NO MATTER how hard you try it is difficult to avoid looking in estate agents’ windows when you are on holiday – just in case you spot the bargain dream deal.
But this year, with France still feeling the effects of the financial crisis and after five years of fiscal insecurity, the second home market is very fragile.
Although some people need to sell, for others even the introduction of a short-term allowance against capital gains tax (which was in place until the end of August) did little to kickstart the market.
Notaires vice-president Pierre-Luc Vogel said it was possible to buy a holiday flat for less than €1,000/m2 or a house for under €120,000 and sellers who really want to sell are dropping prices: sometimes considerably.
Agents talk of a 220m2 manor house near Caen with pool and 8,000m2 of land being sold for €615,000 when it was originally put on the market 18 months ago at €900,000.
It is a buyer’s market and if the price is not right then no one will even visit.
However, at the other end of the market, there are still deals to be done on properties that are nudging rock-bottom prices already and can be picked up for under €50,000: giving a ready-to-move-in holiday home at a bargain price.
One such deal is near Civray in Vienne, Poitou-Charentes, where estate agency Leggett Immobilier has a two-bed, two bathroom cottage with garden and outbuildings for €45,000.
However, with a garden, buyers would need to think about how often they would visit... and how often the grass would need to be cut and what other regular work needs to be done.
Another point these days is to find out about the internet access in the area, which can be very variable across France, and you should make a point of asking the selling agent.
Leggett also has a completely different type of property with a log cabin outside Vire in Calvados that sits on top of a hill overlooking Lac de la Dathée. On a 421m2 plot it is on offer at €49,500.
Using the property finder at www.connexionfrance.com and putting in a maximum price of €50,000 across the whole of France gave more than 600 responses – although many were for buildable land or for properties that needed extensive renovation or rebuilding.
But there were also nuggets such as a three-room stonebuilt cottage on 360m2 of land near Gué mené sur Scorff in Morbihan, Brittany that was on the market for €38,000.
With a little garden and wooden garage it would be a perfect pied à terre and just right for a holiday home.
No gardening needed in another property, further north in Huelgoat, Finistère, that offers two bedrooms in a village in the regional park.
Inside the cottage has only decorative work to do and it is in move-in condition for its €34,200 price.
Down in the south of France, in Aveyron, the site has another bargain for someone looking for an away-from-it-all place with a small village house in Viviez that has two parking spaces and four bright rooms including two bedrooms.
Prices tumble in this countryside location and it is on the market at €23,500. However, sited near the border with Lot it has access to many tourist sites from Rodez in the south to Figeac in the north.
Criss-crossing the country to the Vosges, Lorraine, a two-bedroom 90m2 cottage near Bourbonne les Bains spa town is a simple drive from the Channel ports or Tunnel and offers skiing just 90 minutes away and golf 25 minutes away. With 110m2 of land it is on sale for €24,000.
Photo: Leggett Immobilier