Purchasing your South of France property will likely be one of the biggest decisions you’ve ever made. Moving abroad, possibly to a country where you don’t understand the language, means completely overhauling your lifestyle. Because of this, it’s essential that you take your time to find the perfect home for your needs.


After a long day exploring the local village, sampling pastries at a nearby boulangerie or socialising with your new neighbours, there’s nothing better than relaxing in your dream property. Here are the most important features to look for (assuming you already have the basics like your preferred location and number of bedrooms) when considering the purchase of a South of France property.


1. Proper Utilities and Drainage

This is unlikely to be so much of an issue in urban properties, but the more rural you’re hoping to go, the more due diligence you should carry out.


In France, electricity tends to be cheap thanks to the widespread use of nuclear power. The vast majority of properties will be connected, but the electrical system in older properties can be “higgledy-piggledy” to say the least! If you spot any exposed sockets or bare wires, proceed with caution and try to ensure you have the necessary work done before you move in.


Rural properties often have ovens and occasionally water heaters that require the use of bottled gas. Ensure that you have gas available on arrival and, if you’ve never used these before, make sure you get some advice on changing the bottle and the closest place to purchase replacements.


There’s also the possibility that your sewerage will not be connected to the main drainage. Some properties will have individual sewer systems in the form of cesspits or septic tanks. It’s absolutely imperative that you speak to a professional regarding the management of these systems before buying.


If you have any utilities that can be connected to the mains — but aren’t yet — you can contact your desired supplier and have this carried out. Do be aware though that charges for this service can be hefty.


Rundown South of France property can have disconnected utilities.


2. Amount and Quality of Outdoor Space


Green-fingered expats will want a decent-sized garden with good quality soil included with their South of France property. There’s no shortage of sunshine, so there’s plenty of opportunity for plants to thrive if that’s where your interest lies.


For some buyers, it’s important to have a few hectares of unspoiled views. For others still, the main requirement is an outdoor seating area with shade or garage for a beloved car. It’s important that you nail down your needs before you begin viewing properties so that you can communicate these to your estate agent.


3. Daylight Inside the Property


Ideally, you should view a property several times, twice at the very least, before committing to purchase. This is the perfect opportunity to assess the amount of light you receive at different times of the day. Properties with south-facing gardens are prized for the day-long sunshine that floods outdoor space. Even small properties will feel far airier and more welcoming with south-facing rooms that allow the sun to stream in.


If possible, try to avoid north-facing properties, as these can feel dreary and get very chilly in the winter months.


4. Proximity to Amenities and Neighbours


Many Brits come to France in the hopes of finding a quiet, private home away from the hustle and bustle of city life, so choose a South of France property in a remote area. What many will find, however, is that there is a big difference between privacy and seclusion.


Having to embark on a 20 minute drive every time you run out of milk soon wears thin! Many people also fail to realise how lonely it can be when you’re far from neighbours, particularly if there are very few english-speaking households in the area.


This is of course a personal preference, and one that you’ll need to carefully consider before committing to a purchase.


5. External Access


There are plenty of narrow, winding roads in the South of France that larger vehicles can struggle to manoeuvre around. If you’re embarking on a renovation project, or even simply need to have furniture delivered, external access should be something you take note of. The idea of living away from proper roads may seem quaint but it can prove impractical in the long run.


Narrow roads near South of France property can prove difficult to navigate for larger vehicles


6. Dimensions of Interiors


Similarly, getting your cosy corner sofa up a narrow staircase may turn out to be an impossible endeavour. When you go for viewings, ensure you bring a notepad and tape measure so that you can jot down the dimensions of entryways and halls and a camera to take photos of each room. This should help you visualise your furniture in the space and will help you differentiate between properties (you may find they start to blur together after the sixth or seventh viewing!).


Traditional spaces, particularly in rural areas, do tend to run on the smaller side. Even properties that seem large on the outside could house a labyrinth of smaller rooms, so it’s important that you don’t just rely on “eyeballing” a space to determine the dimensions.


We hope that this short guide will help you choose the right home for your needs. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with chartered surveyor Charles Mackintosh, who has a wealth of experience in South of France property.