Property Price Psychology

I spent all day yesterday driving around the countryside trying to get loads of lovely shots for my new website This is certainly no hardship – driving around what I truly believe to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world with the odd refuelling stop at a village cafe or at one of the numerous mountain streams to cool my toes. My new business Foothills of France is a property search agency (part of the Frenchentree network) and I reckon the best way to persuade potential clients that this is where they want to buy a house, is to show them how beautiful it is here and what good value property is in this region.

This whole exercise, however, got me thinking about the complete madness that is property prices and the property market in general. Here in the Ariège and Haute Garonne we live within an hour of some fantastic ski resorts to rival many of those in the Alps. We also have the luxury of choosing whether we spend the day on a Mediterranean beach or an Atlantic beach as both are within reach at two hours in either direction. The scenery is breathtaking – there are lush, green valleys, rivers, lakes and stunning mountain views around every corner and there is a huge selection of beautiful houses to suit every taste and pocket from bijou mountain huts to stunning chateaux. Moreover, although this is a very rural and unspoiled area, we are close to Toulouse, the fourth largest city in France, with all its attendant work opportunities. The transport links are excellent with the Toulouse international airport around an hour away and Pau Airport and Carcassonne airport under two hours. And yet this region still has some of the lowest property prices in the whole of France.

This is the part I don’t understand. If we were in Haute Provence say, a four-bedroom, stone, period house with a couple of acres and a swimming pool with distant views of snow-capped mountains would set you back around 2 million Euros; here in the Ariège it would be nearer 400,000 Euros and that is if it were restored. Un-restored or ‘dans son jus’ as they say here, you are looking at half that price whereas in Provence, from what I understand, there is nothing left to restore, everything has already been done and overdone. Similarly, a traditional wooden chalet in the Alps, close to the ski slopes would not give you much change from a million Euros whereas here in the Pyrenees, there are lovely chalets available from 150,000 Euros. Now am I missing something? Ok so perhaps the climate is ‘better’ in Provence if you like having to hide away from the sun half of the year and are particularly fond of cactus plants, snakes and mosquitoes. But here in the South West, we have glorious sunshine all year round and yet we also have rain so the valleys and hills remain green and we can have a lawn and grow flowers and vegetables plus we get to sleep at night because it is not unbearably hot. As for the Alps; sure you have larger resorts but you also have a lot more skiers which make for crowded pistes and long queues at lifts and restaurants. Here we sometimes have the slopes to ourselves, there is plenty of challenging skiing for all levels and massive investment over recent years has resulted in fast and efficient lift systems. What is more, there is a really friendly, family atmosphere in the resorts here and the cost of ski passes and ski hire is half the price of that in the Alps.

The only reason for such a mismatch of property prices that I can see is that this is a relatively unknown, unfashionable region compared to Provence and the Alps. Now I don’t want to ‘do a Peter Mayle’ on this region and cause a mass influx of tourist buses but it seems to me that this situation is untenable. There really is only one reason for prices to be so disproportionately different and that is because of fashion and demand. Eventually, as people get priced out of one area, so they begin looking for another. We have seen this happen in the UK and the same is sure eventually to happen here.

So what am I saying? Really just that, if you want your own piece of an incredibly beautiful and varied part of France, you can still afford it here but that is not necessarily always going to be the case. If property were valued in terms of the quality of life it offered, the houses here in the foothills of the Pyrenees would be ‘hors prix’ or way out of reach of us all. So make that dream happen before everybody else gets here first.

To find out more about how I can help you find your dream house here in the foothills of France, take a look at my website, e-mail me on or call me on 0033 (0)5 61 66 70 11 or 0033 (0)6 45 23 62 48.

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