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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To compromise or not to compromise…….

I have posted this before but it bears repeating, even for me who sees hundreds of houses a year. All of us set out to find our dream house when we start our property search in France; the perfect French home, ‘the one’. The problem is that the perfect house doesn’t really exist except in our heads; every house has its compromises. So what should you compromise on and what should you absolutely not?

1. The view. This is my number one client search request; nearly everyone wants a view whether it is of rolling hills, beautiful gardens, bucolic fields of flowers, a pretty market square or snow-capped mountains. And this is something that a house either has or not (unless it’s possible to cut down some trees to reveal a hither-unseen view). This is, therefore, one area where I suggest you should not compromise if it is important to you.
2. Walking distance to a café or boulangerie. Another favourite on the list of ‘must-haves’ but more difficult to find than you would probably imagine. I will find it if I can but it might involve many more compromises on other factors on your wish-list.
3. A large garden/lots of land. This is a common criterion for British buyers (less so for Australians, South Africans and Americans who perhaps are more realistic about the work involved!) I understand the attraction of this and, if it is a permanent home, go for it. If it is a holiday home and everything else about the house ticks your boxes but the garden is smaller than you would have ideally liked, it is worth compromising.
4. A swimming pool. Again, often top of the ‘wish-list’ but keep in mind that it is better to buy a house that fulfils most of your search brief but doesn’t have a pool than to buy a house with a pool that is not quite the right house. You can always put in a swimming pool but you cannot easily change the fundamentals of the house.
5. A large kitchen/dining room/open plan living space. This is an ever more popular request thanks to the way we live nowadays. However, most clients are looking for a traditional, old French house and these were not designed to be open plan. Smaller, individual rooms and often a very small galley kitchen are the norm. I would, however, tell a client not dismiss a house because it does not tick this box – usually you can open up rooms or take down walls to create exactly the space that suits you.
6. No renovation work. Horror stories abound about the trials and tribulations of undertaking a renovation in France but often this is thanks to the power of television; plenty of people renovate very happily and successfully in France. It is not a cheap process but, if you go into it with your eyes open, it is one of the best ways of creating your dream home so don’t rule out this option if the location, position, style, setting, size and price of the house are all right.
7. Easy access and within an hour of a major airport. This is another condition that starts at the top of the ‘wish-list’ but often gets dropped in favour of other ‘must haves’. I would, however, suggest that this is one area in which you should not compromise if you are going to be commuting or travelling regularly to your home in France – an hour to an hour and a half is do-able but anything more becomes a serious effort and you cannot change this longer term.

I could go on but, in summary, when deciding where and how to compromise to achieve your ‘perfect house’: If something can be changed such as décor, room layouts, finishes, heating or electric systems, then it is worth compromising. If it is an element which absolutely cannot be changed such as the view, the location, the proximity to services or accessibility, think long and hard about your priorities before compromising. You can’t pick up your perfect house and move it somewhere else but you can find the perfect location and gradually change a ‘compromise’ house into your perfect dream house.

Toulouse; the best of all worlds; glorious countryside, culture, restaurants, quality of life plus mountains and coast on the doorstep


Toulouse was recently voted one of the best places to live and work in France.  It has both lifestyle appeal and a wide variety of industry and employment opportunities as well as excellent transport links to the rest of the world. Add to that the great southern climate, the gentle pace of life, museums and galleries, history and stunning architecture, easy access to the mountains and the coast and a plethora of great bars and restaurants and it is not difficult to see why it attracts around 10,000 new residents per year just in the city alone with many more in the surrounding region.

In addition, unlike other major cities in France, property and cost of living are still reasonable in this region and the quality of life here always tops the league tables. Toulouse is France’s fourth largest city with everything that such a metropole has to offer but it also has the feel of a friendly southern town with a great diversity of cultures and nationalities and a very cosmopolitan air.

Toulouse is also a thriving city for students; it has a world-renowned university and is ranked as the second best place in France to be a student (after Grenoble). The city’s 100,000 students enjoy some of the best employment opportunities in France and first-class local initiatives.

Toulouse has seen France’s biggest economic growth in recent years and also boasts France’s biggest population growth over the past 20 years, the majority from other areas of the country, attracted by the job opportunities, climate and lifestyle. There is plenty on the doorstep to fill the weekends from the cultural events within the city, its numerous green spaces and the popular bike hire scheme with plenty of cycle routes within and around the city. There is also the Garonne river that snakes right through the middle of the city, perfect for a stroll or a picnic on the banks and, further afield, the Canal du Midi, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean coasts and the Pyrenees; a world-class destination for hiking and skiing. Spain is also within easy reach.

Toulouse is the perfect city to have on the doorstep, great for day trips, culture, fantastic restaurants, entertainment and employment as well as an international transport hub to the rest of the world.

If you are interested in discovering more or would like help with your property search, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

Studying at University in France

One of the many lovely squares in Toulouse

France is consistently ranked as one of the most popular countries in the world for students looking to study abroad and not just in Paris; numerous French cities are home to globally ranked universities, offering foreign students a high-class university experience and an excellent quality of student life.

France has a reputation for being a global leader in academia and is already the world’s top non-English speaking student destination. The French government offers scholarships to attract international students and, like most countries (apart from perhaps the UK right now), France realizes the many benefits of attracting students from abroad. Hence, Macron has made it one of his aims to find ways of increasing the numbers of foreign students. The result is that many French universities are planning to offer more courses in English with the aim to double the number of international students over the next ten years.

Student visa regulations will be simplified, international students will be offered more French classes and the number of courses taught in English, which has already increased fivefold since 2004, will be boosted further.

The main aim is to attract more students from Asia and the Gulf states but the increase in English-taught degree courses is also likely to attract more British students with fees in their hundreds rather than their thousands, even for the very best universities.

Toulouse is already in the top three university cities in France as well as being the world headquarters for aviation and spaceflight thanks to Airbus and having the largest specialist cancer hospital in Europe.Toulouse has the second largest student population in France and is an affordable city to live in plus it has all the advantages of climate and lifestyle that comes from being in South West France. Toulouse is also experiencing rapid population growth so there are plenty of work opportunities available in the city.

For more information on studying in France, take a look at: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/europe/france/guide

For any information or help on finding property in France, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

France is the most popular expat destination for the British

The latest HSBC Expat Explorer Report 2019 has just been published. It was carried out in 163 countries and shows that France has become the most popular expat destination for the British. It also shows that it was twice as popular this year as last, presumably down to the Brexit effect. The survey was undertaken in April, just after the UK was originally scheduled to have left the EU which suggests that there was an impetus to move to France before this deadline in order that the buyers could enjoy the same rights as they do as EU citizens. The fact that the deadline was extended until 31stOctober might show a further spike in British buyers and this seems to be borne about by agents in this region who have had a particularly busy six months.

This report is backed up by a recent report from the French bank, BNP Paribas,  which also showed that the the international property market in France is dominated by British buyers. They made up 27% of all non-resident international homebuyers in France last year, compared with 22% in the previous year, although the purchase price is lower than in previous years.

In the HSBC report, France was ranked the 17th best expat destination in the world while the UK came 27th. Switzerland topped the rankings, followed by Singapore and Canada.

The authors of the HSBC report said: “Although those moving to France are some of the best educated in the world, money is not their main motivation. They do not move there expecting a large salary boost, instead they take advantage of France’s location on the doorstep of some of Europe’s most famous sites. For international workers, the French working culture provides them with the work life balance to enjoy their travels.”

If you are thinking of buying a property in France in the near future, please do get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com