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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Top ten tips for your French property search

This is my 200th blog post so I thought it would be a good time to recap on some things I have learned while helping clients find property here. Buying a home in France is probably one of the best things you will ever do as long as you bear a few things in mind during your search:


  1. Make sure that you know what you really want from your home in France

In my experience, the most successful French house searches are by people who are running towards something rather than away: A better quality of life, more time en-famille, a simpler way of living, a place to recharge and reboot, a new adventure, a project or a lifestyle. These all provide a firm basis and reason to buy, whereas buying as a solution to relationship problems, family problems, or financial problems will likely not be the best foundation.


  1. Plan for the future

It is very hard to imagine where you will be in say 10 years’ time but whether you are looking for a permanent home or holiday house, it is worth thinking about your longer-term future. While I think that ‘future-proofing’ is an over-used term, you can certainly make sure that you consider various scenarios and how you new home would fit into those; a worldwide pandemic for example…


  1. Check your budget

Calculate your budget, your finances and mortgage availability if you need one, before you start your search. Remember that buying a property in France is expensive so calculate all the costs before setting your budget. And do your research before viewing properties to get a good idea of what you can afford so as to avoid heartbreak later.


  1. Make a list of criteria for your ideal property 

A wish list is always helpful and will keep you on track once you start looking online only to become inundated with the sheer number and variety of properties. Narrow down to a region, whether you want a rural, village or town property, how large you would like the house to be and also garden, old or new and the state of repair etc. Have a list of negotiable criteria and non-negotiable…..


  1. But equally, do not have too many non-negotiables

While it is a good idea to know where you are not willing to compromise, it is also important to be flexible. Stick to your convictions by all means but keep your list of priorities small as you will never get everything on your wish list. Be careful not to dismiss a property when a few simple alterations could make it work. There is no ‘perfect’ house.


  1. Be open to suggestion, to potential – and be flexible

In fact, flexibility is vital; remember that one in three people end up buying something completely different than they thought they wanted so try to keep your options open while you are looking.  The perfect property for you might not be what you think you want at the start of your search, so being open to alternative suggestions is essential.


  1. Be prepared to be disappointed

Although the internet is a fantastic source of information, it is also a brilliant source of misinformation, and it is rare that a property in real life lives up to its online billing. Be prepared for disappointment when viewing a house you have seen advertised online and make sure you arrange to view plenty of houses on your trip to France, not just the dream house that is definitely the ‘one’ because, in reality, it probably is not.


  1. Don’t assume that a potential house will wait for you

It is well known that houses in France (and particularly rural France) can take years to sell which means that buyers feel that they have plenty of time to make up their minds and that they can simply come back and make an offer if they don’t see anything better. But the market has changed, and houses have been selling quickly so waiting too long to make that offer is one of the easiest ways for someone else to buy the house of your dreams. If you have a good feeling about a house and it ticks many of the boxes on your wish list, then making an offer is probably the sensible choice.


  1. Get professional help

Buying a house in a foreign country is hugely exciting but it is also complicated and can prove very challenging, especially if you don’t speak the language. It is easy to make a very expensive mistake. So, make sure you choose qualified and experienced professionals to help you through the process. Having someone on your side throughout will make the whole experience far more enjoyable, safer, and more likely that you will end up with the right house for you.


  1. Think positive and enjoy your search

If you start your search determined to find the house that works for you, in my experience you will find it. And if you would like some help, please do get in touch:


The Post-Covid Home

There is no doubt that Covid19 has caused huge upheaval for all of us in our daily lives and the consequences are already having an impact on our homes. As our priorities have shifted from work to home, we are changing the way we live; our homes have become our protective shell, our comfort bubble where we can slow down and get back to basics.

On property viewings, I have already started to notice these changes and I think this is just the beginning of a shift in how we design our living spaces for the future. So, as we emerge from lockdowns and social distancing, it is interesting to see how we are reinventing and redecorating our homes, moving away from trend-inspired living and open-plan minimalism to increasing comfort and personalisation. Our homes have become like a comfortable pullover, more shabby than chic, somewhere we feel we belong; a respite from the outside world, a place that makes us happy and fortifies us.

A recent article in the Times talks about finding comfort in what matters and that “to be surrounded by colours, fabrics, mementoes and artworks that have deep personal significance is to be silently fortified by everything around you.” It is a way of finding the beauty in the everyday. Most people do not in fact need more, they need less, combined with a rethink of the space they have.

Hence the focus post Covid seems to be to create homes that enable us to be ourselves while also facilitating all of the activities that can make us happy and keep us healthy. Meaning that our houses will increasingly become places that encourage and foster wellbeing, a place of respite, relaxation, and emotional comfort. The idea of home-as-sanctuary will be stronger than ever.

Quite simply, our environment matters; the impact on personal health and wellbeing of our surroundings, especially our homes, has become even more significant post-Covid. Our values have been reset and, long-term we will see this reflected in how we design and use our homes.

If you would like help to find your home in France, please get in touch:

Toulouse is Top of the Polls

Place St Georges, Toulouse

I was lucky enough to be in central Toulouse last week. Toulouse is one of those places that I like more and more each time I visit perhaps because it takes time to get to know but maybe also because it has changed almost beyond recognition in the last 20 years. It still has its characteristic narrow cobbled streets that meander in no logical direction, always the promise of something interesting around the next corner. It is also a very pretty place, with the Garonne River flowing through the middle, numerous lovely squares and an incredibly eclectic mix of shops, bars and restaurants. What has changed though is that these restaurants are no longer just offering French food and drink but pretty much every type of cuisine you could hope to find; Toulouse has always been a very European city, but it has become truly international.

Even better is that the focus is now on pedestrians and cyclists rather than cars which gives the whole place a much more relaxed, safe feel. Roads have become tree and grass-lined, pedestrian boulevards and car parks are hidden away underground while the bike-hire scheme and the tram system are both excellent. Toulouse is also very notably a ‘young’ city – or maybe I am just getting old! But everywhere there are students and children and young families and great fashions and style which combine to create a great energy and make the city a fantastic place for people watching.

Not surprising, therefore, that Toulouse often appears in surveys as the favourite place to live in France and the place that many younger French people and families aspire to move. There is also a clear bias to the southwest of France in general with aspects such as overall quality of life, employment, schools and universities and affordability all pushing the region to the top of the rankings.

People choose this region to live for many and varied reasons but an oft cited one is the preference to be within striking distance of a vibrant and thriving city and Toulouse fits this bill perfectly. Toulouse is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe and the fourth largest city in France (after Paris, Marseille and Lyon). Toulouse has been a major success story; the city has attracted a vast range of investment from companies in the high-tech sector, the aeronautical industry and the medical world, including public and private sector investment in the largest cancer hospital and research centre in Europe, the Toulouse Canceropole.

This popularity seems to be increasing; the number of potential buyers looking for property in Toulouse has doubled since January this year (7% more buyers than sellers at the start of the year compared to 14% currently). And over the last 10 years prices are up 27% according to the latest figures from the Notaires de France.

Another important consideration when deciding on a location is the access and transport links and in the region around Toulouse, these are excellent. Toulouse International Airport is set just outside the western side of the city and receives direct flights from across the UK and worldwide. For those preferring not to fly, there are many train services to and from Toulouse and within 10 years there will be a TGV line from Toulouse to Paris bringing the Capital to within three hours by train.

Proximity to Toulouse was one of the reasons that we chose to move to this region, and it seems that we are not alone.

If you would like help with your property search, please get in touch:

Unprecedented demand for property in the French countryside

Surge in demand for property in rural France in 2020 and 2021

The French rural property market is continuing its upwards trajectory which began this time last year in the middle of the pandemic. In 2020, despite Covid and lockdowns, estate agents in France sold a record number of houses in the French countryside.

This initially looked as if it was simply a short-term, knee-jerk reaction to the Covid crisis but, if anything, the trend appears to be accelerating this year with agents all over South West France complaining of an unprecedented demand from buyers for properties in the countryside but an increasing lack of supply. It seems that those living in towns and cities are moving to the country but those already there, are staying put.

The association Safer (Société d’aménagement foncier et d’établissement rural) which monitors the property market in rural France, recently announced a record number of house purchases in the French countryside, up 6.6% in 2020. In their most recent report, Safer called this trend un exode urbain or an exodus from urban living.

The president of Safer, Emmanuel Hyest, points out that this shift in property buying behaviour appears to be accelerating in 2021. He attributes this trend to changing aspirations brought on by the pandemic and a desire for a complete overhaul in lifestyle. He also suggests that it will prove to be a very positive development for the French rural economy especially as the majority of these new buyers are not moving to the country to work the land but continuing in paid employment and hence moving their income and expenditure from the town to the countryside which will result in many long-term benefits for rural businesses and communities.

He said that he sees this as a long-term and lasting phenomenon reversing the trend of rural depopulation of the last few decades. The consequence of this is rising house prices and hence we saw a growth of 6.1% in French property prices in December 2020 according to ceicdata.

Standard & Poor has also recently published a report for the European housing market for 2020-2021, which predicts that house prices in France will increase again during 2021 “as households continue to benefit from low-interest rates and a resilient economy bouncing back from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Banque de France forecasts that the French economy is expected to grow this year and the next year. It is expected to grow by +7.4% in 2021 and +3.0% in 2022.

With one of the most regulated property markets in the world, France has always been a great place to invest and what also keeps the real estate market strong is that the demand is not only from French buyers but international investors also predominantly looking for rural properties.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt is quoted as saying; “Real estate cannot be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid for in full, and managed with reasonable care… it is about the safest investment in the world”.

If you need help in finding property in rural France, please get in touch: