Seasoned property experts share their tips on retiring to France


Retiring abroad offers up the opportunity to enjoy new experiences and access a better quality of life, and nowhere more so than in la belle France, but there are pitfalls to avoid. By Stevie King

So many places around the world offer expat retirees a warm welcome, that it can be hard to make a decision about where to live. Practical factors are also a prime concern; as you age your priorities change and these need to be taken into account.

Across the board, France has always proven a popular destination for those looking to spend their golden years enjoying the finer things in life.

Benefits for would-be retirees are plentiful from the diverse choice of property, delicious cuisine, an inclusive healthcare system and a quality lifestyle with a blend of geographical locations whether that be coastal, countryside or pied-à-terre city living.

France tops the World Health Organisation rankings for healthcare; if you pay French Social Security you are covered for access to most of this world-class service.

Particularly appealing to retirees, is the fact that French doctors still regularly make home visits and even a basic consultation is likely to last around half an hour, so you will have plenty of time to discuss your needs.

“Historically the ‘South of France’ notably Provence, was top of the wish list of places to retire,” says Sarah Francis from Sifex French Property Agents. “There’s no doubt that it’s still hugely popular – but it’s also true to say that it has become far hotter and more expensive than before.”

As for specific locations, Sarah cites the Lot Valley in the Quercy region, the Alpes Maritimes and of course the green and serene Dordogne. “These areas are very popular with people seeking to put down permanent roots and have been for many decades. People of all nationalities and from all corners of the globe retire there or choose to live there.”

But there are other locations rising in popularity. “If you head west some 250 miles you come to the Gers – sometimes referred to as the ‘other South of France,” says Sarah.

“This blank canvas, one of the country’s most rural regions, just west of Toulouse and approximately 60 miles wide, is a paradise for bon viveurs and, best of all, it has a reputation for longevity where its residents are concerned.”

But, as with any overseas investment, there are caveats to take account of  – especially in light of Brexit and impending tax and regulatory changes. The cost of living can be expensive – especially if you are funding a lifestyle in Sterling.

Overseas property specialist, Simon Conn adds: “Ask questions about where a property has been built. For example, if it’s on an area that should have been set aside for green belt or agricultural land, then the chances are there is a risk.”

He also urges that all prospective buyers take advice from an independent, English speaking lawyer - preferably not from the same area as the property.

Sarah Francis adds: “The most obvious pitfall would be finding enough money to buy the château of your dreams to wile away your retirement but overlooking the money needed to heat and run it.

“Running costs are a significant factor with any large property – and I think because the purchase prices are so attractive, buyers sometimes overlook this.” And to top it all off – make sure you can read and do read the contract thoroughly.

Simon advises: “It’s common to only receive one contract in the local language, in which case, you must get a professional translation completed. If you are given two copies of a contract which include the original and a supposed translation, get the translation checked by a professional.”

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