and other activities set in superb mountain scenery are available in the Alps – the highest peaks of this mountain range are in France – and in the Pyrenees. Outside the ski season, wonderful walking, riding and rock climbing can be found in these same mountains. The mountain lakes are boating playgrounds in the summer – so a second home in somewhere like Annecy, for example, would be a desirable location all year round. Areas such as the Massif Central, the Jura and Voges also have dramatic hilly and mountainous countryside. The southeastern coastline and its sun-baked hinterland offers a stunning Mediterranean lifestyle. The home of ratatouille, this area boasts markets with abundant colourful fresh vegetables and fruit – tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, mel- ons, peaches and other hot climate delights as well as wonderful olives, fish and seafood. On the Atlantic coast, enjoy the old world grandeur of Biarritz or hang out with the crowd on the wonderful surfing beaches on that coastline.
Throughout the country unspoilt medieval towns and cities with their splendid Gothic cathedrals – such as Rouen or Chartres, delightful chateaux, particularly in areas such as the Loire, and strong cultural history are definite attractions to Francophiles. Many great internationally acclaimed writers, artists and composers hail from here. Paris is rightly famed for its elegance, architectural beauty and its history, it also contains top class museums such as the Louvre or the Pompidou Centre (which contains the largest collection of modern art in Europe), which hold amazing treasures. The art of the Impressionists is well known and loved in Britain and having seen examples at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, one can step into modern France and still be reminded of these paintings. Paris still retains some of the views and ambience of a Renoir in its boulevards and Montmartre. Monet’s garden can be visited at Giverny in Normandy. The sun-baked Provencal countryside that inspired Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and many others is surprisingly unchanged, with its lavender fields, orange roof tiles and dazzling sunlight.
Most of France is in some way pleasing on the senses, for a modern successful economic power its pace of life still manages to feel mellow. In the 21st century , while France has plenty of hypermarkets, the local shops still stock wonderful meat, cheeses, charcuterie and patisserie and the boulanger actually bakes on site six days a week. The food of France is legendary and you can still get really excellent authentic food today and it is still regionally and seasonally influenced. Wine is of far better quality for the price than we get in the UK and it is delightful to visit the vineyards where the grapes are grown and taste the wine made there. This type of degustation is possible all over wine growing France from Champagne to Burgundy.
Added to these qualities is the fact that France is a stable and prosperous country with all the facilities that we take for granted in the UK. On a practical level a big plus is the ease of access to France from the UK. Your property can be reached by ferry or Eurotunnel, (the moving of heavy furniture and equipment from the UK can be done with relative ease); by air, with airports all over the France and its near neighbours receiving flights from many airports in the UK. And there is also the Eurostar. So you are not tied to one mode of transport – good news when there is a next ferry strike or volcanic ash cloud.
Learning about France and getting about:
Take time to explore the country or even just the region that you know you want to be in. Bear in mind that away from the already fashionable areas such as Paris or the Cote d’Azur your money will go further. Ideal holiday home property in France can be a lot cheaper than in the UK – an attractive village house in rural France can still cost less than the price of a park home back in the UK.
Try short rents in different places. Such exploration will reveal new things about the country and also help you to focus on what you finally want. You then get a better idea of which characteristics of a holiday home, and its location would be important to you. You will discover compromises you might have to make; the convenience of the town for provisioning and entertainment versus the quiet and privacy of the countryside. Although many British people like to holiday and have a second home in France, the country does not have hot spots of English speakers like Spain and Portugal do. Getting a good command of French is arguably essential and will certainly enhance your experience of exploring to the full this wonderful country.
Service and product providers
Make provision to pay for the essentials of owning property, particularly when you live in a different country most of the time. When planning to take on a holiday home, you must ensure that you budget for any on going mortgage payments, buildings’ and contents’ insurance for the holiday home, second home local authority tax and any service charges if your property is in a communal setting. And don’t forget utility bills, TV licence, broadband etc. If there is a pool at your property allow for chemicals, special water rates and on-going maintenance and cleaning. Your insurer will insist that there is someone local to keep an eye on the place – to hold a key and to organise any necessary urgent repairs in your absence. You may well want gardening services to keep the garden from drying out and to give the impression of the property looking neat and lived in. And over time you will need to pay for builders, plumbers, electricians etc for maintenance and extensions etc.
Things to do when you are there:
Making the most of the area that you have chosen to live in. Get involved in the local community, culture, entertainment, miscellaneous activities, and keep fit and healthy. If you are a foodie, spend time visiting France’s won- derful markets and restaurants. Learning French is a good idea on two levels. Firstly, of course, to help you to get by in everyday life; in shops, restaurants, reading road signs and understanding utility bills and other official communications. Secondly the process of learning will help you to become involved in local life. People everywhere appreciate it when foreigners living amongst them (even if only part time) learn the local language and will often be very encouraging of your efforts. As you grasp more of the language it will help you to socialise, join sports clubs etc. You will enjoy testing out your language skills and be delighted as you understand more and become more understood. As you get better at French you can help other Britons new to France to settle in and enjoy their holiday place.
Renting out your holiday home:
You may plan from the start to rent out your holiday home for holiday use, or you may find this option more attractive at some point in the future. You will need funds to market your holiday home. Your property will then need to be kept in an excellent state of repair and be very well presented, with clean furniture in good condition and pristine crisp linen for each new visitor. The house will have to meet all rental regulations and if there is a pool/ garden areas, these will need to be kept clean and safe. You will probably need to employ the services of a management company to do this. Adequate holiday home insurance will be required which should include liability cover and loss of rent.