A nouvelle idea

Buying property in France needn't be hard work. If you don't fancy restoring an ancient farmhouse, then consider new-build - it's France without tears, says Mary Wilson
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The Independent Online

The usual scenario for someone buying a second home in France is to spend months scouring the countryside for a lovely old house, which needs tender loving care - and then to spend years restoring it.

The usual scenario for someone buying a second home in France is to spend months scouring the countryside for a lovely old house, which needs tender loving care - and then to spend years restoring it.

But another way to purchase a second home in France is becoming increasingly popular among British buyers - buy it new. A number of French developers are tapping into this market as they realise that many people want the enjoyment of owning property in France without the hassle. And, of course, the French like new-build, too.

Peter and Susie Cole bought a new, four-bedroom detached house at a development in Pezenas in the Languedoc two years ago. "As we live in a period property in the UK, we wanted to buy a new house in France," says Susie. "We are not very good DIYers and wanted something that allowed us not to spend all our time there in maintenance."

One woman who foresaw this new buying pattern was Patricia Fevrier, who set up the Portsmouth-based A Place in France some 15 years ago to specialise in sourcing newly built homes for British buyers. Now, says Fevrier, "we have built a strong partnership with leading developers."

A Place in France is marketing 13 terraced houses and 24 apartments overlooking the Etang de Thau just outside of the picturesque fishing town of Marseillan in Languedoc. With views of the lake and the sea, the houses are three-bedroomed, while the apartments will be one- or two-bedroomed, all with a balcony or terrace.

The gated development, set amid pine trees, will be built in traditional local style with landscaped gardens. Prices for the apartments start at €96,000 (£67,000), rising to €196,500 for the houses. A local agent will deal with all rental matters, from finding the tenants to dealing with the finance, changeovers and any maintenance.

Somewhat more expensive are new apartments on the Cote d'Azur: one-, two- or three-bedroom apartments in Le Panama development at the popular coastal town of St-Raphael cost between €176,000 and €341,000. The apartments, situated in an enclosed residence of 30, have their own pool and are five minutes from the sea-front.

At the quieter, hillside location of Belgentier village, about 25 minutes' drive from the coastal town of Hyeres, some 48 villas and apartments are being built at Le Domaine de la Muscatelle. With a shared swimming pool and children's pool, prices range from €144,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to €270,000 for a three-bedroom house. Both of these southern developments are being marketed by A Place in France.

If you are looking for an investment angle to your purchase, sound out the attractive development at Clos des Vignes development, just outside Bergerac, which is to the east of Bordeaux and lies within the glorious rolling countryside of the Dordogne.

Here, the Lagrange Group is building 86 apartments surrounded by a landscaped park and with a communal swimming pool, sauna and fitness centre. The apartments are in low-rise buildings, constructed in a local style and set around a square. Within the park are two lakes for fishing and boating, and a golf practice range.

Buyers can live at their apartments for up to six months and rent them out for the rest of the time, with a minimum income guaranteed to cover management charges and land tax; they can take a guaranteed income for 11 years and use the apartment for up to eight weeks of the year; or they can use them purely as an investment, with an 11-year contract, no useage and guaranteed income of between 4.5 and 5 per cent. Prices start at €95,000 for a one-bedroom furnished apartment, rising to €156,700 for a three-bedroom. FPDSavills is the agent.

MGM, one of the largest developers in France, has a number of sites along the south coast. On the edge of the village of La Mole, near St-Tropez, the company is building a development of 100 one- and two-bedroom apartments and three-storey three- and four-bedroom townhouses.

Built in local materials in earthy colours, the development will look picturesque. "Our aim is to create new homes that within a few years will look as though they belong," says James Rodwell, who heads up the UK sales office in London. Prices start at €185,000 for a two-bedroom apartment and from €340,000 for a three-bedroom house.

Also near St-Tropez, in the village of La Croix-Valmer, MGM is building 16 apartments with panoramic views across the countryside to the sea. All the apartments have air-conditioning, Provençal-style kitchens and cellar storage. Prices start at €242,000 and go up to €350,720.

The development firm's most luxurious development is at Villa Kelia, which overlooks the bay at Cannes, where the annual film festival takes place. The six large apartments are finished to very high standards with marble worktops and marble-tiled floors, and prices range from €1.17m to €1.6m for a three-bedroom penthouse.

A Place in France: 023-9283 2949

FPDSavills: 020-7824 9030

MGM: 020-7494 0706