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Ten reasons why Languedoc is the best place for you to buy property
People are always asking us where the best places are to live in France. Many people think the Languedoc is a winner. So below you'll find our top ten reasons for choosing this southern department of France. It just remains to be seen if we can persuade you...
The Languedoc, or, to give it its full and Sunday best name, Languedoc-Roussillon (Languedoc-Roussillon Property Guide), is found in France's south-west, where it forms the link between the Basque, Catalan and Provençal regions of France. Its southern extremities lie up against the Spanish border, whilst its eastern parts touch the hallowed region of Provence (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Property Guide). To the north you can find the Massif Central, to its south is the Mediterranean Sea. To the west lies the lovely rose-coloured city of Toulouse (Toulouse Property Guide). It is a land then of great diversity, a land of mystery and history, of seaside, sunshine and snowy mountains. Here, in one glorious package, is all the romance of France, yet freed from the saccharine sweetness of the more popular regions, and retaining the rough edges that make it real. It is a land, in short, with which to fall in love.
Where do I begin? If you are just beginning your journey to a new life as a French resident, or a French holiday home owner, should you consider buying property in the Languedoc (Languedoc-Roussillon Property - an insider's guide)? It depends, of course, on whether or not you want to travel this far south every time you want to access your property, or if you have family and friends who are happy to do this every time they want to come to see you. It depends on whether you like the idea of a life under the southern sun, or if you prefer the cooler, greener north. It also depends on what sort of lifestyle you are seeking. If you are thinking seriously about buying property in France and it has occurred to you that the Languedoc may be worth investigating as a possible location for your new property or holiday home, let's take a serious look at what the Languedoc has to offer.
Well, the issue of price had to come into it somewhere. Let's face it, it matters, whether you have endless amounts to spend or not very much at all... you still need to know the price of property in the area you like the look of, and to compare it with other property of similar appeal. So... property in the Languedoc is affordable. Well, it is when compared with just about anywhere else in the south of France (Property in the south of France), and most certainly when compared with property anywhere else on France's Mediterranean coast.
Yes, prices have risen, perhaps more than in any other region of France over the last ten years. This is due to the fact that the Languedoc has been discovered by a foreign property market eager for a piece of the south, and eager too for a piece of the property market action. However, property in the Languedoc still represents exceptional value in comparison with the overpriced Provence, just a short way to its east, and to some extent also is good value in comparison with property in the southern Atlantic coast regions to the west (Aquitaine Property Guide, South-west France Property).
At the time of writing, property in the Languedoc is cheapest in the northern department of the Lozère (Lozère Property Guide), and in parts of the Aude (Aude Property Guide), and most expensive in the coastal areas and close to the cities of Montpellier (Montpellier Property Guide) and Carcassonne (Carcassonne Property Guide). It is still eminently possible to find an exciting renovation property in the Languedoc (House Renovations in France), although you do need to act swiftly as they are selling fast.
It may well be popular with British (and other nationalities) ex-pats, but the Languedoc is not yet so full of British people that it is hard to spot a French voice at the local market. French is still very much the official language here... and believe it or not, there are some parts of France where this is almost no longer the case. Certain areas are more popular than others for people buying property from the UK, and certainly there are a large percentage of holiday property owners in the coastal towns, but the Languedoc is still deliciously French.
There are distinct cultural and linguistic differences between the areas too, with a strong Catalan influence prevailing in Roussillon, down near the Spanish border, a more cosmopolitan atmosphere and modernity to Montpellier, and very traditional country feeling (and an accent to boot!) in the rural and sparsely populated Lozère.
The Languedoc might lie next door to the beaches and razzmatazz of the sophisticated Riviera, but the Languedoc is nowhere near being the Riviera's identical twin (French Riviera Property - an insider's guide). It is also close to Spain, and the northern Costas, but it bears little resemblance to these either. The Languedoc is probably, in fact, not the ideal destination for you if you are seeking a property near constant entertainment, glamour and cities that never sleep. Much of the Languedoc does indeed sleep, for quite a lot of the time. Especially in the summer, when the temperatures can top forty degrees, and when the good and very inexpensive wine taken with a leisurely lunch under the shade of a pergola or on a vine covered terrace, exerts its siren call to siesta. It is not uncommon to find the shops closed from twelve until four in the afternoon on summer days. And want to do business in August? Write it off... everyone is on holiday... or asleep. If you can't beat 'em...
The Languedoc, being in the far south of France, is not close to the UK, and therefore perhaps not as convenient as say, Normandy. However, with these days of budget airlines and cheap flights, it is as accessible as anywhere else in France and more accessible than many more northerly regions thanks to the Ryanair and easyJet effect (French Connections, French Connections - Travel to Centre-South France)! There are excellent airports with direct services (many from budget airlines, keeping costs low) from Britain in the Languedoc. These include Carcassonne, Montpellier, Perpignan (Perpignan Property Guide) and Nîmes (Nîmes Property Guide). The flagship rail service, the TGV, is also represented in the Languedoc, with several stations accessible. This, along with the superb French auto routes, makes getting to your property in the Languedoc a very easy thing to do from the UK. (Travel France.)
The Languedoc is a region which has its share of problems, and high unemployment is one of them. It isn't easy to get a job in the Languedoc (Jobs in France), especially if you don't speak fluent French (Learning French), so it's not the place to go if you need to pick up work straight away. There's a light at the end of the tunnel though, as the region is developing all the time and new opportunities are appearing, particularly in the tourist trade. It isn't a wealthy area, in general, and you are unlikely to find yourself living next door to Posh and Becks, or Elton John, as you might if you decide to live in the Riviera. It is, however, an up and coming area in all senses of the word, property prices are rising faster than anywhere else in France, and this alone makes it a great place to invest in property. Towns all over the region are being smartened up to attract more visitors and more investment in commerce, so the Languedoc as a whole is constantly being improved and updated.
The Languedoc has a fantastic natural environment and thus is also superb for sports (Sport in France). Its natural resources range from the mountains of the Pyrénées to the sea, with hills, lakes and endless country trails in between. You'll be spoilt for choice. Skiing (Ski Chalets for Sale in France), rock climbing, canyoning, paragliding, horse-riding, scuba diving, hiking (Finding property in the best walking areas of France), pony trekking, swimming and cycling (Cycling and motorcycling in France) are just a few of the sports available to those who own property in the area. Who needs to be wealthy when you have all this on your doorstep?
There are plenty of shops in the Languedoc, particularly in the larger towns, but Paris it isn't. Montpellier and Nîmes do offer some good shopping, though, so you don't need to feel totally bereft if fashion and shopping is your thing! The smaller towns may seem somewhat behind the times in these terms though, especially if you have left behind a London existence where access to designer shops matters, and where you have to be smartly dressed everyday. But the French are chic? Maybe so... but in the rural Languedoc they often have more important things on their minds! So for those of you who are thinking of buying property here, who are happy to relax and kick back, the Languedoc can provide a near perfect existence. You can happily dine out at all but the very poshest of restaurants in your shorts and T-shirt, if you so wish, or you can dress up to the nines. No one minds... anything goes.
It's a very real life that is lived in most of the Languedoc, and even though tourism is making its mark and moving the region forward culturally and economically, it still only scratches the surface of the way that life is lived here. Tourism makes more impact in the seaside areas, of course, than anywhere else in the department, but it goes away with the summer and leaves the towns and villages as quiet and peaceful as they have been for centuries. The Languedoc does not exist for tourists... although it could be said that for the more discerning among them, the region is heaven sent. As it is for property owners.
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me here in the Languedoc is that the people who have money seem to try as hard as possible to look as though they don't... which is the complete opposite of the attitude in the UK. I left behind an England where society demanded that you should try as hard as you could to appear wealthy... and which encouraged people to take on mountains of debt in order to achieve this. It was all about who had the flashiest car, the biggest house, the best address... in short, about who appeared to be the richest. The Languedoc applies the opposite ethos, perhaps in deference to the legendary savagery of the French tax man. There is so much property here that looks, from the street, to be run down, small, dingy and uninteresting. Open the door and go inside, however, and a whole new world opens up to you. There are some veritable mansions hidden behind the most unassuming of exteriors, and they often open up, Harry Potter like, into unimaginably enormous spaces with gardens big enough to house full sized swimming pools (Installing a swimming pool in France) and tennis courts.
The Languedoc isn't a fictional setting for historical mystery stories, it's a real one! You may have read... or at least heard of, the best selling novel the "Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, or even Kate Mosse's more literary offering, "Labyrinth". You may have held a long term fascination for the Knights Templar, the Grail myths or the Cathar tragedies. Whatever your particular interest, be assured that the Languedoc, home of all these historical mysteries and more, is no fictional setting. It exists, and so do so many of the places so central to these stories. Here you can stand in the ancient cité of Carcassonne, looking out over the battlements and wondering what it must have been like to watch the approaching armies coming to annihilate you. Take to the mountains, and gaze on the awesome ruins of Montsegur, last Cathar stronghold (just over the border into the Midi-Pyrénées), or make the pilgrimage to Rennes les Châteaux, believed to be the place of refuge for Mary Magdalene after the death of Christ.
The similarities are inescapable... in parts the Languedoc is very similar to parts of Provence. The southerly areas of the Languedoc are very arid and Mediterranean in feel, with tall parasol pines and dry, sandy soil. There are vineyards throughout both regions (French properties with vineyards), and olive trees in the south of both. Good wines are produced in both regions too... need I go on? But the Languedoc isn't a poor man's Provence, as so many people have described, thereby insinuating it's a place for those who are not rich enough... and, by association, somehow not good enough for Provence. As a resident and property owner in the Languedoc, this last statement is a heartfelt one. Without in any way wishing to "diss" the beautiful region of Provence, please may I disprove that theory once and for all?
Yes, there are similarities... but there are differences too, and the region that may be ideal for one person looking for property may not suit the next... irrespective of wealth and social standing. If Provence is Victoria Beckham, pretty, fashionable, rich, likeable but posed and very "in your face", then the Languedoc is Helena Bonham Carter... also pretty and likeable, yet with a quirky sense of humour that transcends the ordinary and eschews celebrity, embracing instead a certain earthiness. The Languedoc, like Helena Bonham Carter, appeals to a quite different audience.
So there we have it, ten reasons why the Languedoc is the best place in France to buy your property. It is up to you to decide whether or not it is the place for you, but I believe in the Languedoc and still think how wonderful a place it is to own a property. Of course, I may be biased... I live there. I rest my case!
Additional articles which may be of interest:
Life in France
Living in France
Retirement in Perpignan
Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.
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