Guest Notes for Episode 318: House Hunting in France

Category: Moving to France

Looking to Retire in France? – A Ten Week Adventure



  • My husband, Mark, and I live in Northern California and spent 10 weeks traveling in western France starting in June 2019.
  • Our last trip to France was in 2005 when we spent 6 months travelling in France and Europe.
  • I lived in France and Switzerland for 4 years while in my 20’s and speak French with moderate fluency. My husband does not speak French, but he’s learning!
  • The main purpose for this trip was to explore several regions of France where we might like to retire, to learn about the housing market and the process of buying a home, and to determine if we would like to run a hospitality business (gites or b&b) in France.
  • I’ve been listening to Join us in France since 2018. The shows about driving in France and retiring in France were the most helpful.  We listed to all the shows about Brittany and the Dordogne, because these were the two regions we are considering for retirement.
  • While we were travelling, we wrote a blog called “Are We In France Yet?” so our friends and clients could follow our trip: com


Basic Itinerary:

  • We flew from San Francisco to Bordeaux with very brief connection in Paris CDG. We spent 3 days getting over the jetlag and exploring the city.  On day 3, we picked up a car from Renault Eurodrive outside Bordeaux airport and drove to our friend’s house in Alles-sur-Dordogne.
  • We stayed in Alles for 3 weeks to look at houses in the are and almost bought a house right away – more about that later! We visited local markets, toured a prehistoric cave, went to a Feu de St. Jean fête and toured several gardens and bastide towns.
  • After Alles-sur-Dordogne, we headed towards Bourges to visit les Jardins du Le Prieuré Notre Dame d’Orsan, which was featured on the Monty Don’s Gardens of France program.
  • We then made our way through the Loire Valley chateau region (my husband had never been). Our favorite stops were the distillery tours at Cointreau and Combier.
  • We spent the next 3 weeks in Brittany, first staying near Rennes (where I taught English at the Université Rennes II in 2000), then farther west in Finistère and finally, in Morbihan where we spent a day exploring le Golfe du Morbihan by boat (Best day of the entire trip according to my husband! Thank you for the podcast about the area!).
  • We then drove south through the Poitou-Charentes and Limousin regions to the Auvergne. We followed the Lot valley back to the Dordogne and stayed another week in Alles-sur-Dordogne.
  • The first week of August, we returned to Bordeaux for our last 2 nights in France and stayed on a Airbnb barge. We returned the lease car and flew back to San Francisco – very tired and ready to sleep in our own beds!

Main Topic:

  • House hunting in France – it’s complicated! We found that there is a “local’s” market and a market for foreigners.  We explored both.
  • Houses can stay on the market for years before they sell. Are they overpriced?  Are the sellers “motivated”?
  • Understanding the mechanics of French houses – inspection reports (required and optional). I learned a lot of new vocabulary and learned a lot about common ways to construct and heat homes in France.  I also learned a lot about septic systems and internet!
  • Housing agents – they work for the seller and are only allowed to show properties they or their company represent. One property can be listed by more than one agent and at different prices (depending on the agency fees).
  • Visits – the sellers are sometimes onsite, which almost never happens in the U.S.
  • No MLS, no Zillow – You have to get to know the market to find a good deal.
  • Exchange rates and agency fees
  • Taxes and notaire fees (add 10%) – get an English speaking notaire to explain the “compromis de vente”
  • Retiring in France – who in the family will do all the work on getting settled? Do you speak French?
  • What about isolation – lifestyle – family back in the states?
  • Working in France? Is it an option?  Talent visas vs. retirement visas

Trip Highlights/Unusual Stops:

  • See the blog

Practical Tips:

  • If you will be in France for more than 26 days, you can use the Renault Eurodrive lease return program (other French car brands offer a similar service). You get a brand new vehicle with zero-deductible insurance and roadside assistance.  We have done it twice and had a great experience each time.  My husband dinged our car on this trip and it didn’t cost us a penny or any paperwork!
  • Be careful when booking Airbnb’s. The listings are very often false, especially outside of major metropolitan centers.  Read the reviews and don’t trust that the listing is accurate in terms of Wifi and air conditioning.  Also, if the reviews are in French, be aware that the French are very forgiving in their reviews.  If the reviews are from British or American visitors, they will not hesitate to mention if there was a problem with their stay.
  • If you’re on a budget, consider cooking at your Airbnb as much as possible. We started our trip at a hypermarcher outside of Bordeaux where we purchased a small cooler, ice packs and enough fresh food for a day or two (yogurts, cheese, milk, ham, eggs).  We also loaded up with dry goods and snacks (pasta, sauce, mustard, salt, olive oil, cookies, tea, coffee, wine, etc.).  To complete our meals, we shopped at the local outdoor markets for fruits, vegetables and rotisserie chickens, and the local boulangerie for bread and pastries.  Note: if you are an avid cook, bring a 6” utility knife in your luggage.  It can be sharpened on the back of a plate when needed.  The batterie de cuisine in rentals are very basic.
  • Get some local knowledge. If you are lucky enough to have a local host, you will have access to things tourists never see.  We stayed with the parents of some friends and had a great time in the Dordogne.  In other parts of the country where we didn’t know anyone personally, we chatted with our Airbnb hosts and real estate agents to learn more about the area and the local culture.  People love to share the best of their region, so don’t be shy, profitez!
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Category: Moving to France