If you are contemplating buying property in Europe, you’ll find that few other European countries can match what France has to offer, especially when considering price. The choice of properties selling for less than $100,000 is incredible. And we’re not talking about only ruins and renovation projects, either.
It’s a quiet day in late June on the beach in Deauville. As I walk along the water’s edge, golden sand crunching beneath my toes, it almost feels as if the mile-long beach is all mine. Tranquility reigns right now, but a change is coming. Near the boardwalk, row after row of multi-colored beach parasols, elegant as Ralph Lauren models, are standing as ready as soldiers.
Every day in my travel research I come across the terms “hidden gem,” “off the beaten path,” “unspoiled, authentic, undiscovered…” The Dordogne region of France is the only place I have been to date where it is actually true. Castles sit like crown jewels along the river banks. My family and I often found ourselves beating our own path through the oak forests toward the river bank.
Pundits are divided on whether Spain’s property market will see further price falls. A huge overhang of unsold homes remains, but for the first time in seven years, sales in Málaga province showed an increase in 2013. Spain will always be a popular retirement destination for northern Europeans, and the number of U.S. citizens registered as living in Spain has increased, too.
What’s not to love about cultural riches and cobbled charms? Throughout most of Europe, the property market remains in the doldrums, which means you can find bargains. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean…from Ireland to Greece, there’s a tempting array of move-into properties that will leave you change from €100,000 ($137,000).
It’s called the “Old World” for a reason, and despite two world wars and decades of development, history is evident in the architecture of Europe. You can stroll cobbled streets where lords and ladies once rushed to galas, climb castle steps in the footsteps of armored knights, and explore villages preserved for 500 years or more.
I have never felt spring emerge the way I have in Aix-en-Provence. In April’s infancy, the plane trees were ghostly bare and the shoppers at the outdoor markets were still bowing to the wind, heads down and tucked into their beautiful French scarves.
In the popular imagination, it’s the great capitals of Europe that get the most attention. Tourists flock to Paris, Rome, Madrid, and London for the big-city flair, museums, and monuments. It’s the thing to do. And granted, you should seize any opportunity to stroll the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful spring evening or explore London’s international cuisine and regal parks.
“Gascony’s the real France,” Jean-Jacques said. “Everywhere else—it’s another country.” Jean-Jacques, a local farmer, was leaning from his tractor—behind him, a bright field of sunflowers and the 18th century farmhouse my parents call home. His sun-beaten face squinted down at me. “Gascony is the hidden jewel of France—it’s our best kept secret.”
When moving abroad, renting a place to stay is an attractive option that offers a lot of advantages, whether you’re headed to Costa Rica, Malaysia, France, Mexico, Ecuador, Ireland…or any country. If you plan to buy or build a home eventually, renting allows you to investigate a region and/or community…or several…before you put down roots. You don’t want to be stuck in a neighborhood, region, or home you don’t like.
If you want to increase your future returns while reducing your risk, you should add some emerging-market stocks to your portfolio. It may surprise you that adding riskier, emerging-market assets to a portfolio will reduce overall risk, but it shouldn’t. These markets do not move in lockstep with the U.S. market, which hit a series of all-time highs in the fourth quarter of 2013.
In medieval Europe, keeping an eye out for and guarding against invasion—a frequent occurrence in those days—was no easy feat. But one of a nobleman’s greatest defensive weapons was a castle perched on a rocky hilltop near an important mountain pass. The location itself—surrounded by steep cliff—offered protection.
It’s impossible to escape the geese in Sarlat-le-Caneda. Images of these plump birds adorn shop windows, and products of all kinds are decorated with the likeness of the animals that have been adopted as the unofficial mascot of the area. Often known simply as Sarlat, this town with a population of about 11,000 is in the center of the Dordogne region of southern France. Sarlat offers big-city convenience and activities packaged in a small-town setting that make it a delightful location to visit…
There are those who adore Paris but could think of nothing worse than living in the city center. Romanticism aside, Paris is a big city—and an intense one. After living here awhile, you start to notice that the streets are endlessly thronged. Scooters and motorcycles gun through the streets day and night. And most reasonably-priced apartments are about the size of a walk-in closet. The best way to revel in the advantages of Paris…
The small, pretty town of Chantilly is less than 30 minutes from Paris by train, but when you arrive at the station and take a lungful of fresh air, the big city couldn’t feel farther away. Chantilly (pronounced shahn-tee-yee) lies in the Oise department of France, 24 miles north-northeast of Paris. It is both the name of a town of 11,000 people, and of a larger commune that comprises several other towns and villages, bringing the total population to 36,000.
Think you can’t afford to retire in the South of France? Think again. While it’s true that unless you’re fairly wealthy, you should cross places like Cannes, St. Tropez, and most of the pretty medieval villages of Provence off your list, there are still a number of south of France towns, villages and cities, particularly in the Languedoc-Rousillon region (my favorite), that offer a highly enjoyable lifestyle for a reasonable price.
If you’re a die-hard lover of Paris, there’s probably no possible place on earth to live except in a sweet, 19th-century apartment in Montmartre that offers a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Or among the teeming cafés near the Bastille. Or in the glamorous neighborhoods surrounding the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
The accepted story goes that as humankind progressed over the millennia, we abandoned our cave shelters in favor of constructed homes. But plenty of folks still live in dwellings carved out of volcanic rock, into mountains, rocky hillsides, cliffs, or quarries. And they aren’t living a primitive life in caveman-style homes, either (though they are referred to as “troglodyte” homes).
You’ve made plans, set tentative dates…you’re almost ready to take off on your three- or six-month European tour…the next step is a roof over your head. But the short-term rentals offered online can be sickeningly expensive. Fully furnished and ready to go they may be, but with prices often multiples of those you’ll find on the ground, there are better ways to look.
Now is a pretty good time to buy. Thanks to a weak economy and the flight of the wealthy to tax-friendlier countries, housing prices in most parts of Paris were (and continue to be) on their way down for the first time in over a decade. According to a recent Bloomberg news report, Paris prices fell by 2% in the last quarter of 2012 and sales volume is down by 20%. What’s more, prices are likely to fall further over the next year.
For thousands of years skiing was just a way to travel in winter, carry mail and goods to snowbound towns, or—believe it or not—charge into battle. Then in the mid-19th century the first races took place and before long enthusiastic amateurs had taken up the sport.
France is nice, I guess. Lavender fields and a vast wine country surely hold a certain appeal. But it’s Italy that captures the heart and feels like home. My cousin bought a house in a lovely little village in southern France, but when she comes to Basilicata, Italy she feels a pang of regret. How could she not, with so much home-spun seduction enveloping anyone who sets foot in the region?
Mi dispiace, France. I’m sorry. It’s no contest. Even in your rainy-day Brittany region, you can’t come up with a two-story house that a buyer could move into for 18,000 euro ($24,000). We can. It’s not a doll’s house either—there’s 1,290 square feet of living space.
It was a grey Saturday morning in December when we got the knock on the door we’d been dreading. It was the mail carrier delivering a registered letter from our landlord.
They may not have the tropical vibe or clear blue waters of the Caribbean or the Far East, but the islands of Europe do exude their own brand of natural beauty…and are infused with history.
It may be your lifelong dream to live in Paris, Rome, or London…the grand old cities of Europe with a foot in the past and another firmly in the present.
If you’re in love with classic Europe and its history, romance and culture, take heart: Spain, Italy and France aren’t only for the vacationer who saves for months just to visit. Each one of these three countries has numerous small towns and villages that lie under the radar—places with enticingly affordable properties to rent or buy
What’s the secret to a long, healthy, and enjoyable life? A group of researchers believe that residents of five Blue Zones around the world know it. They have the longest life spans on Earth and are less likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer, and other serious conditions.
Oak floors, chandeliers, large fireplaces, and exposed wood beams are things you’d expect to find in a chateau. And this perfect country getaway in Normandy has them all. Built in 1881, it’s set on five acres and surrounded by a mixture of lush green pastures and the forest of Eu. There’s a fruit orchard and the Yres River runs through the property, with a bridge leading to a private island.
For many people, the word “Burgundy” usually brings to mind either a deep purple-red color or an excellent bottle of wine. Here’s what comes to my mind… Fairy-tale woods, winding trails, velvety-brown cattle sitting heavily in the grass, nipping at clover. Springtime hills draped in lemon-yellow blossoms…
At 129 square feet, this apartment is what real-estate agents call “cozy.” But it’s Paris, city of love and romance. From your fifth-floor balcony you have a view of Place de la République. The square gives its name to the historic neighborhood that surrounds it, where the 3rd, 10th and 11th arrondissements (districts) come together. Le Marais, where some of the oldest buildings in the city line winding, narrow streets, is just a five-minute walk away.
Southern France isn’t only a dream-turned-reality for seriously wealthy buyers. Not if you target lesser-known locations. The problem—if problem is the word—is that there is a tremendous amount of south. Without months to spare, uncovering it all is impossible. But here’s one solution.
Roman arenas and triumphal arches suggest Italy. Bullﬁghts and paella sound remarkably like Spain. But they’re as much a part of France’s sunny south as lavender ﬁelds and bouillabaisse. So, too, are village houses for $100,000 to $187,500. Southern France isn’t only a dream-turned-reality for seriously wealthy buyers. Not if you target lesser-known locations.
Right now, doom and gloom in Europe runs deep. But there is a story not being told…one of opportunity borne of this crisis. A story of places where you could own your own piece of the Old World…for less than half the price of a budget family sedan. In Greece and beyond—prices are falling like a rock. And for anybody who ever mused about a European retreat, that’s the silver lining.
Picasso’s Night Fishing at Antibes doesn’t resemble any fishing activity I’ve ever seen. But it’s fun seeing reproductions of art works displayed where they were painted. All along the French Riviera and into the Provencal back country of hill towns, vineyards and flower fields, I kept coming across spots on the region’s Painters’ Trail.
Provence in France. Saying its name evokes memories of sun-drenched hills, starry nights, and the scent of sea-salted rosemary and thyme. Birds sing in olive groves, bees drone in vineyards, flowers spill from terracotta pots. In villages with crinkly-tiled roofs, lizards scurry into niches just as their lizard ancestors did in the Middle Ages.
Provence. Saying its name evokes memories of sun-drenched hills, starry nights, and the scent of sea- salted rosemary and thyme. Birds sing in olive groves, bees drone in vineyards, ﬂowers spill from terracotta pots. In villages with crinkly-tiled roofs, lizards scurry into niches just as their lizard ancestors did in the Middle Ages.
Most tourists give Paris’s 12th arrondissement a miss. But a lack of showpiece landmarks and museums doesn’t mean lack of character. East of the Bastille, this mostly residential neighborhood offers an intriguing taste of Paris without the clichés. Stretching from the Bastille to Place de la Nation, Faubourg Saint-Antoine is one of the 12th’s principal shopping streets.
Although southern France comes with a medieval legacy of troubadour poets, I never expected to see a poetry shop. But there’s one in the harbor town of Cassis. Framed and written on marbled paper, there are over 4,000 poems on love, life and friendship to choose from. Dominated by a fortress castle and with a back garden of vineyards, Cassis is the unhyped Riviera…
From rosé wines to summer sunflowers, there’s nothing gray about France’s sunlit south. If you love art, history, kind weather and good food, the pleasures of Provence are almost endless. And what’s more, the Mediterranean is its playground.
Given the proximity to Paris, property prices are less than you might expect. In Meaux and nearby villages, 120,000 euro – 250,000 euro ($151,000 – $315,000) delivers plenty of individual houses, some spacious enough for a small B&B. For example, 209,000 euro ($263,000) buys a restored, 1,400-square-foot stone house with a garden and small swimming pool in a village 20 minutes drive from Meaux.