The eastern half of the South of France is the world-famous Côte d’Azur, where the stars arrive every summer on their superyachts and in their multi-million pound villas for events such as the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix.
But heading west of Toulon and Marseille will take you to Languedoc, a beautifully unspoilt and diverse stretch of coastline that boasts large, coastal salt-lake lagoons, as well as long, sandy beaches with traditional French seaside resorts.
Framed by the Cévennes mountains and vast vine-clad plateaux, with glimpses of the Pyrenees to the west, it’s a world of ancient wine estates (in fact, the Languedoc region produces a third of France’s wine and a lot more than Bordeaux), charming little fishing villages on the edge of lagoons populated by flocks of pink flamingos, and many fortified towns. It also has stylish towns, such as Montpellier, Sète, Nîmes and Narbonne, as well as historic gems, such as the UNESCO-listed Carcassonne.
The Lonely Planet travel guide describes the Languedoc as the “Cinderella of the South”, and says that it was “once overshadowed by gorgeous Provence and the brash Côte d’Azur. Now, she stands as their equal, displaying a discreet charm that her more visited siblings lost long ago”.
Increasing numbers of holiday home hunters are beginning to be attracted to this subtle charm, whether they are those priced out of the Côte d’Azur seeking South of France sunshine, or those who prefer the low-key authenticity of the region.
Property seekers are also drawn in by its accessibility (there’s a choice of eight major airports within a 2.5-hour drive) and affordable house prices.
“We have seen a real surge in inquiries for Languedoc over the last 12 months,” observes the Chairman of Leggett Immobilier, Trevor Leggett. “International buyers spend an average of €180,000 – compared with €474,000 in Paca [Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur] – and it offers exceptional value for money if you’re looking for the sun and traditional French culture.”
He continues: “Last year, this region attracted around 11% of all overseas buyers – a figure that has been growing steadily, and, from the sales and inquiries so far this year, this is a trend that will continue. We have over 1,000 properties for sale in the Languedoc, but are actively looking for new stock, as the pricing is so attractive to buyers from the UK and further afield.”
What can you buy?
If you’re looking for a coastal property, the stunning harbour town of Marseillan is very popular. The town, with thriving seafront cafes and restaurants, sits on a large lagoon – the Étang de Thau – and is at the eastern end of the Canal du Midi. It is not dissimilar to the fishing village of St Tropez, before it became a jet-set hotspot.
Another option is Gruissan, a pretty town with three parts – the charming old town, the marina and the beach (or plage) area. Directly behind Gruissan Plage are rows of charming chalets on stilts. These used to be inhabited by fishermen, but are now sold as holiday homes for around €170,000.
Nevertheless, there are cheaper and larger options available in Gruissan, such as studio apartments for €57,000, one-bedroom apartments with a 15m2 terrace for €100,000, or a larger apartment (180m2) in the old town for €234,000.
The nearby lagoon-side fishing villages of Bages and Peyriac-de-Mer are small communities with all the features of village life that holiday home hunters seek. There are water sports on the lagoon, great birdwatching and hiking, and the larger town of Narbonne is only a few mintues away by car. In Peyriac, you can get a four-bed villa on a 600m2 plot for €259,000.
Properties on a wine estate
The region is dotted with elegant chateaux connected to vineyards that seem like a great idea, but can be hard work and a financial drain for their owners. So while you may be able to buy a run-down chateau fairly cheaply, you may need to spend the same again on renovating it and keeping up with steep running costs.
One alternative is to buy a turnkey property on a managed scheme that is located in the grounds of a chateau with a working winery.
Go inland for further value
Around Narbonne, you can pick up a five-bed villa for €449,000, but go further inland, and prices drop. You can buy a quality three to five-bed villa with a pool for around the €500,000 mark, while smaller properties go for about €300,000.
Cuxac-d’Aude on the River Aude attracts lots of attention from buyers. There, you can buy a lovely four-bed character house with a garden for €250,000.
If you’ve been inspired to pick up your own slice of the South of France, remember that you must protect your holiday home with market-leading cover. Our specialist Overseas Property Insurance can cover your place in the sun: https://www.insuremyvilla.com