Do you long to escape to a place with fresh air, country living and eating well (even on a budget)?Welcome to La France profonde in the country voted the best for “old world living” by International Living magazine. La France profonde is what the French see as “deep France,” the most profoundly French areas of rural France where traditional life is unchanged.
With the rise of the remote work force and a strong dollar, Americans are finding worthwhile buying opportunities abroad. I suppose it makes sense.
Forbes magazine reports “the median property cost in the U.S. is $428,700, almost double that of French housing $269,000 (251,000 euros).
Green acres is the place to be
Rural France remains an excellent bargain for those interested in a finding the best deals. Bloomberg reports younger Americans priced out of the U.S. housing market have joined retirees and investors in the search for a better lifestyle in Europe. The current challenge in France is inflation, rising interest rates and supply chain issues. Nonetheless, the value of real estate is going up and inflation in France was not as bad as other countries (6.15 percent in November 2022 compared to 9.3 percent in the United Kingdom and 10.0 percent in Germany).
Why does that matter to you?
Brace yourself for a backlog when ordering materials. Plan a buffer in your budget to accommodate delays and cost increases due to setbacks from COVID and the war in Ukraine.
The French government is also in the process of revising some of its standards in building codes. This is great news when it comes to protecting potential buyers, but it could potentially slow down renovation schedules.
There is a silver lining
Due to inflation, many French folks are having a hard time coming up with the money for their down payment. Plus, French banks recently requested (March 2023) new applicants for home loans to redo all of their paperwork for reconsideration.
In other words, it is getting harder for French citizens to receive approval for bank loans. That combined with the increase in housing costs in general has caused a slump in sales, according to recent reports on French television station TF1.
Why does this matter? According to TF1, it is easier to negotiate a lower price for homes with sellers.
Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation
When shopping for a home, pay attention to the energy rating and check for outdated heating systems, lack of sufficient insulation and drafty windows. Be prepared to file permits for construction/renovation with local officials. While your are filing all that paperwork, check with the mayor’s office for deals on installing cost efficient heating systems. You might qualify for financial assistance from the French government.
Farm livin’ is the life for me
The upside is that a move to the French countryside, where crime is lower and prices are typically cheaper, is definitely a draw. Americans moving abroad say they are dissatisfied with the cost of living and housing prices in the States. They also hope to leave behind growing concerns about U.S. political divisions and crime rates, according to this Forbes post.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
If you’re ready to house hunt but are not sure where to start, it would be wise to get a real state agent who REALLY knows the region. They’ll help you locate a home that fits your budget and lifestyle in a place that meets your criteria. Most of the Americans I know who are considering a move say they want to live in Paris, Provence or the Côte d’Azure.
Yeah, I get it.
But most French people say they want to move to Los Angeles or Manhattan. (It’s likely they have never heard of Savannah, Georgia, Telluride, Colorado or Naples, Florida). I suppose both the Americans and the French get this idea from watching films.
There are some hidden gems out there that may surprise you. Get out there and look before dropping a load of cash. Need more tips on where to look? I can help with that too: See my post here on living a Champagne lifestyle in France on a beer budget.
Keep Manhattan, just give me the countryside
The ability to work remotely also gives digital nomads the ability to escape to French village life, liberating them from the headaches of urbanization. For me, living a la campagne is great as long as I’m close enough to hop in my vehicle after breakfast and be in Paris (or Lyon) by lunch.
If you don’t have a car but want to stay mobile, consider buying property walking-distance from a train station. France has an extensive rail system and it is getting even better. They plan to invest 100 billion euros in rail infrastructure by 2040, according to Reuters.
Here are some helpful tips I gleaned from the syndicated American personal-finance expert Dave Ramsey:
• Look for the least expensive home in the best neighborhood you can afford.
• Limit your house payment to no more than 25 percent of your monthly income.
• Make sure your down payment is at least 20 percent to avoid PMI (mortgage insurance).
• Choose a 15-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage (which tend to have lower rates than 30-year mortgages, and since they end 15 years sooner, you’ll pay less interest over time).
• Need a free mortgage calculator? Check here .
And remember, Mark Twain’s tip: “Buy land; they’re not making it anymore.” Just do it before the hordes come in and run up the property values.
Still interested in fixer-uppers? Read my post here on finding deals in rural France.
Read more about Alice’s expat life here.
Alice Verberne is a contributing writer for Dispatches Europe. She has worked in print journalism and magazine production in the United States and Europe throughout her career. She currently resides in France where she enjoys visiting former French speaking colonies and discussing history with the locals.