Friday, 4 December 2009

Languedoc Property Trends

Languedoc-Roussillon - Property Trends

Languedoc-Roussillon - Property Trends

If the Languedoc's enviable position on the Mediterranean, within easy access of the Pyrenean ski resorts and across the border from Barcelona, isn't reason enough to start phoning round estate agents now, then the relatively affordable houses that can be found in this region should be. Far from the pretentions of the Côte d'Azur, this region offers an altogether more down to earth take on Mediterranean living. In short, this is the best of the Aquitaine, or Côte d'Azur without the high prices.

What's more, the region boats an incredible array of
transport options. Since the advent of low-cost airlines, Languedoc-Roussillon has become all the more accessible: airports at Montpellier, Béziers, Perpignan, Carcassonne and Nîmes all connect to the UK and there are TGV stations at Agde, Béziers, Carcassonne, Montpellier, Nîmes and Perpignan. The region's already well-developed road network will be further improved when the A75 is completed next year. This will provide the region with a direct link to Paris via Clermont-Ferrand.

Land-locked Lozère is the region's cheapest province, with property prices averaging €1,390 per square metre, though following a 17.7% rise in 2007 it looks like prices are not destined to stay that way for long. The department is one of the least densely populated in France, prized for its landscape of vast mountain pastures, meadows and woods stretching to the Lot valley. A 600m gorge has been carved through the rock of the Sauveterre and Majean plateaux by the Tarn river, crossed by the Sublime bridge. Cévennes offers househunters a unique opportunity to acquire a parcel of land in one of France's national parks; it is the only inhabited national park in the country. Lozère's most picturesque villages include the medieval St Enimie and Ispagnac, known as the garden of Lozère.

Although Gard, to the south of Lozère, borders onto Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, prices here are demonstrably cheaper at €1,890 per square metre on average. Denim capital Nîmes is one of the highlights of the region, and boasts several Roman sites, including an amphitheatre, Gallo-Roman temple and Augustus gate, where the Via Domitia once entered the town. At Easter and in September, the city vibrates with Spanish fever, as bullfights are held in the bullrings, while the many cafes and concerts keep residents and tourists fully occupied for the rest of the year. On the outskirts of Nîmes, the pretty villages of Marguerittes and Poulx are sought after by househunters and tourists alike; the rental season being particularly buoyant in and around Nîmes.

In Hérault, the landscape changes, transforming from the beaches of the Cap d'Agde to garrigue (Mediterranean scrubland) through oak forests to the Cévennes mountains in the north. Direct access to the coast and the seaside resorts at Cap d'Agde, Bouziques and Balurac les Bains, not to mention the vibrant Montpellier, all contribute to rising property prices in this department. Hérault's property prices shot up 19.7% in 2007 – averaging €2,420 per square metre.

Prices hit their peak in and around Montpellier; and no wonder given that the population has grown an estimated 9% since 1999. Montpellier benefits from considerable investment, with the regional council approving a budget of €960m in 2007. A proportion of this is being diverted into improving sports and student facilities in the town, while the city's transport division is working hard to improve the already impressive network. A third tramline is due for completion in 2012, linking the Juvenac and Perols districts with Lattes over 32 stops. The rental market is strong here – thanks to a thriving student population, including a considerable contingent of foreign students studying through the Erasmus programme – and consequently up to 65% of purchases are investment related. Life in the city is vibrant, with the Radio France festival providing concerts throughout the summer and the many cafés on Place de la Comedie kept busy with locals and tourists alike.

Aude, Narbonne and Carcassonne provide the highlights, bringing prices to an average of €1,940 per square metre. Carcassonne's medieval citadel is an impressive sight, attracting almost three million visitors every year, while the nearby Cavayère lake and Canal du Midi provide ample opportunities for watersports and boating. Narbonne, meanwhile, hosts one of the best markets in France and its many Roman ruins are testament to the town's history.

Last, is border country Pyrénnées-Orientales. This department certainly holds its own in the price stakes, with average house prices weighing in at €2,210 per square metre on average. Perpignan, the economic and cultural capital of the Roussillon province, pays homage to its Catalan routes with its distinctly Spanish architecture and palm trees. The coastal resorts of Banyuls sur Mer and Collioure were havens for the Fauvist artists, with Matisse and Picasso both setting up their easels here.

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