View from the Foothills of France

Some personal views on living, working,
bringing up family and making the dream happen in the most beautiful region of France. View from the Foothills of France also includes some personal and professional thoughts and tips on finding and buying the perfect property in the Ariège and Haute Garonne regions.

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Affordable skiing in the Pyrenees

Following on from my last post, a new study by Locasun provides an interesting look at the comparative cost of skiing in 50 of the most popular ski resorts in France. According to the survey, the average cost of a week’s skiing varies between €400 and €800 per person when the cost of accommodation, ski lift pass and the hire of ski equipment are all taken into account.

It turns out that, not only do the Pyrenees have fantastic, friendly resorts and varied skiing for all levels but they are also the best value ski resorts in France by a long way. The cheapest resorts in the study were Guzet Neige and Cauterets, both in the Pyrenees, each coming in at just under €400 each on average for one week of skiing. Another Pyrenean station, Les Angles, came in fourth lowest at €430 a week. This is compared to the most expensive resorts which were Val d’Isère (€806), Megève (€755) and Méribel (€714).

The study showed that, not only did the cost of accommodation vary substantially; between €549 (Guzet Neige) and €1,557 (Val d’Isère) but it was the same for the cost of ski passes. Similarly, the cost of ski and boot hire ranged from €49 in the Pyrénées to €128 in Val d’Isère.

The graphic below gives a list of the stations in the study and the total cost per week per person:

 

In the ski resorts here in the Pyrenees, we currently have the most snow and best ski conditions in Europe (or so I am told). That is in the mountains however; if you are not a ski fan, don’t let that put you off. Here in the foothills and valleys it is 15 degrees and sunny right now which means that we get to enjoy the sunshine while looking at the snow against the blue sky in the distance.

If you need help with your property search in this region, get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

Buying ski property in the Pyrenees

It is snowing in the ski resorts of the Pyrenees which means that, while much of Europe is facing months of grey cloud and rain, here in the foothills, we are looking forward to the blue skies of winter with snow-covered mountains on the horizon and, of course, skiing and winter sports.

I know that this is a time of year when many people are dreaming of snow covered slopes and cosy ski chalets because it is always January when I start getting lots of enquiries from buyers looking for ski properties. In addition, the number of people looking to buy in the Pyrenees is increasing year on year with the majority of buyers now priced out of the Alps. And although cheapness is rarely a word associated with ski property, there are still plenty of well-located and excellent value ski properties available in this region for buyers of all budgets, particularly for those people seeking bolt-holes that they can use themselves, rent out easily and hopefully reap some eventual capital gain.

The ski resorts here in the Pyrénées, many of which are only just coming onto the radar of the foreign investor, offer fantastic investments – with some great skiing thrown in. Particularly popular with my clients in the last few years has been the area around and close to Superbagnères (the ski resort attached to Bagnères de Luchon). With its restaurants, cafés, hotels, cinema, golf course, tennis courts, chocolate shops, market and spa, Luchon is one of those towns that exudes ‘old money’ and is very stylish but still very affordable. Being a popular holiday destination winter and summer (thanks to its ski resorts, thermal baths and spa, plethora of year-round activities, fantastic walking and cycling, stunning scenery and easy access from Toulouse and Pau), properties here have excellent rental potential all year round.

A one-bedroom apartment in the middle of Luchon would currently cost around 120,000 – 140,000 Euros and would rent out for around 250-400 Euros per week. For a typical example of the type of property available and possible rental potential, take a look at www.luchonlocation.com (I must declare a personal interest in this one!)

For a French holiday retreat and excellent year-round rental investment, I would have to say that the French Pyrénées are hard to beat. If you need help with your French property search, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

 

Five Questions with a Property Finder

Happy New Year, Bonne Année and Bonne Santé

This is going to be a very busy year if the first few days of 2019 are any indication; I currently have so many enquiries that it feels as if half of the UK population has decided to move to France. I think we can probably all guess why but my New Year’s resolution (or one of them) is to mention that as little as possible…

So, in the light of current enquiries, I thought I would post this interview I did for a French Property magazine as it answers many of the questions I am being asked right now and hopefully explains the service I offer to help you find your dream home out here in the foothills of France. Of course you are welcome to contact me with your own questions or to discuss your own property search: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

Where in South-West France are you based?

I am based on the border of the Haute Garonne and the Ariège, located an hour south west of Toulouse in the Ariège national park and the foothills of the Pyrénées mountains; it is one of the most unspoiled and authentic regions of France with stunning scenery and pretty villages set against the stunning backdrop of snowy peaks.

What sort of people hire a property finder?

I work with a wide and varied clientele from all over the world, each with their own specific criteria and requirements. Nationalities of my clients include British, Australians, South Africans, Americans, Danish, Canadian and Russian. Every client’s brief is different; some are looking for holiday homes, others are relocating with young families and hence require information on schools and local facilities while others are retiring and need advice on local communities and investing their nest egg wisely. I also have a fair number of clients looking for ski properties to make the most of the fantastic and very good value ski resorts in the Pyrénées. Many of my clients have already spent a great deal of time looking, unsuccessfully, for their dream home, which is why they come to me and others are only too aware that they cannot afford the time and costs involved in a really thorough property search at a distance and hence hire me to do all the time-consuming and costly research for them. All of my clients want to have a professional on their side (just as the seller does) to ensure that they find the very best property for them at the very best price. Every single one of my clients, once installed in their new home in France, has told me that I saved them a huge amount of money and effort and that they would never have found exactly what they were looking for without me which is always really nice to hear after a long and detailed search.

What attracts people to your area?

Where do I start? It has become a cliché to say that an area offers something for everyone but I think it is true to say that it would be hard to find another region that ticks so many boxes for so many people. For nature lovers, this area is just teeming with unspoiled natural environment and a huge variety of fauna and flora while for sporting types, this same environment provides the perfect location for walkers, cyclists, canoeists, horse riders plus, in winter, there are numerous excellent ski resorts for all levels, most of which are an easy drive away from just about anywhere within my area. Most of my clients are, of course, francophiles and there is ample opportunity to enjoy the wonderful food and wine of the region, numerous local markets such as that in St Girons which attracts people from miles around and the usual wide selection of restaurants serving local produce. In addition, we have, within an hour, the region’s capital, Toulouse which is a thriving and fashionable metropolis with all the culture, arts and shopping that anyone could want. An added bonus is that this region is perfectly located to make the most of Spain on the doorstep, an easy day trip away and to enjoy the best of both the Atlantic and Mediterranean beaches which are both around two hour’s drive.

What sort of budgets do your clients have?

There is a common belief that property finders are only for those with very large budgets but that is not the case in reality. I have worked with clients with budgets from €150,000 – €2m and I will take on any search as long as my clients have realistic expectations as to what their budget will buy.

What sort of properties are available in your area?

This is another advantage of the region; we have such a wide selection of properties here ranging from small village houses, to sprawling farmhouses and from renovation projects to ski apartments or mountain barns to Manoirs and Châteaux. However, what I have discovered from the last 15 years of living and working in this region is that, very often, we do not buy the property we think we are looking for when we begin our property search. House hunting is, in reality, not something you can do on paper or on the internet because, although in theory, we might think we know what we are looking for, in reality a house can tick every box on that check list and still not be ‘the one’ while another property may not meet any of the requirements and yet could well end up as the house you decide to call home. The process needs to evolve which is where I come in, to tease out the actual requirements that fit both a client’s wish list and their actual lifestyle and to point out the cons as well as the pros of each property (an agent is very good at doing the latter but will very rarely do the former!) Finding the right house in France is about so much more than the actual bricks and mortar and a big part of my job is not only finding the right property for my clients but also the right location whether that be close to the best schools, best restaurants, best transport networks, best ski resorts, best doctors and all and any of those aspects of daily life that you can only discover either by living here or by working with someone who lives here.

 

 

Dreaming of a French Christmas

Christmas weather in the Pyrenees

In the past I have spent Christmas in various countries and the way different cultures celebrate at this time of year seems to be very indicative of their priorities. So when we moved to France, I was fascinated to see what the focus of the celebration would be here. Of course, it should have been obvious – the focus is on food and eating but also on spending time en famille.

Our little part of France has not yet completely sold out to the commercial, shopping fest that has become the norm in many countries, maybe because people just do not have the money (and do not spend money they don’t have.) Presents are, of course, part of the celebrations but almost as a secondary element to the culinary highlight of the Christmas meal which takes place on Christmas Eve. Moreover, Christmas decorations generally don’t go up until two weeks before the day and, here in the Ariège, the local communes organize hundreds of Christmas trees to be placed at intervals along the streets, often decorated by the local school children.

Even better, while Christmas here is nearly always mild and sunny (we mostly have our apéro on the terrace in the sun) we can nevertheless guarantee a white Christmas – at least within a short drive into the mountains. So either Christmas Eve or Boxing Day is usually spent enjoying a walk on our favourite snowy plateau with some sledging and some mulled wine and mince pies from the picnic basket (mince pies is a British tradition that we cling to but one that our French neighbours just don’t get!)

Somehow the French manage to take the best bits of Christmas, discard the stress and overspending and just focus on eating, drinking and enjoying time en famille. As so often is the case, it leaves us realizing that our French friends and neighbours here have their priorities right.

Wishing you a very happy Christmas à la français.