Long before we moved to France, we visited here annually. We generally stayed in one location for 2 weeks, typically renting a fully furnished house or apartment so that we could pretend that we actually lived in that city, town or village. Fruits and vegetables from the weekly open-air market; fresh bread from the bakery around the corner; fish just off the boat right next to the harbor; frequent walks around town saying “bonjour” to shopkeepers or even local residents we had seen before. A favorite activity on at least one of those strolls through the city was to stop at the real estate agencies and look at the listings in their windows and then dream about owning a home there. That practice came in very handy when we finally moved to Carcassonne and lived in a holiday home for the first year while we were deciding what to do. We knew after less than 2 months here that this would definitely become our new hometown.
It’s no surprise that a question we get often from people contemplating a move here revolves around housing: how to buy, what to buy, how does the process differ from the US, mortgages, and of course how much do houses cost. To help answer that last question there is a website called Meilleurs Agents https://www.meilleursagents.com/prix-immobilier/ that gives pricing for the entire country. You can either click on the map or be more precise immediately by putting in a city name and then you’ll see the price per square meter for renting an apartment or buying a house. They even provide an “Index of Confidence” on those figures based on how recent the sales or rentals were. From our experience in Carcassonne their figures were right on the money with houses costing on average about 1300 euros per square meter. For a fun comparison, that average price in Paris is 9450 euros! Hint: to quickly convert square meters to square feet, just add a zero. For example, 100 square meters becomes 1000 square feet. It’s not totally accurate but will give you a general idea of how big a property is.
In an earlier blog post we talked about the house buying process and included some websites that we used to locate possible properties and understand how to go about buying something here. I just verified that those links are still active and a new friend recently sent us a thank you note saying that he was able to locate an apartment to rent in Montpellier by using one of those sites.
One bit of helpful information that’s provided for properties for sale or rent here is an energy rating and one called a climate label that shows the quantity of greenhouse gases emitted. I just read an article talking about how location is still the primary selling point of a house, but these energy and gas emission ratings can make a difference of up to 30% in the price for similar houses at different ends of the scale.
We’ve been French residents for 2 years now and homeowners for about half that time. We moved here to a rental house and anticipated following that path indefinitely. Then we started walking around Carcassonne, looking at real estate office windows, and you know the rest. Home sweet home.