On a budget - where should I buy a house in France?

Where should I buy a house in France? A guide to the most appealing villages which represent the best value in France.

On a budget - where should I buy a house in France?
The River Vincou on the edge of Bellac

This post is an ever-increasing list of my favourite French villages. I have concentrated my house-hunting efforts on the smaller towns and larger villages, almost all of which have populations between 1000 and 5000. I have ploughed through literally hundreds of communes to come up with the most appealing ones in each department. Research is still in progress - so far I have researched only a handful of the thirty-eight cheapest departments I intend to investigate - it's rather a long process! Do pop back from time to time for an update, or let me know in the comments which of these areas you'd like me to prioritise next.

I haven't tried to cover the whole of France for this particular house-hunt. I have only included the better value departments of France. (There are 96 departments in France). Although I've aimed for affordability, some of my chosen villages are property hotspots, and may be more expensive per square meter that the local average. Don't let this discourage you too much. The equivalent villages in more expensive parts of France could easily be double or triple the price. Besides which, it's often possible to find bargain properties on the outskirts or in the surrounding hamlets, as the locals generally seem to prefer a modern suburban house to a rural project.

In our case, my husband and I will be looking for an area with potential for self-employment in the short term, and an active retirement in the longer term, so it's important that we have access to people, facilities, and services, all year round, without having to drive a long way. Personally, you may prefer a smaller hamlet or village, so perhaps this list will serve as a guide to the settlements which are larger, but not overwhelmingly so, which you could use as a destination for shopping, services, leisure, and entertainment.

In the smaller settlements, we can find a few shops, cafes or restaurants, perhaps a regular market, or even a single supermarket. However, we are conscious that many such places will have a seasonal rhythm, often based around tourism or agriculture. We could find the atmosphere depressing in the winter, and rather than enjoying the peace and tranquility, we could feel quite isolated.

The larger settlements on my list have usually grown up because they serve several satellite hamlets and villages, or because they are popular tourist towns. Some will have large shopping centres, or valuable facilities such as a doctor, a fire station, a bank, or even a hospital. They will also have public transport services, and perhaps a railway station. However, I have avoided any which are mainly industrial.

Of course, we don't want to exchange traffic in the UK for traffic in France. After all, one of our main reasons for choosing France is its tranquillity and low population density. I have looked carefully at the roads around each location, to be certain that they won't be detrimental to our enjoyment of our new home. This includes avoiding places where the shops and cafes are strung out along the main roads, where lorries frequently pass through the village, or where there is a constant drone of traffic noise.

I'll admit to a few more personal preferences which have influenced my choices. Places to go for a walk are important to us. I have eliminated villages where the ring roads and access roads, although beneficial in some respects, seem to cut the town off from the surrounding countryside. I like a bit of scenery, preferably some rolling hills. Countryside which is as flat as a pancake is not my cup of tea. I love a village centre with character and charm, especially one with some medieval architecture - I'm a sucker for timbered buildings and cobbled streets, but beautiful old stone properties are a close second. I love villages with a peaceful and ideally traffic-free centre to stroll around. If there's a cafe or restaurant in this centre, all the better! I gravitate towards places with some sort of heritage to get involved with, whether it's a historic site, a museum, or an ancient building of interest. Finally, of course, I favour places with rivers, canals, or coasts.

Most importantly, we are looking for locations where it may be easier to make new friends. In a larger settlement we will have plenty of neighbours and meeting places where we can get to know people, but the town must not be so huge that we disappear in the crowds.

Of course, not every village in the list below features everything on my wish list, but each of them has a mix of attributes, which, for the right house, would make it the right location.

A note on communes

Note that the population figures in this article are based on 'communes'. Mostly these are a single large village or a small town, perhaps with some outlying settlements, but in very rural areas communes may consist only of several small villages or hamlets, none of which may supply the everyday village essentials I crave in my French home. It still surprises me to see a rather grand Mairie (Town Hall) in some of these tiny hamlets, where there are no shops or cafes. If you are a local history buff (I raise my hand here!) the equivalent is the UK parish, where a church, perhaps in a wealthy country estate, may form a hub for several small hamlets, yet there is no village to speak of.

The Hôtel de Ville (Mairie) in Châlus

The List!

I have listed the thirty-eight cheapest departments in France in alphabetical order. Average prices for properties in all of these departments are currently under 1600 euros per m2.


Origny-en-Thiérache, Aisne

Aisne ties with Vosges as the 11th and 12th cheapest departments in France at €1190 per m2. There is some lovely countryside in Aisne, with rolling hills and occasional rocky outcrops, but also some wide flood plains along the rivers. There are several attractive canals running through the department.

During World War I the western front ran through the Aisne department and, being strategically located on the route to Paris, its pivotal role in the war was inevitable. Sites of interest include St Quentin, which was on the Hindenburg Line, the nearby site of the Battle of the St Quentin Canal, sites along the beautiful Chemin des Dames, the locations of the Battles of the Marne, the three eponymous Battles of the Aisne, and the Belleau Wood Campaign. 

The devastation caused by the war has left us with some disappointingly short-sighted town planning, but also a fascinating legacy of Art Deco style rebuilding in the 1920s.

There are a whopping 798 communes here, but many of those in the more picturesque parts of the department are merely tiny places. On the other hand, there are several large conurbations, complete with numerous unappealing suburbs. I discounted many small towns which were strung along a main road or around a junction. Only a few were worth considering:

  • Ambleny - 1,159 (a little 'roady', but with an old keep and some character).
  • Bruyères-et-Montbérault - 1447
  • Chézy-sur-Marne - 1336
  • Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique - 992 (there's an amazing complex of ruins here, but not a lot in the way of facilities, sadly).
  • Marle - 2,219 ('roady' round the edges, but quite a pleasant centre)
  • Origny-en-Thiérache - 1409


Souvigny, Allier

Allier is the seventh cheapest department in France at €1050 per m2, almost 50% more than the cheapest department, Creuse. There are 317 communes in Allier, over 70 of which are a good size, not too small, and not too large, but as usual, even a castle or a river can't overcome some negatives, such as a busy road, or being right on the doorstep of a large town. The shortlist, including some outliers, includes five practical suggestions, and one utterly impractical but gorgeous little village:

  • Ainay-le-Château - 983 (one main road, but most of the village is off to the side and characterful).
  • Bourbon-l'Archambault - 2,566 (there are some busy, 'roady' parts, but also a beautiful chateau and lake).
  • Charroux - 346 (far too small, but so special that I had to include it!)
  • Hérisson - 601 (small, but a pretty village set in the bend of a river, with castle on the hill).
  • Huriel - 2,632 (one road arounf the edge, and some modest character).
  • Souvigny - 1,736 (I rather like this little town)

Click here to see all properties in these locations on SeLoger

(SeLoger is the largest French property portal but it is not comprehensive).


Fumay, Ardennes

Ardennes is the ninth cheapest department in France at €1120 per m2. There are 449 communes in Ardennes of which less than 70 were the right size. Many of these are set on meanders of the River Meuse and therefore have a fantastic outlook with beautiful landscapes as their backdrop, but unfortunately it was disappointingly difficult to find any towns or villages that I would want to live in. Only three made the grade:

  • Attigny - 1,112 (alongside the Canal des Ardennes)
  • Fumay - 3,181
  • Gespunsart - 995
  • Givet - 6,343 - (a bit large).
  • Haybes - 1,829 - (a bit 'roady').
  • Monthermé - 2,191 - (a bit 'roady').
  • Mouzon - 2,227 - (a bit 'roady').
  • Rocroi - 2,266
  • Vireux-Wallerand - 1,940 - (a bit 'roady', but with a few characterful bits).


Coming soon.

Ariège ties with Vienne as the 21st and 22nd cheapest departments in France at €13i0 per m2.


Coming soon.

Aube ties with Loir-et-Cher as the 27th and 28th cheapest departments in France at €1440 per m2, just over double the price of Creuse.


Aveyron ties with Yonne as the 16th and 17th cheapest departments in France at €1240 per m2. There are 285 communes in Aveyron.

  • Aguessac - 887, and Compeyre - 518, (neighbouring villages)
  • Bozouls - 2,951 (sadly, a rather dull town, but it's set beside the most amazing canyon!)
  • Entraygues-sur-Truyère - 981
  • Estaing - 476
  • Najac - 701
  • Nant - 992
  • Sauveterre-de-Rouergue - 713
  • St Geniez d'Olt et d'Aubrac - 2,051
  • Sévérac-le-Château - 2,430
  • Sévérac-d'Aveyron - 4,079
  • Viala-du-Tarn - 528 (small but pretty)
  • Villeneuve - 1,976


Coming soon.

Cantal is the tenth cheapest department in France at €1150 per m2. There are 246 communes in Cantal.


Coming soon.

Charente is the 24th cheapest department in France at €1330 per m2.


Maison dite de Saint-Jean, Aubigny-sur-Nère, Cher

Cher is the eighth cheapest department in France at €1070 per m2, over 50% more than the cheapest department, Creuse. There are 287 communes in Cher. This low number explains why it was a bit of a challenge to find suitable areas, despite Cher being one of the largest departments in France. I must admit that part of my disappointment stems from the fact that Cher is such an 'endearing' name! Unfortunately, there is a lot of flat and unexciting scenery, which impacted negatively on my choices. Furthermore, being pretty much in the middle of France, the area has to contend with a huge network of roads radiating from it in all directions, and many of its villages are dotted along them. There are also quite a few railways, and some wide rivers too. I ended up with just one town and four villages on my shortlist:

  • Aubigny-sur-Nère - 5499 (oops, a little over!)
  • Blancafort - 1,008
  • Graçay - 1,369
  • Léré - 1,075
  • Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre - 317 (smaller than my target, but it is by the Loire Lateral Canal and the rivers Vauvise and Loire, and is rather charming. It also offers easy access to Sancerre).
  • Sancerre - 1,340


Corrèze is the 19th cheapest department in France at €1270 per m2.

  • Treignac - 1,268

More coming soon.


Château de Chantemille, Ahun, Creuse

Creuse is the cheapest of the 96 departments in France, at €710 per m2, as well as being one of the more beautiful and rural departments. There are 256 communes in Creuse. My list comprises of five villages and two towns:

  • Ahun - 1421
  • Aubusson - 3181
  • Auzances - 1201
  • Bourganeuf - 2462
  • Boussac - 1246
  • Évaux-les-Bains - 1297
  • Felletin - 1547

Click here to see all properties in these locations on SeLoger

(SeLoger is the largest French property portal but it is not comprehensive).


Coming soon.

Deux-Sèvres is the 18th cheapest department in France at €1250 per m2. There are 256 communes in Deux-Sèvres.


Dordogne is the 30th cheapest department in France at €1460 per m2.

  • Eymet - 2,547
  • Issigeac - 746
  • Sarlat-la-Canéda - 8788 (a little large but definitely worth including)

More coming soon.


Coming soon.

Gers is the 29th cheapest department in France at €1450 per m2.


Coming soon.

Haute-Loire is the 14th cheapest department in France at €1220 per m2. There are 257 communes in Haute-Loire.


Joinville, Haute-Marne

Haute-Marne is the second cheapest department in France at €840 per m2. There are 426 communes in Haute-Marne but less than 30 were the right size for me, and had to remove the vast majority, which were suburbs of cities, strung out along main roads, dull, flat, featureless, or with little architectural charm. A couple were by canals, but they were not at all picturesque, and didn't tempt me. I ended up with just two of the towns:

  • Joinville - 3001
  • Langres - 7682 (yes, it's a bit big, but it's so much better than the other choices in Haute-Marne).


The River Salon, Champlitte, Haute-Saône

Haute-Saône is the sixth cheapest department in France at €1040 per m2. There are 539 communes in Haute-Saône of which less than 50 had the right number of inhabitants to make the list, but only three made the list, as so many were spread along main roads, or were suburbs of busy cities:

  • Champlitte - 1,634
  • Marnay - 1,522 (a bit 'roady' and flat but with a bit of character).
  • Pesmes - 1,072


Coming soon.

Hautes-Pyrénées is the 33rd cheapest department in France at €1510 per m2.


Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, Haute-Vienne

Haute-Vienne is the 20th cheapest department in France at €1300 per m2. There are 195 communes in all. These produced quite a good haul:

  • Le Dorat - 1535
  • Solignac - 1576
  • Châteauponsac - 2036
  • Eymoutiers - 2087
  • Rochechouart - 3725
  • Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat - 4357

On my reserve list are a couple which are a bit 'roady' for me:

  • Bellac - 3619 (a but big and 'roady' for me in the centre, although the old town and river areas are idyllic).
  • Flavignac - 1070 (looks as if the local groery had closed by last year - would need to check this)
  • Peyrat-le-Château - 1029

You can find out more on my Haute Vienne page.

Click here to see all properties in these locations on SeLoger

(SeLoger is the largest French property portal but it is not comprehensive).


Argenton-sur-Creuse, Indre

Indre is the fifth cheapest department in France at €950 per m2. There are 241 communes in Indre, of which 54 were the right sort of size, but only five made the final cut.

  • Argenton-sur-Creuse - 4,865 (a large town, too large for me. It has a wonderfully photogenic riverside, and some well-presented paved shopping streets, but little else attracted me. It would be a good town to visit for shopping if you lived a short drive away).
  • Chaillac - 1,068 (a bit 'roady', but with redeeming features, including a lake).
  • Châtillon-sur-Indre - 2,326 (also rather 'roady' with some dull parts, but it has a quite vibrant shopping area which is off the main roads, as well as riverside walks, and a historic tower).
  • La Châtre - 4,048 (this is a lovely town with great character).
  • Levroux - 2,883 (much of the town is plain, but there's a good selection of shops, and a stunning timbered building in the old town centre gives it extra appeal).


Rue du Chateau, Orgelet, Jura

Jura is the 31st cheapest department in France at €1480 per m2. I absolutely love the pastoral parts of the Jura scenery, but most of the large villages and small towns are ranged along main roads, due to the limitations imposed by the rivers and the mountainous landscapes, so only one village and three towns made my shortlist:

  • Arbois - 3239
  • Orgelet - 1604
  • Poligny - 4013
  • Saint-Amour - 2379


Coming soon.

Loir-et-Cher ties with Aube as the 27th and 28th cheapest departments in France at €1440 per m2, just over double the price of Creuse.


Puy-l'Évêque, Lot

Lot is the 34th cheapest department in France at €1520 per m2. There are 313 communes in Lot of which just over 40 were the right size. It is a testament to the wealth of beautiful medieval villages in this area that I was able to pick nine for my shortlist.

  • Cajarc - 1,117
  • Carennac - 413 (small but so cute, looks like the only grocer, a Vival, may have closed).
  • Gourdon - 3,959
  • Lacapelle-Marival - 1,285
  • Prayssac - 2,419
  • Puy-l'Évêque - 1,929
  • Martel - 1,638
  • Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc - 1,804
  • Rocamadour - 617


Coming soon.

Charente is the 26th cheapest department in France at €1400 per m2, nearly double the price of Creuse.


Sainte-Enimie, Gorges du Tarn, Lozère

Lozère is the 13th cheapest department in France at €1200 per m2. There are only 152 communes in Lozère and it is the least populated department in the whole of France with only 15 inhabitants per km2. Needless to say, I love it! Here's my shortlist:

  • La Canourgue - 2,099
  • Chanac - 1,452
  • Chirac (Bourgs sur Colagne) - 2,091
  • Florac Trois Rivières - 2,082
  • Ispagnac - 900
  • Mende - 12318. Mende is the largest town in the Lozère by a huge margin. It has a beautiful old town centre with a cathedral, plenty of shops and restaurants, and all the services you would expect from a medium sized town. It is the prefecture of the department. The next largest communes are Marvejols (4,684), and Saint-Chély-d'Apcher (4,211), neither of which appealled to me.
  • Meyrueis - 794
  • Sainte-Enimie (Gorges du Tarn Causses) - 905


Coming soon.

Charente is the 25th cheapest department in France at €1340 per m2.


Montmédy, Meuse, from the Citadel

Meuse ties with Nièvre as the third and fourth cheapest departments in France at €890 per m2. This area interests me, because for several years I was pretty much a full time researcher specialising in the stories of British soldiers in WW1. Six communes in Meuse have been unoccupied since the Battle of Verdun, and although they are still official communes, they fall into a Red Zone, protected from redevelopment, and will always have a population of 0. They are officially designated as 'villages that died for France'.

There are 499 communes in Meuse, of which less than 30 have my preferred number of inhabitants. Unfortunately many of these have suffered from loss of heritage during the war, or they're in flat, featureless areas, or strung out along or beside main roads, or they're city suburbs rather than villages in their own right. The larger villages have little to offer in the way of character, with an almost complete absence of the cobbled streets, half timbered buildings, and traditional stone properties which you might find elsewhere in France, although I did spot some beautiful 1920s architecture. There are some interesting canalside towns, but none of these are attractive enough to make it onto the list. In the end, I only managed to scrape together five rather unconvincing suggestions.

  • Gondrecourt-le-Château - 1,065 (this one is a bit 'roady', but it does have a picturesque river, and a horse museum in an old castle tower).
  • Montmédy - 2,040 (the town is not especially attractive, but there are plenty of shops, and the river and the rather impressive Citadelle of Montmédy justify its inclusion in the list).
  • Pagny-sur-Meuse - 1,006 (benefits from the river and Canal de la Marne au Rhin, but it is not as attractive or well equipped as I would like).
  • Vaucouleurs - 1,929 (this one has a bypass, a hilltop church and ruins, and an amazing trompe d'oeil mural on one of the houses).
  • Vigneulles-lès-Hattonchâtel - 1,566 (this has a cheese factory and shop, a small selection of other shops, and a lovely rural position, near the huge Lac de Madine).

Click here to see all properties in these locations on SeLoger

(SeLoger is the largest French property portal but it is not comprehensive).


Aerial view of Donzy, Nièvre

Nièvre ties with Meuse as the third and fourth cheapest departments in France at €890 per m2. There are 309 communes in Nièvre. It is a beautiful area with some fabulous countryside and the wonderful Nivernais Canal. The towns and villages in this department seem to be either very large or very small. This made it difficult to find locations which meet all my preferences. I have picked out two towns and a village for my shortlist, but there are plenty of other settlements which are worth considering. Check out my post on the Nivernais Canal for some of these, including the lovely Monceaux-le-Comte, which is set by the River Yonne and the Nivernais Canal, and has two shops despite its diminutive size!

  • Clamecy - 3594
  • Decize - 5193
  • Donzy - 1571

Here are a few outliers, most of which are a bit 'roady' for my tastes, but they are still worth considering.

  • Cercy-la-Tour - 1697
  • Corbigny - 1397
  • Lormes - 1267
  • Luzy - 1994
  • Moulins-Engilbert - 1415
  • Saint-Parize-le-Châtel - 1242
  • Varzy - 1,053


Église Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption, La Ferté-Macé, Orne

Orne is the 15th cheapest department in France at €1230 per m2. There are 385 communes in Orne. It has quite a short shortlist. There were quite a few near misses, but I tried to be critical and stick to my priorities. A surprising number of villages and towns in the 1000-5000 inhabitants range are suburbs of larger cities. I found very few which stood alone, yet were not set on significant road junctions. It might be easier to shop here is you are looking for a smaller settlement and you don't mind driving to a less picturesque town for your shopping and services.

  • Bellême - 1455
  • Bretoncelles - 1475
  • La Ferté-Macé - 5138


Coming soon.

Pas-de-Calais and Somme tie as 36th and 37th cheapest departments in France at €1580 per m2.


Coming soon.

Puy-de-Dôme is the 38th cheapest department out of 96 in France, at €1590 per m2. It's the last to come in at under €1600 per m2.


Coming soon.

Saône-et-Loire is the 23rd cheapest department in France at €1320 per m2.


Coming soon.

Sarthe is the 32nd cheapest department in France at €1500 per m2.


Coming soon.

Somme and Pas-de-Calais tie as 36th and 37th cheapest departments in France at €1580 per m2.


Coming soon.

Tarn is the 35th cheapest department in France at €1570 per m2.


Coming soon.

Vienne ties with Ariège as the 21st and 22nd cheapest departments in France at €13i0 per m2.

This is a village I already know and rather like:

  • Angles-sur-l'Anglin (wonderful scenery, but may not have enough shops and facilities).


Plombières-les-Bains, Vosges

Vosges ties with Aisne as the 11th and 12th cheapest departments in France at €1190 per m2. There are 507 communes in Vosges. Its list is surprisingly short. Some of the villages and towns are very attractive, but many are hemmed in by busy roads, and many others seem to merge as together unappealing conurbations along the valleys. Worse still, some are dominated by industrial areas, quarries and gravel pits. It really is a shame, as the majority of the landscape here is fabulous!

  • Plombières-les-Bains - 1566
  • Le Tholy - 1536
  • Le Val-d'Ajol - 3860
  • La Vôge-les-Bains - 1589


Coming soon.

Yonne ties with Aveyron as the 16th and 17th cheapest departments in France at €1240 per m2. There are 423 communes in Yonne.


Some other departments will follow in the future, but in the meantime, I will use this space to mention any other towns which I will include in subsequent posts:

  • Capestang, Hérault - 3,298
  • Poilhes, Hérault - 537 (small, but has basic everyday facilities and straddles the Canal du Midi).

Well, that's my rather long shortlist complete

I hope you found it interesting and helpful. If you have any suggestions for villages I may have missed, or whose charms I may have underestimated, do please let me know in the comments.

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