Suggestions for cheap countries to buy a home in Western Europe?
April 24, 2014 2:14 AM   Subscribe

A home for a middle-aged couple. Not too far from civilisation (so not in a village of four people that is three hours away from a two-horse town. 'Cheap' is a flexible term, I realise, but let's put it this way. The UK is very expensive - so anywhere that is significantly cheaper is an option.

Let's see:

Not too flat nor humid
Not too conservative
With intellectual leanings in the community - libraries, cultural things to do
posted by Quillcards to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Do you need a job there? Various cities in Greece are probably great choices for the criteria you mention, but finding work might be hard.
posted by dhoe at 2:36 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you plan to try and integrate? Learn the language, etc?
posted by devnull at 2:48 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have friends who live in a small town near Narbonne. They said similar small towns often have cheap buildings in the middle of villages, though you might have to do some renovation. They've got a good group of friends, mostly expats, some locals.
posted by kjs4 at 2:58 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

When you say "the UK is very expensive," have you looked at the entire country or just London, the south-east and other fashionable regions which are very expensive?

I live in South Yorkshire and pay less rent for a modest two-bedroom semi-detached home in a safe, pleasant area than a Londoner would pay for a room in a shoebox flat-share. The country is economically so varied that you can't generalise, and call the whole place expensive or cheap.

I'm just outside Barnsley, which is a really unfashionable area but very cheap for just that reason - two minutes from the M1, five minutes' walk from a railway station, within an hour of Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and York which are all big, cosmopolitan cities. It could also never be described as flat! I'm on top of a hill with beautiful views across the countryside to the east.

The big question is whether you need a job, or if you're financially independent. The job situation here isn't wonderful, but it's far better than if you were to go to the economic doldrums of Greece, Spain, Portugal etc - particularly since we're English speaking (sort of!).

Basically, don't discount the whole UK just because you've been to expensive bits of it - my income is very modest (I work in the non-profit sector) and I get by quite comfortably here in Yorkshire.
posted by winterhill at 2:58 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't need a job there.
Yes, would always try to integrate and learn the language.
posted by Quillcards at 3:00 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want answers that go beyond large parts of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain you need to be more specific.

The areas you describe exist in all European countries. What you really need to think about is:

- what cultures and languages and lifestyles do they actually like? What climate do they prefer. I've lived in a few countries. Turns out some I am happier in than others, even after the adjustment period is over and you've worked out how stuff works and where stuff is...some aspects of a country/culture just grate.

- Presumably this couple is looking to visit during holidays until they retire or retire to this place immediately? What will their income be? Even if the property is cheap, the cost of living may not be so assuming they have capital to buy a property outright what income do they have to pay for food, utilities, car running costs, the cultural experiences they value etc. How often would they want to travel back to their homecountry?

- What currency is that income in? FX rate fluctuations have made many a British pensioner in Spain very poor since 2007. As has the collapse of property prices.

- How far is too far to travel from location to more urban/cultural things? Property is going to be more expensive in more urban areas than in more remote ones. The trade off is time and cost of travel - can they afford to travel, can they physically manage the journey as they get older.

- What is the healthcare system like? With age this becomes much more important.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:16 AM on April 24, 2014

You want Poland.
posted by chasles at 4:25 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Warsaw specifically. Its extremely affordable compared to the UK. And compared to most other places in western Europe too.
posted by chasles at 4:26 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Buying? Rural Sweden, a little outside of one of the cities. Not the Stockholm area, obvsl.
Example: we're in the gap between Gothenburg and Borås here, cheapest of cheap, still only 50km to central Gothenburg and 20 minutes from an international airport. It ain't flat here, but it may be called rainy, so middle-Sweden or the south are better options for you.
posted by Namlit at 4:29 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding kjs4. I have a house in a village of 3000 people 15 km from Narbonne. The younger people of France seem to want new wood houses in lotissements so the older ones - made of masonry or stone, nearer village centers, often go for years un-lived-in and are sold now and then. Should you wish detail send a mail.
posted by jet_silver at 4:42 AM on April 24, 2014

How flexible is your definition of Western Europe? The Balkans has really good value, as does Turkey, and parts of North Africa.
posted by JiffyQ at 6:40 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding rural Sweden, although general cost of living besides accommodation might be higher than you like. My parents in law owned a small house in the countryside an hour's drive from Malmo, and when they wanted to sell, they basically had to give it away for next to nothing, after a year or so on the market.
posted by lollusc at 6:55 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

There were recently some articles about how it's cheaper to live in Barcelona and commute to London than to live in London, so maybe somewhere in Spain?
posted by Jacqueline at 10:03 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some friends of friends have moved to Languedoc, and while I was skeptical at first, because I like Italy better than France, I must admit they have made a good choice. They have excellent access to several airports, lots and lots of both French and Spanish cultural offers and hiking, and surprisingly, much more value for money than in a similar location in Northern Italy.
Also, they seem to have integrated very well in the local community, and French healthcare is excellent.
I have several friends with houses in Northern Spain and in Mallorca, but I haven't visited. The houses look wonderful in pictures, and my friends are very happy. But maybe because Spain has huge expat communities, they do seem less integrated, and obviously services are not at all the same in Spain as in France.
In my view, Italy is the culmination of civilization - maybe in a tie with Japan. Everything is so lovely there, specially in the North. But admittedly, it also a corrupt and complicated country, and I see even Italian friends returning to their place of origin struggling with authorities and practicalities on every level of life.
If I were in your shoes, I would go for somewhere in Liguria despite the problems. Because food, landscape, people, culture, and general love of Italy. I feel a year without some stay in Italy is a wasted year. But if you are even a little less enamored than I am, the less known areas of France are a very, very good option.
posted by mumimor at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2014

Re: Chasles suggesting Poland; as a Polish person living in the UK at the moment I'd argue that Poland doesn't meet your "not too conservative" criteria (one of key reasons why I no longer live in Poland and don't plan on returning), things are changing but the influence of the Catholic Church is very strong plus it ain't exactly Western Europe.
posted by coffee_monster at 7:00 AM on April 25, 2014

Dudley!!! Inexpensive housing, great services, excellent butcher shops.
posted by parmanparman at 1:00 PM on April 25, 2014

Namlit What's a good way to research this more / find locations / prices / estate agents / other ways of finding properties ?
posted by Quillcards at 3:06 AM on April 27, 2014

Swedish real estate agents were early with having their projects online, so that's relatively easy. I remember I looked for a house in my own little village, sitting in a computer studio at Cornell in '99 - they had pictures and everything even back then.

You might first research a suitable area a little more along the lines of geographic preferences and climate and so on and then look at the local estate agent's sites.

Here's one link in English:
I personally have good experiences with Swedbanks fastighetsburå, but for some silly reason they are not represented in English on the web (

Anyway. Some Swedish terms for housing agents are mäklare, fastighetsförmedling or fastighetsburå.

Ultimately you'd need to be in the country to actually be able to search, look and negotiate in person, of course. A little depending on where you are, there might also be Scandinavia-focused agents in your country who might want to help you. I know for example that a lot of Germans buy vacation homes and things in our area, and they certainly don't just drive here and look for an object.

Closing a deal is substantially easier in Sweden than, for example, in the UK, even if there are twists and turns here too. A good housing agent should be willing and able to help you through the thicket.
posted by Namlit at 12:28 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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