Help Us Move To France
August 21, 2007 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Young couple visited France last year for about two weeks with few plans other than a couple of booked hotel rooms and a TGV pass. They fell in love with the country and would love to move there about 5 years out...

The couple spent a lot of their time in Provence, particularly in Avignon. Also saw Nice after a brief stop in Marseilles and then spent a day or so in Paris and in Mont St Michelle.

Provence was their favorite area. They would love to purchase a villa style house (not in the middle of a city), which could use a little TLC for around 200k USD. Their requirements are internet access (high speed if possible) and access to a largish city within a reasonable drive. They do not want to live IN said largish city, as they would prefer some countryside to play in.

They were particularly interested in the area around Aix en Provence for a variety of reasons, but wanted to get some advice.


1. How likely is it to find a house in France that's not directly in the city with good internet access? If not cable, is satellite a common option? How limiting is this criteria?

2. Are there specific towns in the Aix en Provence/Avignon area that would be good to look for?

3. Is this a bad region for their criteria? Is there one better that would meet their needs?

4. Any general advice on buying a house and taking up residence in France as an American?
posted by finitejest to Travel & Transportation around France (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Does the couple need jobs?
posted by k8t at 10:16 AM on August 21, 2007

posted by fire&wings at 10:19 AM on August 21, 2007

1. Neuf is a high-speed internet provider, and you can test a particular address' eligibility for service on this page.

2. You might want to talk to a relocation company or real estate agents in the area to get an idea of what the market looks like.

3. Provence is a pretty expensive part of France for property - I'm sure there are villages and areas that aren't as bad, but it's a very popular second home destination for other Europeans, so keep that in mind. But really, the feasibility of this is based on their jobs, and if they're portable.

4. Without saying the whole plan is impossible, you need to really plan this out, because five years from now, you might not be as able or as ready to do all the groundwork needed now. Two things you can do now, or start doing: I think you have to visit Provence again, annually, with a rental car driving around and looking for places you'd like to be, and you'll have to learn French. The second is easily done at a community college or university; private schools offer similar classes but might charge more. The first might be more of a financial strain, so consider what you can do now to start limiting your expenses and saving up.

Good luck!
posted by mdonley at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2007

Have you read "A Year in Provence" yet?

Also, I'm not sure if you're aware, but buying a villa in the Provence countryside is rather cliche by now. That doesn't mean it's bad, it just means there are very few affordable good places to buy, and lots of people willing to take advantage of stupid Americans (or stupid British).
posted by smackfu at 11:04 AM on August 21, 2007

Response by poster: Some additional info and answers...

Half the couple (myself) has about 9 years of French classes starting in first grade and continuing through High School.

My reading comprehension is much stronger than my speaking or verbal comprehension, but on our last trip we were able to arrange train tickets, order at restaurants and check the availability of hotel rooms in the language. (In fact, Paris disappointed me, the waiters would not let us work our way through ordering in French, although we attempted to - they would immediately switch to English)

We both intend to take some serious classes here in the states before moving.

Both of us have careers in the IT/Web industries with strong backgrounds in web design/development. The plan is to move back to doing web development on a freelance basis full time with the move. That makes the net connection important, but gives us more flexibility in terms of where we live.

The couple knows its a huge transition, and so they are trying to lay the foundations for it early and plan it as well as they are able.
posted by finitejest at 11:12 AM on August 21, 2007

Don't forget that you'll still need a carte de sejour, regardless of whether you are self-employed or whatever. This will probably be your biggest hurdle.
posted by different at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2007

Response by poster: smackfu - Cliche as it may be, our decision was mostly based on having visited that particular area and enjoyed our time and the people there immensely as well as the proximity to the southern beaches.

We are open to other areas (partly why I'm posting here), and would love to explore some other potential regions on further trips.
posted by finitejest at 11:27 AM on August 21, 2007

posted by dance at 11:28 AM on August 21, 2007

You might want to investigate working as a freelancer outside of the U.S.
posted by k8t at 11:47 AM on August 21, 2007

Best answer: I have thought about the same idea for a long time.
Aix is great and there are a lot of villages around where one could find a beautiful place in a nice community. But, as others said, it's very touristy and expensive.

There is an interesting alternative which has the same advantages of proximity from the beach and the mountains: the countryside around Perpignan. It's 2 hours from Toulouse or Barcelona. Both are fantastic cities. But, as you already know, everything between Marseilles and Barcelona is very, very hot during Summer. A few km up in the mountains are enough to have pleasant nights without AC.

This is a great project, if only for visiting interesting places during your vacations. Have fun.
posted by bru at 12:10 PM on August 21, 2007

Best answer: My gf and I bought a house in France a few years ago, in the Aude. The nearest big town is Montpellier and the nearest (ooh, charming) town of any size is Narbonne.

1) In our little town (pop. 1700) we have 10Mb/1.5Mb DSL. There's an initiative of France Telecom's where they will deploy Ethernet-speed FTTC, and these initiatives tend to get done pretty rapidly.

3, 4) There is not much of a 'bad' region in southern France, but Provence tends to get awfully crowded and we found prices high. You might like to look through the real estate advertisements to see what is available. Shelter ranges from tumble-down remises which might or might not have heat, electricity and running water, to apartment blocks to mansions. There is a lot more friction in the French real estate market than you might be accustomed to in the US or UK - there is no MLS equivalent there. You have to play hide-and-seek with the estate agents.
posted by jet_silver at 12:34 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

You'll probably want dsl from free or the already mentioned above neuf, who include free phone calls to the US. French cable providers are fishy, France Télécom expensive.

Don't count on fiber getting deployed to your village for a decade — Paris is just getting started, jet_silver must be living in a testing area.
posted by stereo at 6:38 PM on August 21, 2007

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